Slave-Wives, Single Women and “Bastards” in the Ancient Greek World: Law and Economics Perspectives [Paperback]

Morris Silver (Author)

ISBN: 9781785708633 | Published by: Oxbow Books | Year of Publication: 2018 | Language: English 224p, H240 x W170 (mm) b/w

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Slave-Wives, Single Women and “Bastards” in the Ancient Greek World


Greek scholars have produced a vast body of evidence bearing on nuptial practices that has yet to be mined by a professional economist. By standing on their shoulders, the author proposes and tests radically new interpretations of three important status groups in Greek history: the pallakē, the hetaira, and the nothos. It is argued that legitimate marriage – that is ‘marriage by loan of the bride to the groom’ – was not the only form of legal marriage in classical Athens and the ancient Greek world generally. Pallakia, that is, ‘marriage by sale of the bride to the groom’, also was legally recognized. The pallakē-wifeship transaction is a sale into slavery with a restrictive covenant mandating the employment of the sold woman as a wife. In this highly original and challenging new book economist Morris Silver proposes and tests the hypothesis that the likelihood of bride sale rises with increases in the distance between the ancestral residence of the groom and the father’s household. The ‘bastard’ (nothoi) children of pallakai lacked the legal right to inherit from their fathers but were routinely eligible for Athenian citizenship. It is argued that the basic social meaning of hetaira (‘companion’) is not ‘prostitute’/’courtesan’ but ‘single woman’ – that is, a woman legally recognized as being under her own authority (kuria). The defensive adaptation of single women is reflected in Greek myth and social practice by their grouping into ‘packs’, most famously the Daniads and Amazons.

Table of Contents

In the Interests of Disclosure
I.  Overview and Summary of Main Conclusions
II.  Socioeconomic Foundation of the Pallakē Institution
III.  Pallakē-Wife as Privileged Slave: Central Texts
IV.  Constructing the Greek Wife: Legal Aspects
V.  Constructing the Greek-Wife: Ritual Aspects
VI.  “Wife” as a Multidimensional Status in Ancient Greece: Supplementary Evidence
VII:  “Wife” as a Multidimensional Status in Ancient Greece: Testimony of Euripides’ Electra
VIII.  Path to Pallakia
IX.  Single Woman as Hetaira as Suppliant
X.  Wealth Transfers in the Greek Marriage Market with Emphasis on the Roles of Distance and Single Woman Status
XI.  Wealth Transfers in the Greek Marriage Market: The Spinning Hetaira
XII.  Companionship as an Adaptation to the Dangerous Life of the Single Woman
XIII.  Role of Cults in the Marriage of Single Women
XIV:  Hetaira as Textile Worker
XV.   Legal Status of Nothoi
XVI.  Share the Wealth? Not with (Foreigner) Nothoi
XVII.  Case Studies in Pallakia: Homer’s Penelope as Pallakē
XVIII.  Case Studies in Pallakia: Hera as Zeus’ Pallakē
XIX:  Case Studies in Pallakia: Classical Athens
1. Socrates the “Bigamist”;
2. Archippe as Pallakē;
3. Plangon as Pallak
Summary of Main Findings and Problems for Future Research

Reviews & Quotes

"The work offers an in-depth interdisciplinary approach and, despite being centered on women as a catalyst for the economy, it establishes strong links to ancient Athenian Society. Morris Silver thus offers a significant contribution to the academic world."
Nuno Rodrigues
Cadmo - Revista de Historia Antiga

"Undoubtedly, Silver’s book would be a welcome addition to anyone’s library… This book serves as an excellent introduction to the intricacies of Greek marital transactions, and stands as a useful stepping stone for those seeking to delve further into the details of the social and economic role of women in the ancient world."
Kerry Phelan
Bryn Mawr Classical Review (18/06/2019)

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