Marriage and Life After It (In Athens) for Women

This story is a work of fiction. The featured characters (Achaz and Eva) are made up. However, the information illustrated in the story are based on historical facts with the sources listed below or through hyperlinks.

By Teresa and Amber


Sometime during the fifth century BC, a lady by the name of Eva, was to be wed in the Greek city of Athens. She was only twelve when her father decided that her fate was set in stone through marriage to Achaz, son of a merchant. Although he was much older than her at thirty-three, Eva’s father felt that girls should be married young and fulfil their duty to their new family through childbirth and the running of her new family's household. Eva had no right to choose her spouse, and the marriage was considered the passing of control from the two men in her life, from her father to her husband.

On the special day, Eva donned the symbolic white dress of purity and in hand a bunch of pomegranates to bless her with fertility. Eva's hair crowned by a mixture of gold, and silver hair pins symbolised maturity, a change from the flowers and ribbons donned by a child .

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Progression of a woman's hairstyle as she grows older

Moving forward, Eva is now nine months pregnant.

Women-of-Athens

Picture above depict a pregnant woman and her slaves

Although Eva had two children before, both were discarded in pots because they were deformed. In Athens, once a child is born, he or she is brought face to face with the father. If he accepted the child, he or she would live.

Achaz disliked the two children before because their eyes were too wide and considered them deformed, so he banished them to the pot where they would starve to death or be consumed by the elements of the environment. As such, infant mortality was high in Ancient Athens and it was common for women to have many children since many would pass away from either the harsh conditions of childbirth or abandonment. Women generally lived to about 35-40 years of age as childbearing took such a toll on their health.

AthWomen

Slaves performing their duties by gathering water

Since Achaz owned land and traded with others, the family could afford many slaves (picture above). About three or four of them worked for the household, under the orders of Eva. She never had slaves before, and as such she enjoyed ordering them around, such as buying produce from the marketplace or cooking lavish meals for her family.

On the ninth day of the sixth month in the Greek calendar, Eva goes through labor again and spent the next fifteen hours in the care of the other women in the household. Despite the difficulty in birthing the child, Achaz dislikes the deformed face of the child and orders her to leave the child to die in the pot again. With a third deformed baby, Achaz divorces Eva, who is returned to her father and stripped of all authority. The luxuries she once enjoyed was no more. Driven by despair and the profound sadness of watching her infants die, Eva succumbed to hunger and eventually passes away without proper acknowledgement of her life achievements eight days after the divorce.