Humanities Forum — Ancient Studies Week
Life, Love, and Law in Classical Athens
Victoria Wohl, Professor of Athenian Literature and Culture, University of Toronto
Monday, October 9, 4 – 5:30 p.m.
Albin O. Kuhn Library Gallery
Pericles’ Citizenship Law of 451 BCE defined an Athenian citizen as the child of an Athenian father and an Athenian mother. This law created a sharp distinction between legitimate and illegitimate marriages and between legitimate and illegitimate families. But when we look at court cases from Classical Athens, a murkier picture of family life emerges, full of mistresses and prostitutes, bastard children, and secret love affairs. Focusing on Demosthenes’ famous speech against Neaira, this lecture shows how Athenians lived their lives in the grey areas left by the law’s black-and-white distinction. The lecture concludes with a discussion of Euripides’ Medea, which illustrates the high cost to the individual of transgressing the law and the high cost to society of upholding it.
Victoria Wohl is a scholar of the literature and culture of ancient Greece, with a focus on the social relations, political thought, and psychic life of democratic Athens. She is author of Intimate Commerce: Exchange, Gender, and Subjectivity in Greek Tragedy (Texas, 1998), Love Among the Ruins: The Erotics of Democracy in Classical Athens (2002), Law’s Cosmos: Juridical Discourse in Athenian Forensic Oratory (2010), and Euripides and the Politics of Form (2015).