Inrecent years two scholars (J. H. Blok and S. D. Lambert, “The Appointment of Priests in Attic Gene,” ZPE 169 95-121), have argued that at times an Athenian genos allowed gentile membership to be transmitted along the matriline, so that the genoscould maintain some continuity among its members and priesthoods. The basis of their argument is the system of ankhisteia, whereby the male next-of-kin was supposed to marry the epikleros, the female who has no living immediate relatives, for the purpose of keeping property within the extended family. In rare caseswhere no male kin was alive the property was transmitted to the surviving woman’s family, either to her husband’s family or her sons. This is an example of matrilineal transmission of property. Likewise Blok and Lambert think that gentilitial priesthoods were transmitted along the patriline, but in rare cases matrilineal transmission of the priesthood was permitted. The problem with this hypothesis is that the evidence shows patterns of succession to priesthood, not transmission of membership. Presumably the succeeding priestess, e.g., was already affiliated with a genos ether as a member or the daughter of a gennetes. Matrilineal transmission of gentile membership (gentilitas) may be found from the late second century B.C. on. The admission of matrilineal transmission of gentilitas enabled Athenians to be members of more than one genos. It has been argued that multiple gentile affiliations were in part the results of a response to the economic boon from the Roman gift of Delos to the Athenians and Roman preferences to deal with aristocracies (A. K. Schiller, “Multiple Gentile Affiliations and the Athenian Response to Roman Domination,” Historia 55.3  264-266).
The reason for the acceptance of matrilineal transmission of gentilitas may be related to the social devaluation of citizenship and the promotion of eugeneia. Eugeneia referred to one’s freeborn status and for Athenians also Attic origins. Whereas citizenship was defined by the father and transmitted patrilineally, eugeneia helped define either an Athenian man or woman and could be transmitted along the matriline. Eugeneia was extremely important to gennetai, because they were considered synonymous with the ideology of autochthony. In the face of intrusion of foreigners who gained citizenship through participation in the ephebeia, the Athenian elite sought means to prove social superiority. Eugeneia became that means. In turn, as the Romans equated aristocracy with the gene, so the proof of eugeneia became paramount. Gennetai had the best chances of acquiring the top political offices (Geagan, Clinton).
The paper will focus on a few families. Matrilineal transmission of gentilitas occurred at the end of the second century, when Philippe II Medeiou became priestess of Athena Polias. Her father was exegetes of the Eumolpidai, her brother priest of Poseidon Erekhtheus, and she was named after her paternal grandmother, Philippe Kharmidous. This Philippe (I) was able to transmit her Eteoboutad gentilitas to Medeios. Nikostrate, a granddaughter of PhilippeII Medeiou ([Plut.] Moralia 843),traced her Eteoboutad gentile affiliation through the matriline back to the family of Kallias and Habron Batethen. Philtera, a priestess of Athena Polias (IG II2 3474), paradoxically traced her Eteoboutad lineage from fellow Eteoboutad Lykourgos Boutades, the orator, and a Macedonian. The second to last known hierophantes, a son of Xenagoras (IV) Hegiou Phalereus, whose tabulagenealogica is found on an early fourth century A.D. herm (IG II22342), traced his Eumolpid and Keryx lineages through his paternal grandmothers’ ancestors (Kapetanopoulos, BCH, 1968). But the allowance for matrilineal transmission of gentilitas entailed perhaps a serious societal objection. According to Sarah Pomeroy (Families in Classical and Hellenistic Greece: Representations and Realities [Oxford 1997] 127 and Pomeroy, 1995) no Athenian child, son or daughter, would want to be socially compromised by being identified for eternity with the female. In Roman Athens freeborn Athenian women served as spare confirmation of one’s true Athenian origins and that explains why we find recorded claims of matrilineal transmission of gentilitas.