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Women’s Complaints about Violence at Athens: Zobia and Aristogeiton

Fiona McHardy

University of Roehampton

This paper builds on work about violence against women (Llewellyn-Jones 2011, Omitowoju 2016) and women’s use of gossip (Hunter 1990, McHardy 2018) to investigate women’s use of public complaints following acts of violence.  I examine the case of Zobia a metic woman in Athens who experienced domestic violence at the hands of Aristogeiton according to Demosthenes’ Against Aristogeiton (25.56-8). In the speech the example is used to paint a negative picture of the character of Aristogeiton as a man who does harm to someone who has previously helped him, and is set alongside a negative description about his ungrateful and violent behaviour towards his own parents and sister (25.54-5). Rosenbloom (2003) has argued the characterisation of Aristogeiton fits that of the poneros of old comedy. My focus is on the character and response of Zobia, who having been violently abused by Aristogeiton goes to tell everyone she knows about her experience. The speaker notes her behaviour was characteristic of a woman ‘γυναίου πρᾶγμ᾽ ἐποίει’ (25.57) drawing on the frequent association of women with complaints and gossip. My paper examines this notion by comparison to drama and other sources in which women express their complaints and explores the way in which this ambiguous description of Zobia’s response is nevertheless used by the male speaker in order to strengthen his negative depiction of the character of Aristogeiton in his court case against him.

Session/Panel Title

Believing Ancient Women: A Feminist Epistemology for Greece and Rome

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