Ancient Greek women lived lives that would be far more recognizable to the women of Iran or Saudi Arabia today than to the women of the modern West. Their skin was pale from a life in the shadows. When they were not indoors they covered up with a veil. Hence part of the preparations of the cross-dressing, coup-plotting women of Aristophanes’ Ecclesiazusae consists of letting their skin get tanned by secret exposure to the unaccustomed rays of the sun. Men kept well away from women they were not related to, and even husbands and wives often slept in different, sex-separated, parts of the house. Decent women were not supposed even to be spoken of in the public world of men, according to the funeral speech penned for Pericles by Thucydides. For a woman even to allow herself to be seen at a window or leaning over the sill of a Dutch door was dangerous for her reputation, and eulogists at weddings were advised to preface their praise of the beauty of the bride with an “I have heard”. In Crete the fine an adulterer had to pay was halved if the woman was seduced in a house that was not her home, and in Athens no charges at all could be laid against a man who seduced a woman who went to and fro “showingly”; as if by the very fact of appearing in public she was announcing that she was anybody’s.

more from the TLS here.