With respect to their differing philosophical beliefs, philosophers Plato and Aristotle would ultimately argue with respect to women and their place in society, the home, and their relationship with politics. Although, Augustine was not a philosopher, he would often make references about women. Most often, Augustine would abide by the teachings of his religion in explaining women and their place not only the confines of a marriage, but also, in relation to God. The importance of their views with respect to women, politics and religion have arguably shaped the ideals and social morals of current Western thought and ideologies.
Women in Society and the Household
With respect to women and their place in Greek society, it was essentially based on the family unit. Initially, the household and/or Oikos were composed of both free individuals and slaves. Basically, the Oikos were under the dominion of the head of the household, and were bound by a set of complex family relationships. “The household covered not only the members of the nuclear family, but the whole physical and economic unit, including property, and land, and there was strict limitation of succession by inheritance.”1 Interestingly, with respect inheritance, marriage and property, the primary concern was for the preservation of the family, their survival and the survival of the Oikos. “Typically a man would marry when the property was divided on death…and would eventually establish his own Oikos…thirty or thirty five appears to have been the normal age for a man to marry.”2 It was stated in Athenian law that sons succeed their fathers, and all sons were to share the inheritance. However, a family with no sons, the inheritance would most often be left to the daughters. In cases similar to the one mentioned, both the inheritance and daughter together could be claimed by the nearest remaining male relative in order of Athenian law.
Basically, it was expected that women should live inside and take care of the house, the husband and the children. In addition, women were also expected to contribute economically, through weaving and other such tasks. Nonetheless, women were not confined exclusively to their homes, except by their duties. “The work of Semonides highlights the importance of a wife’s contribution to the home’s prosperity and comfort, and do not imply that women in this period were generally kept in seclusion.”3 While women remained both politically and legally disadvantaged, it would be rather presumptuous to assume that women and their place in society was insignificant.
With respect to Plato, Aristotle. and Augustine, and despite having opposite natures, their differing viewpoints are worthy of comparison. For Plato, women played an important part to the overall survival of the Oikos and society. Aristotle, however, felt that women were not equal to men, and therefore, a woman’s place was to be in the home. With respect to Augustine, he not only had strong...