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Finished

A MCU fic with a decent but not very deep plot, low on rationale for character motivations. Pretty good period AU, though.

Unsettled by AxeMeAboutAxinomancy: As podfic, comfort listening during physical health issues this weekend.

(My cutoff for fics to count as "books" for record keeping purposes is somewhere under 25,000 words.)

Reserved for the Cat by Mercedes Lackey: Comfort reading. I think this is the low point for her copyediting and it's improved since here. (Having one section of my brain complaining about typos and punctuation and consistency errors actually makes it better for comfort reading in some ways, because there's more there to occupy me.) I don't like any of the villain pov here; come to think of it, she cut that out of some of the later books in this series entirely, which is probably a good idea.

Victorian Families in Fact and Fiction by Penny Kane: On the Victorian demographic transition as expressed in the literary evidence. Excellent, clearly differentiates between factual and literary sources and what can be determined from them. And as I said a couple weeks ago, the Victorian era was fucking terrible, people. (Primarily: child labour, (lack of) education, and patriarchy.) (The thing is, we know about the patriarchy (in fandom), and there was a lot of other Really Terrible stuff happening too that gets ignored.)

Lots of things that get left out of standard pop-historical imaginings. Some of them less terrible: for example, Victorians had very late marriages (mid to late twenties, later in the middle classes and for men) and numerous remarriages after deaths of spouses. ("Two out of every five men across Europe in the nineteenth century who survived to age 50 had married and produced families more than once.")

...Huh. Come to think of it, that makes Watson's hypothetical multiple marriages a bit less implausible.

The Comfortable Courtesan by Clorinda Cathcart: Man, I'm so glad this exists. And it's officially ended, and comforting and lovely and impressive and just go read it. It hasn't been on my weekly posts before because it's just been kind of background to my life: of course I'm reading Madame C-'s updates. And it's finished, and I am sad, but it's there to be reread whenever.

In Progress

The Seven Dials Mystery by Agatha Christie: I glanced at the introduction to this (never read the introduction) and apparently Christie's thrillers are deprecated; I like them, and while this is clearly early and implausible it's fun.

I also have a book about Miss Marple as a character that I am going to start on.
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This is a transcript of the April 8th, 2017 episode of Footnoting History by Elizabeth Keohane-Burbridge and Lucy Barnhouse, done for [tumblr.com profile] teaforlupin. The original podcast can be found here.

Read more... )
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In Progress

Further poking at Cotillion, another Lackey, and a Regency romance, with limited focus on anything.

Other

Read On Being Ill and Street Haunting by Virginia Woolf, and then spent a few hours with her narrating my interior monologue. (And then at the library read Hermione Lee's introduction to the former, which was helpful, at least in terms of "No, I did not hallucinate the end while half-asleep." (That's certainly not a criticism of the essay.)) I don't know what to say about Woolf, except that I want to read more and kind of wish I had at University; her outlook and voice are so unique and also infinitely relatable, at least for me.

Library

Read the first half (late Victorian and Edwardian) of Sex, Gender and Social Change in Britain Since 1880 by Lesley A. Hall - what struck me was the sheer number of people with different goals involved in the various movements covered, and also that despite technical dates of publication major books on sexuality (eg Havelock Ellis) might have basically no circulation whatsoever for years afterwards. And also the focus on the difference the courts and other organizations had between "acceptable for a specialized audience" and "acceptable for the general public." Also there seems to have been a lot going on in the BMJ and the Lancet at the time.

Also flipped through Birth Control, Sex and Marriage in Britain, 1918-1960 by Kate Fisher, and even that much gave a wildly unexpected view of the matter - specifically that, in terms of actual practice among working class couples, the husband was expected to be in charge of birth control and family planning decisions. This seems to have been because of a combination of ideas of headship in marriage, valuing of sexual ignorance in women, and the fact that the easiest forms of contraception to access (withdrawal, abstinence, and condoms) required some degree of male participation anyway.
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Putting this on Dreamwidth as well as Tumblr:

So I’ve been thinking about soulmate AUs. The kind where your soulmate’s name is written on your skin. How would that start? When would that start?

Not with the beginning of writing. For centuries, in China, in Sumer, in Egypt, in Mesoamerica, writing was used for accounting or religion, and nothing else. Most people would never be able write their names or recognize them if they were written. Only royalty, gods, and perhaps some property owners would.

Individual scribes might have had signatures. For that matter, for all we know individual Paleolithic artists might have had signatures. But most people wouldn’t. What would happen the first time someone was born with an unknown symbol on their hand?

Probably it would be an isolated mystery. Remember, in most of these scenarios there’s no actual guarantee that you’ll ever meet your soulmate (although most people seem to end up with one from the same general area. Which is statistically unlikely). No one would know what it meant. Maybe people with symbols would be seen as special, or divine, or demonic.

And then it might start happening more often - or stop happening, if writing stopped being used (like in Greece after 1200 BCE). But most of the time still no one would know what the symbol meant. And most people wouldn’t have symbols, because most people’s soulmates wouldn’t know how to write.

(Sometimes I think the theory is that people would have a thumbprint instead of a soulmate mark? But this would be basically useless for matching purposes - you would have no idea where to start. So from that point of view the first people with actual names would just have them instead of the thumbprints that everyone else had and didn’t know the meaning of.

Incidentally, using thumbprints for recognition isn’t universal in non-literate societies either. European society didn’t realize that fingerprints were unique until the late 19th century. In a lot of places, they weren’t used until people were already using signatures, and needed an option for illiterate people. Also, while they are an identifying mark, they really have no relation at all to your name. For most of human existence, having a physical marker of your identity really wasn’t that important.)

Only somewhere with at least moderately widespread literacy would someone be able to look at a mark and go “Oh, that’s my friend Imhotep’s name. What a coincidence!” And only somewhere with widespread literacy would Imhotep’s soulmate also be able to write their name. Most early languages were logographic, and in cuneiform names specifically were almost always logographic, so you wouldn’t even be able to sound it out.

Phoenician (starting 1050 BCE) was the first widespread writing system, and was simple enough and common enough that sailors could write in it. It was also the first phoenetic script which would allow you to easily approximate the pronounciation of the writing on your skin.

But still, most people wouldn’t have symbols. Most people would never meet anyone with their name on their skin.

This would be a problem in AUs where you never feel sexual attraction to anyone who isn’t your soulmate. Imagine religion and culture in a world where almost everyone is functionally asexual.

How long would it take, until someone realized that if people’s names matched up, they had some kind of bond? How long would it take before this was a generally accepted theory?

Also, how long before this was seen as at all important, given that most people with the status to know how to read would also have arranged marriages?

But once it was generally accepted, suddenly literacy would become a lot more important. People would demand to learn how to write. (Some people would learn that their soulmate’s name wasn’t in the local writing system. What happens then?) People would want to give their children more unique names (ancient Rome had about thirty given names for men total, and they named their daughters “first Julia” and “second Julia.”)

Anyway, around ancient Rome or so, when there would not only be a lot of literate people but also a lot of people able to recognize foreign alphabets, suddenly there would be a huge drive for 1) more literacy and 2) better long distance communication, so you could find the Caius or Ξανθίππη or שָׂרָה who had your name on their skin. And as this idea became more and more widespread, so would this desire. The same thing would be happening in China and Ethiopia and India.

This would revolutionize world history. There would be strong motivations both for exploration and for making peace with foreign cultures. Everyone in Rome with a Jewish soulmate would want to make sure they wouldn’t be killed before they could meet them. Everyone with a soulmate in a strange language would want to know at least what language it was.

Come to think of it, these are also all good reasons for why people wouldn’t believe in soulmates. Your soulmate can’t be one of the hated barbarians, so that symbol doesn’t mean anything!

And that’s leaving out the fact that lots of people still wouldn’t have a soulmate who could write, and completely ignoring the existence of polyamory.

So getting to a modern society with everyone just knowing that that was your soulmate’s name would involve a really complicated history, probably nothing at all like ours. And there would be huge pressure to ignore the existence of soulmates at all.

No conclusions here, just taking an illogical premise way too logically.
violsva: Sidney Paget illustration of Holmes and Watson, seated, with the caption "Cut out the poetry, Watson" (Holmes)
queerwatson:
trying to read a book by a straight man that discusses how holmes and watson might have been queer, more like a discussion of how ‘feminine’ watson apparently is (???) and overuse of the word homosexual

queerwatson:
also blatant misogyny around every corner
my fave!!!!!

I have actually been having Thoughts about this recently, and they may not be very coherent thoughts, but oh well.

Watson actually does a lot of things that are traditionally coded as feminine, and especially so for Victorians. He’s giving huge amounts of his time to support Holmes, both by assisting in his investigations but more importantly by writing stories and therefore publicizing Holmes and giving him clients. And this is completely in line with the Victorian wife, who might seem passive but was absolutely supposed to be supporting her husband’s work in her own, social arena. See An Ideal Husband. Agatha Christie (born 1890) writes in her autobiography about how much of a woman’s life was completely determined by her future husband’s career, and this is certainly the case for Watson. (because he chooses for it to be the case.)
And a lot of what Watson does as Holmes’ doctor looking after his welfare would be completely appropriate for a wife as well. Watson accepting Holmes’ quirks but insisting that he take care of himself and rushing to his side when he’s ill. And in fic of course there’s even more of this, and also of Watson being Holmes’ moral compass, which was absolutely a wife’s duty.

But Watson does all of this as an absolutely proper English gentleman who fulfills all the roles of a proper English gentleman as well. When Holmes says there’s no one better than Watson to be a jury (ABBE), he means that Watson is worth twelve other men. And also that he is moral and wonderful and has good judgement. And of course Watson is a doctor and a soldier and these were both heavily masculine roles.

…I should have a conclusion here, but basically, John Watson! Man who is totally comfortable taking a “feminine” role in relationships without worrying about his masculinity!

Oh wait, yes, I did have a conclusion. This is why people underestimate Watson. Because his contributions are stereotypically feminine and therefore ignored. Taking care of people and supporting them cannot possibly be important even though they are the most important. So it’s assumed that Holmes doesn’t need him or that he’s incapable because he doesn’t do flashy things. But Watson isn’t flashy, that’s the point. Except when he’s shooting things for Holmes, but I suppose those authors ignore those moments?

So - yes these are coded feminine, but obviously they aren’t inherently so, and also devaluing them sucks and is still sexist.

Also! he’s doing all this for someone who is in every other way coded as more feminine than he is! Which is neat!
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In my head, somewhere, there’s this muggleborn Ravenclaw at Hogwarts, who loves history. And she’s so excited about History of Magic, she reads all the books she can find, she looks for how it fits in with muggle history…

And then she gets to Hogwarts and realizes that wizards don’t care about history. At all. Class is taught by a ghost who doesn’t care about anything modern and seems surprised when he realizes students actually exist, no one cares if they fall asleep in class, everyone has been assigned the same essay topics every year for the last five hundred years. It’s all about rebellions and wars and treaties, and there’s no social history at all.

And her first couple years she just deals with it, because, hey, new fascinating world she’s learning all about, she can deal with one poorly taught class.

But what made me think about this was the title of Harry’s essay in third year. “Witch-Burning in the Fourteenth Century Was Completely Pointless - discuss.” Because look at that from the point of view of someone who knows something about the motives behind witch-hunts.

So that’s when she loses it and spends the whole summer researching and writing an essay on the historical effects of magical existence on muggles. How wizards let people scapegoat other muggles and especially women for things muggles wouldn’t believe in if there weren’t real wizards everywhere. How pureblood wizards were happy to screw up the lives of the muggles living near them and then avoided all consequences because hey, they had Flame-Freezing Charms if the worst happened, what did they care if someone else was caught and died horribly instead of them. How even today muggles were falsely diagnosed with mental illnesses because wizards weren’t careful enough with their Disillusionment Charms, or because wizards thought Memory Charms were the solution to everything no matter how they affected the victim.

And she hands it in at the start of the year and a week later she gets summoned to the Headmistress’s office.

And Professor McGonagall smiles at her and says “This is a bit unusual, but would you be interested in a TA position?”
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The rented room is dim and the sheets are stained and the blinds on the dusty window are broken and the lowering sun turns everything yellow and eye-straining.

Jane makes tea on the chafing dish and pushes her hair back. The wave has grown out entirely, twisting just the ends where they fall over her shoulders, unfashionably long and distracting.

“I could cut it for you,” says Sherlock, draped across the bed, between drags on her cigarette.

“It wouldn’t look any better.”

“I’ve done mine, yours wouldn’t be more difficult.”

“I mean, it’d still be straight. Boring.”

Sherlock shrugs. Jane pours the tea into chipped cups and brings one to the bed for Sherlock. Sherlock shifts her head to stay out of the sunlight.

“You’re not going to be able to afford to go to a salon any time soon. Or even a home kit.”

“Dammit, Sherlock -!”

“I’m sorry, dear, but we both know it.”

“Fine. I’ll cut it myself.”

“When I’m offering to help?”

Jane sighs, pours herself more tea, looks away.

“Maybe.”

Sherlock rolls her eyes expressively at the ceiling and stubs her cigarette out in her empty cup. “Maybe we’ll get a case.”

“If we do, it’s going to the rent.”

“We can make rent.”

Silence.

“Jane!”

“I don’t know. I thought we could. But - do you have anything you’re hiding away?”

“Of course I don’t. I’m not keeping secrets from you.”

Jane’s lips move. She rarely swears out loud, but it’s clear enough.

“Dammit,” says Sherlock. “Fine. We’re going out tonight, dear.”

Jane stares. “Out where?”

“Friends of mine. Do we have anything for dinner?”

Jane makes a face. “Tea. Oatmeal.”

“Tea it is, then.”

*

Jane watches Sherlock change into trousers without much surprise, and throws her threadbare coat on at Sherlock’s request.

“Don’t take it off.”

“All right.”

“And bring all the money we have.”

“What! Sherlock!”

“We’ll make more.”

“Where are we going, Sherlock?” Jane’s wary. Sherlock’s trousers, she thinks, eliminate the worst possibilities, but that just means she has no idea whatsoever what she intends.

Sherlock smirks a little. “Allison’s.”

“I’m sorry?”

“Come on. And for God’s sake call me Holmes.”

Sherlock turns with a flourish of her coat and starts off down the hall, and Jane, as always, follows after her.
violsva: Sidney Paget illustration of Holmes and Watson, seated, with the caption "Cut out the poetry, Watson" (Holmes)
queerwatson:
also wait i was too in pain victorian fem watson is also a midwife that’s what she does instead of being a general practice doctor
okay thank you for your time

Watson ranting at Holmes for hours about the terrible standards for midwives
and also about male doctors’ attitudes towards female reproductive health
and teaching all the women she meets about birth control
and getting Holmes to help with removing women from abusive situations
and both of them rolling their eyes right out of their heads at some of Holmes’ clients/clients’ relatives
Watson puts a picture of Semmelweiss up on the sitting room wall
or Elizabeth Blackwell
BAMF Watson in a dress with a medical bag and a gun wait I wrote that one
Watson yelling at Holmes for taking risks and Holmes telling her she wouldn’t do the same if Holmes was a man and Watson saying “I damn well would”
Victorian Fem!Watson swearing.
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Rudyard Kipling

Roman Occupation of Britain, A.D. 300

Legate, I had the news last night - my cohort ordered home
By ship to Portus Itius and thence by road to Rome.
I’ve marched the companies aboard, the arms are stowed below:
Now let another take my sword. Command me not to go!

I’ve served in Britain forty years, from Vectis to the Wall.
I have none other home than this, nor any life at all.
Last night I did not understand, but, now the hour draws near
That calls me to my native land, I feel that land is here.

Here where men say my name was made, here where my work was done;
Here where my dearest dead are laid - my wife - my wife and son;
Here where time, custom, grief and toil, age, memory, service, love,
Have rooted me in British soil. Ah, how can I remove?

For me this land, that sea, these airs, those folk and fields suffice.
What purple Southern pomp can match our changeful Northern skies,
Black with December snows unshed or pearled with August haze -
The clanging arch of steel-grey March, or June’s long-lighted days?

You’ll follow widening Rhodanus till vine and olive lean
Aslant before the sunny breeze that sweeps Nemausus clean
To Arelate’s triple gate; but let me linger on,
Here where our stiff-necked British oaks confront Euroclydon!

You’ll take the old Aurelian Road through shore-descending pines,
Where, blue as any peacock’s neck, the Tyrrhene Ocean shines.
You’ll go where laurel crowns are won, but - will you e’er forget
The scent of hawthorn in the sun, or bracken in the wet?

Let me work here for Britain’s sake - at any task you will -
A marsh to drain, a road to make or native troops to drill.
Some Western camp (I know the Pict) or granite Border keep,
Mid seas of heather derelict, where our old messmates sleep.

Legate, I come to you in tears - My cohort ordered home!
I’ve served in Britain forty years. What should I do in Rome?
Here is my heart, my soul, my mind - the only life I know.
I cannot leave it all behind. Command me not to go!
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And because her picture's featured on Wikipedia today: Voltarine de Cleyre, ladies and gentlefans.

Look how your children grow up. Taught from their earliest infancy to curb their love natures — restrained at every turn! Your blasting lies would even blacken a child's kiss. Little girls must not be tomboyish, must not go barefoot, must not climb trees, must not learn to swim, must not do anything they desire to do which Madame Grundy has decreed "improper." Little boys are laughed at as effeminate, silly girl-boys if they want to make patchwork or play with a doll. Then when they grow up, "Oh! Men don't care for home or children as women do!" Why should they, when the deliberate effort of your life has been to crush that nature out of them. "Women can't rough it like men." Train any animal, or any plant, as you train your girls, and it wont be able to rough it either.

More women anarchists, everyone.
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So I saw a post somewhere recently about weird simultaneities in history. For example, there were still mammoths around when the Egyptians were building pyramids.

Other things that happened before mammoths went extinct: women wrote poetry.

Reading

Jun. 4th, 2013 07:42 pm
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Someone else wrote me a Yuletide story (New Year's Resolution) and it's lovely, a whole bunch of little snippets of Greek women and goddesses. Human Hands Alone by Cirque. Go look!

I've been reading The Amateur Cracksman by E. W. Hornung, and OMG why did no one give me this when I was ten?* I would have loved it. I love it now. It's like Holmes but with more emotion and housebreaking and interesting conflicts of standards and morality. There's good reason for it to be like Holmes - it was written by Doyle's brother-in-law and dedicated to him. And the slash is very nearly on the page.

"In the dark!" said Raffles, as I dragged him in. "Why, Bunny, what's wrong?"

"Nothing - now you've come," said I, shutting the door behind him in a fever of relief and anxiety. ... "I've been thinking of you and nothing else for the last hour."


I'm also reading The Mysteries of Montreal by Charlotte Fuhrer. I was hoping for interesting medical details, of which there are none; instead it's a chatty generally moralizing bunch of short 'I swear its true' stories about the kind of weird stuff people get up to that causes them to need a midwife. Once I realized that I was expecting lots of "and then it turned out she was his father's illegitimate child and they couldn't get married and everyone was miserable," and there was some of that. But there's also stories like the woman who disobeyed her father to marry a man who shortly deserted her, and then moved to Boston and became the mistress of a couple men there and had two children out of wedlock ... and lived happily ever after. The children grew up to be brilliant and accomplished and popular in society, and there were no terrible consequences for the mother except a little social embarrassment. So that was kind of neat. She's funny, too:

Alice was glad to get a husband, and to be independent of her aunt. Mr. Taylor, her husband, was delighted to get such a beautiful and accomplished bride, and the old lady, Alice's aunt, was heartily glad to get rid of them both, so that never was rejoicing more universal.

And I am unstuck on something that was stuck for months, so things are progressing well enough writing wise given the amount of free time I have, which is not much. Apartment hunting is also progressing well, though.

*I know someone who is turning ten this year...
violsva: Team Rocket cheering (yay)
So first of all, thanks to breathedout and grlgoddess for the Yuletide fics!

My god, I read The Violet Hour months ago and loved it, and now she wrote something just for me and oh wow.

Ahem.

And my own Yuletide fic:

Title: Can You See Anything?
Author: Violsva
Fandom: Elemental Masters - Mercedes Lackey
Rating: G
Warnings: Ghosts?
Word Count: 3233
Summary: It is 1922, and Howard Carter has one last square on his grid to excavate in his search for Tutankhamen’s tomb. Time for England’s magicians to finally pay back a debt.

At AO3.

It's about the ethics of archaeology. This was quite fun, really. I think I'll do it again. And possibly come up with recommendations later.
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Greek tragedies come in threes. Playwrights were invited to have their plays performed at the City Dionysia, a huge festival in honour of Dionysus where Athens showed off how cultured it was. This is important: Athenian values are being defended to outsiders, at least a little. Comedies were performed at smaller, local festivals, and they have a lot more jokes about politics.

People were paid to attend the theatre in Athens (starting around the deaths of Euripides and Sophocles, or a bit before, I think). It'd almost be worth the lack of indoor plumbing and the horrific sex roles.

Greek theatre was not like modern theatre - there was lots of singing, and the conditions of staging were entirely different, but that's a huge tangent and I'll talk about it if it becomes relevant. The origins of tragedy are something lots of people talk about but no one actually knows anything about, so we'll drop that too. These are the basics.

Every playwright got one full day for his plays. The tragedies were performed one after another, with short breaks in between. After the three tragedies came the satyr play, which used tragic meter to make lots of dirty jokes about some of the same themes the trilogy covered. Right after the death of Ajax, when you're still all shell-shocked and horrified, you get to watch a bunch of satyrs getting drunk while wearing giant strap-ons. This is what Aristotle called catharsis.

This is entirely different from the modern experience, even of Greek plays, since we only have one surviving complete trilogy, Aeschylus's Oresteia, which is missing its satyr play.

Aeschylus's trilogies (we think) were all focused on one myth each, like the Oresteia. Later on, playwrights mostly wrote individual plays about different myths, and then presented three together as a trilogy. We have three plays by Sophocles about Odysseus, but he wrote them for three different festivals.

So what is the Oresteia?

Cut for cannibalism, matricide, infanticide, filicide, mariticide, and war. )

You have no idea how many times I typed 'Troy' as 'Tory' in this post.

Background

May. 4th, 2012 08:45 pm
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Names, right. Let's see if Windows bluescreens again before I can get this post up.

We have extant works attributed to three surviving playwrights:
Aeschylus c. 513 BCE - c. 455 BCE
Sophocles c. 495 - 405
Euripides c. 480 - 406
However, Prometheus Bound was almost certainly not written by Aeschylus and Rhesus was probably not written by Euripides. We've got no idea who did write them, though.

They've all got very different personalities, at least according to Aristophanes (author of our only surviving comedy from the period). Greek Old Comedy was all about making fun of politics and real people, and Aristophanes absolutely loved Euripides as a target. Also Socrates.

You see, the fifth century in Athens was a time of major philosophical changes, including the full establishment of democracy,* and the upper classes (who were the ones with time and leisure to write) spent most of their time complaining about them. So anyone with any attachment to the new philosophical ideas, like Euripides, was in for it. (Socrates, on the other hand, seems from Plato's accounts to have spent a lot of time attacking democracy, although he didn't write anything himself so we aren't sure).

Athens is the city in Greece we know the most about, because of all the surviving writings. On the other hand, we therefore mostly just have the perspectives of upper class Athenian men, at least from this period. So we don't know how typical it was. We know Sparta was entirely different, but the rest of Greece seems to have thought Sparta was weird too. But that doesn't mean the rest of Greece was just like Athens.

So what was Athens like? By the time Euripides was writing, Athens was the centre of a major maritime empire called the Delian league (after the island of Delos where they originally kept the treasury before moving it to Athens), which was originally started to stop the Persians from coming back but which quickly became mostly a source of income for Athens, and also protection for the islands that their grain supply came from. They refused to admit it was an empire but insisted upon having a say in everyone's government and didn't allow anyone to leave, much like America today.

The growth of Athenian power was a serious threat to Sparta as the former power, and to everyone who didn't want to sign up for the Delian League, and tensions grew until 430 when war started. It wasn't constant; there was occasional peace and interruptions for plague and poorly thought out foreign campaigns, but eventually in 404 Sparta won, and besieged Athens until they agreed to their terms. Mary Renault's The Last of the Wine has a wonderfully heartrending description of the Siege of Athens.

The upper classes had very little power officially and lots of power practically, as usually happens. In 411 they tried to overthrow the democracy and failed, and then at the end of the war they colluded with Sparta in getting rid of it. This failed too, eventually. It turns out if you give 30 people absolute power they act like assholes. Who would have thought?

But that's after the tragedians stopped writing.

Athens was a very multicultural city, although the non-Athenians had no say in government. It was a slave society - the concept of "paid servant" dates back to the Middle Ages and not before. Slaves could be from anywhere in the Mediterranean - usually they were war captives. People from all over Greece, and the Greek diaspora, came to Athens to do business, the way people normally move to big cities. They were called metics - resident foreigners. Freed slaves also went in this class.

The ideal in Athens was that women stayed home and were not seen on the public street - not until "she's old enough to be taken for someone's mother instead of someone's wife." They married at fifteen, didn't see or talk to any men except their husband and family, and went out only for religious occasions (where they had major roles).

Of course, this didn't work well for most people. Poor families couldn't afford to have a mostly unproductive family member. Widows even engaged in commerce. And slave women went everywhere. Greek ladies couldn't go to the marketplace, so they sent slaves. Greek wives couldn't be seen by their husbands' guests, but prostitutes were hired to attend dinner parties. Metic women sometimes had more freedom than citizens, and might be well educated. They often ended up as the mistresses of citizens specifically because they were intelligent and entertaining and well-read - even though in a wife this was discouraged.

And then the playwrights wrote women like Medea and Clytemnestra and Antigone and Electra and Alcestis and Deianira and Iphigeneia, not to mention all the goddesses. All these women are respectable wives or daughters, except maybe Medea, and yet they have unbelievably clear and mostly sympathetic voices. Even the evil ones. Even when they are arguing against the authorities.



*Such as it was. Athenian democracy allowed all adult free citizen men to go to the assembly in person and vote. Citizen was soon defined as "someone with two citizen parents," so there was no way to become a citizen unless you could get a majority to vote you in (or, later, buy your way in). Freed slaves? No. Foreigners? No. Fourth generation descendants of immigrants? No. Women? Yeah right.

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