This study analyzes the impact of religious practices on the social status of women in the culture of Mycenaean Greece. Even though they lived in a patriarchal society run by men, the sacerdotal women of Mycenaean Greece were able to exercise a remarkable amount of authority through their religious duties. This knowledge prompted me to explore the status of cultic women in Mycenaean Greece in order to better understand the relationship between women and religion in this culture. In Part One, I examine the connections between religious office and the social agency of women during the Mycenaean culture. During this time period, roughly 1600-1200 B.C.E., priestesses were able to hold property leases and appear named (a sign of high status) in the Linear B tablets. I demonstrate and argue that priestesses had social capital greater than other women in 1600-1200 B.C.E. Mycenaean Greece. This is significant because later, particularly in Classical Greece, women seem to have lost these rights and opportunities. In order to fully answer the question of sacerdotal women’s agency in Mycenaean Greece, my research focuses on comparing the references in the Linear B tablets to the craftswomen in Mycenaean Greece from 1600 to 1200 B.C.E. to the references that mention sacerdotal women. In researching the female-centered religious aspect of Mycenaean Greece, I focus on ritual, the role of priestesses, and the remnants of Mycenaean sacerdotal life that exist in the Homeric epics. Since written primary sources from the Mycenaean age are limited to catalogues and economic lists in the Linear B record, as well as the highly problematic historical nature of the Homeric epics, I also incorporate the material record that pertains to priestesses as well. In Part 2 of this project, I draw on secondary source material as well as an original analysis of archaeological artifacts and epic literature to create a novella about the life of a fictional Mycenaean priestess. I do this to create as full a picture as possible of what a Mycenaean priestess’s life could have looked like, because it is impossible to know the whole story based on the scant evidence left behind by the Mycenaeans.
Classical Studies; History
Smith, Bethany K., "Priestess of Potnia: A Story of Women, Cult Practices, and Mycenaean Society in the Bronze Age Aegean" (2017). Senior Independent Study Theses. Paper 7575.
Ancient History, Greek and Roman through Late Antiquity | Cultural History | Fiction | History of Gender | Social History
Bachelor of Arts
Senior Independent Study Thesis
© Copyright 2017 Bethany K. Smith