It is believed that early in the history of Athens that it may have been a matriarchy society. There is a strong argument against this, but there is evidence in some artwork that would back this premise. Whether or not this is true really is not important for the purpose of this essay. What is important is that beginning in the sixth century B.C. rules and regulations began to be put in place that would forever change the lives of women in Athens. The first to take action was a lawmaker by the name of Solon. He began by putting women into two classes: good or respectable women and whores. As time went by other laws were passed that further restricted women in Athens to what many might call slavery. Respectable women began to be seen only as a way for men to have legitimate heirs. Some believe though, that these rules and regulations were for the betterment of Athenian society. Sarah Pomeroy writes, "The regulations, which seem at first glance antifeminist are actually aimed at eliminating strife among men and strengthening the newly created democracy."1 She continues, "Women are a perennial source of friction among men. Solonís solution to this problem was to keep them out of sight and limit their influence."2 One can see from this that Pomeroy is a member of the group that feels these regulations were intended to help the Athenian society. It is fully possible that this is true, but it is just as possible that the regulations were to lower that status of women. Whatever the case may be, these laws forced respectable women in Athenian society into a lifestyle that is not dissimilar from slavery.

In Athenian society only men were allowed to participate in government affairs. The acts of holding office, serving as jurors and voting were limited to males. Women played almost no part in the political realm in Athens. This is in part because of the poor education women received. Boys were trained in the art of rhetoric and in developing physical abilities in order to deliver strong soldiers to the army. Women on the other hand were taught very little. They would be taught to read and write by either their mothers or perhaps by the families slaves. Women were also taught some skills such as spinning. This was done because the woman was to be supervisor in the household so it was necessary for her to be skilled in such tasks. Beyond this, women were taught very little and they were not to be involved physical training.3 What is interesting is that one of the leading philosophers in classical Athens did not agree with this inequality of education. During a dialogue between Socrates and Glaucon in The Republic, Plato writes referring to men and women,

"Everything in common," he said, "except that we use the females as weaker and the males as stronger."

"Is it possible," I said, "to use any animal for the same things if you donít assign it the same rearing and education?" "No, itís not possible." "If then, we use the women for the same things as the men, they must also be taught the same things."4

This serves no purpose other than to show that one of the greatest minds of classical Athens was not in agreement with the roles and education of women: that women were treaty greatly unequal. If one were to also look at The Politics by Aristotle it would be seen that he has similar idea to his mentor Plato.

Some would have to say that women did have one political duty, but it is difficult to see bearing children as a political duty. At times in Athenian history the number of citizens dropped to extremely small amounts. It was felt it was the womanís job produce children that would legitimate citizens. Although at times a child could be a citizen even if his mother was not, for the most part a child, to be considered a citizen, must have both and father and a mother who were citizens. In lies the one political power afforded to women: producing legitimate heir for their husband and the society. Although, this cannot be considered much of a political role.

Even in childbirth the women became