Tuesday, September 15, 2009

enter anthropos, the woman

Have I sat by and watched the dehumanization of woman? I don't know, but so long and no more.

Anthropos is a Greek noun of common gender, a human creature, woman or man. That those who are male wish to alienate women from being classified as human, should come as no surprise to me. It is easier to dismiss the one who is less human. It is easier to excuse her absence, her presence elsewhere, so man can the paradigmatic human, the paradigmatic christian, the paradigmatic blogger, the paradigmatic reader of this blog.

(You know I mean the opposite of this - that the ideal reader of this blog is human - a woman. But a man, if he deems himself human also, may read this blog.)

Here is a story of six women. You tell me now if woman is "human."
    Woman #1

    There was in the Paeanian deme, a woman called Phya, three fingers short of six feet, four inches in height, and otherwise, too, well-formed. This woman they equipped in full armor and put in a chariot, giving her all the paraphernalia to make the most impressive spectacle, and so drove into the city; heralds ran before them, and when they came into town proclaimed as they were instructed:

      “Athenians, give a hearty welcome to Pisistratus, whom Athena herself honors above all men and is bringing back to her own acropolis.”

    So the heralds went about proclaiming this; and immediately the report spread in the demes that Athena was bringing Pisistratus back, and the townsfolk, believing that the woman was the goddess herself, worshipped this human creature(anthropos) and welcomed Pisistratus.

    Herodotus, The Histories (ed. A. D. Godley)

    Woman #2

    Cratinus once had a dispute over a farm with the brother-in-law of Callimachus. A personal encounter ensued. Having concealed a female slave,(anthropos) they accused Cratinus of having crushed her head, and asserting that she had died as a result of the wound, they brought suit against him in the court of the Palladium on the charge of murder.

    Isocrates, Speeches and Letters

    Woman #3

    Philoneos' mistress accompanied him to attend the sacrifice. On reaching Peiraeus, Philoneos of course carried out the ceremony. When the sacrifice was over, the woman (anthropos) considered how to administer the draught: should she give it before or after supper? Upon reflection, she decided that it would be better to give it afterwards, thereby carrying out the suggestion of this Clytemnestra here.

    Antiphon, Speeches (ed. K. J. Maidment), Prosecution Of The Stepmother For Poisoning

    Woman #4

    While she was still living in the tenement-house, she had relations with a freedman whose name was Dion, whom she declared to be the father of these young men; and Dion did, in fact, bring them up as his own children.

    Some time later Dion, having committed a misdemeanor and being afraid of the consequences, withdrew to Sicyon. The woman (anthropos) Alce was then installed by Euctemon to look after his tenement-house in the Cerameicus, near the postern gate, where wine is sold.

    Isaeus, Speeches
    , On the Estate of Philoctemon

    Woman #5

    They said such things among themselves; and Pelias arrived, rushing headlong with his mule team and his polished chariot. He was instantly astonished, looking at the single sandal, plain to see on the stranger's right foot. But he hid his fear in his heart and said:

      “What country, stranger, do you claim as your fatherland? And what woman, (anthropos) of mortals on earth, bore you from her aged womb? Do not befoul your story with most hateful lies, but tell me of your birth.”

    Pindar, Odes, Pythian Odes

    Woman #6

    At first, I believe, they only tried to make her drink quietly and eat dessert; so Iatrocles told me the following day. But as the carouse went on, and they became heated, they ordered her to sit down and give them a song. The poor girl (anthropos) was bewildered, for she did not wish, and she did not know how, to sing.

    Then Aeschines and Phryno declared that it was intolerable impertinence for a captive,--and one of those ungodly, pernicious Olynthians too,--to give herself such airs.

      “Call a servant,” they cried; “bring a whip, somebody.”

    In came a flunkey with a horsewhip, and--I suppose they were tipsy, and it did not take much to irritate them,when she said something and began to cry, he tore off her dress and gave her a number of lashes on the back.

    Demosthenes, Speeches 11-20
    , On the Embassy

    ἡ ἄνθρωπος:

    A human creature,
    statuesque and goddess-like,
    mistress and murderer

    She is the body-broken slave,
    a captive to be whipped
    because she cannot sing.

    She loves,
    has sex
    and expels the child
    from her womb.

    But some men
    still deny
    the name


Demosthenes. Demosthenes with an English translation by C. A. Vince, M. A. and J. H. Vince, M.A. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University

Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1926.

Herodotus, with an English translation by A. D. Godley. Cambridge. Harvard University Press. 1920.

Isaeus. Isaeus with an English translation by Edward Seymour Forster, M.A. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1962.

Isocrates. Isocrates with an English Translation in three volumes, by George Norlin, Ph.D., LL.D. Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press; London, William Heinemann Ltd. 1980.

Pindar. Odes. 1990.


matthew said...

There's also 1 Peter 3:4, which speaks to women about their "inner" anthropos.

Peter Kirk said...

Thank you, Sue. I note that these are the examples of ἡ ἄνθρωπος, feminine, listed by Liddell and Scott, as I quoted their entry. This is not quite the same thing as ὁ ἄνθρωπος, masculine, used of a specific woman - which would be less likely, but is the usage in 1 Peter 3:4.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for this.

The case of ἡ ἄνθρωπος is particularly vexing. Do you have any way to post the Greek for all six examples? Do they all have the feminine determiner?

J. K. Gayle said...


and may I add a couple of other examples?


κάλλος ἀνθρώπων Ἐλένα
--Sappho, the poet (Plato's "tenth muse")

(which J. M. Edmonds makes "Helen saw the most beautiful of mortals [i.e., she saw a man, her husband andra]"

which Edwin Marion Cox translates "mortal perfectino... fair Helen"

which Margaret Reynolds renders "Helen: she Whom in beauty no other woman came near"

which Willis Barnstone echoes as "Helen who far surpassed all Mortals in beauty"

which Anne Carson hears as "she who overcame everyone in beauty (Helen)")


θυγατέρα Καλλιρόην ... τὸ κάλλος οὐκ ἀνθρώπινον ἀλλὰ θεῖον, οὐδὲ Νηρηΐδος ἢ Νύμφης τῶν ὀρειῶν ἀλλ’ αὐτῆς Ἀφροδίτης Παρθένου.
--Chariton, the novelist

(which can be translated to emphasize some male-only sense of anthropos

or may be rendered to show the generic, human sense of the word

I've tried both in this post to let readers decide.)

J. K. Gayle said...

Joel's question about presence of "the feminine determiner" is an important one, I think.

But even without a determiner, Sappho and Chariton (as shown in the previous comment) seem to explicitly to include named women in the class of anthropos. And may I add that only Edmonds and Mary Barnard translate Sappho as speaking of anthropos as male only? Barnard actually renders the phrase, "the world's manhood." Nonetheless, Cox, Reynolds, Barnstone, Carson, Richmond Lattimore, Jane McIntosh Snyder, Diane Rayor, and Josephine Balmer have all viewed Sappho's anthropos as inclusive of the very female Helen.

Kevin Sam said...

This and your previous post are great lists of alternate usage of anthropos and ἀνήρ. Thanks.

Peter Kirk said...

The Greek text of the Herodotus passage is here, clearly showing the feminine article with anthropos.

Anonymous said...

Lysis, "On the Murder of Eratosthenes":
[24]"We took torches from the nearest inn, and entered -- the door was open because the girl had seen to it..."

The second phrase is a genitive absolute with "anthropou" referring to the girl. The article is genitive feminine singular.