Conspicuous Invisibility: Votive Offerings from Female Dedicators on the Athenian Acropolis
The mechanics of Athenian society in many ways empowered citizen women as essential components of their community. This reality, being at odds with Athens’ pervasive patriarchal ideology, was obscured by men anxious to affirm the status quo, but also by women who sought to represent themselves as ‘ideal’ examples of their sex. Using the votive offerings dedicated by women to Athena on the Athenian Acropolis in the Archaic and Classical periods as a basis, this thesis explores such tensions between the implicit value of Athenian women, which prompted them to engage meaningfully with their wider community, and the ideological edict for their invisibility. This discussion is based primarily on two points: firstly, that the naming of a male family member in votive inscriptions denotes female citizen status, thus articulating citizen women’s independent value and prestige within the polis; and secondly that the ubiquity of working women among the dedicators, and value of the offerings themselves, reveals women as controlling financial resources to a more significant extent than other sources would have us believe. In both cases, the actual value and authority of the female dedicators is concealed as the women aimed for a perception of conspicuous invisibility to legitimise their engagement with the public sphere.