Graduation Date


Document Type

Master's Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts

Department or Program

Graduate Humanities

Department or Program Chair

Laura Stivers, PhD

First Reader

Leslie Ross, PhD

Second Reader

Martin Anderson, PhD


The ancient Greek cult festival known as the Thesmophoria was an exclusively feminine ritual whose purpose was human and agricultural fertility. The festival honored Demeter, goddess of the harvest and her daughter Persephone. Although men held the festival in high esteem, they were expressly forbidden—sometimes to the point of death—from attending the three-day long event. Men’s respect for the Thesmophoria was demonstrated by both their financial support as well as the curtailing of certain civic events in the polis on the second day of the Thesmophoria. Considered one of the oldest and most widespread of all Greek religious festivals, the Thesmophoria is believed to have its origins in the Neolithic age—before the advent of patriarchal marriage. This paper explores the ways in which citizen wives in the patriarchal culture of ancient Greece were empowered by both the ritual and its pre-androcentric origins.

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