Honors Theses

Date of Award


Document Type

Undergraduate Thesis



First Advisor

Brad Cook

Relational Format



This paper will explore the legal implications of social norms and taboos surrounding both biological sex distinctions and sexuality in Ancient Athens. I believe that the legal speeches used in Ancient Athenian court cases reflect a unique gateway into understand these social norms, because these speeches are arguments made in an attempt to appeal to a jury of Athenian citizens. From these arguments, we can infer what would likely be honorable versus condemnable, and from the logical structure of the arguments we can further understand their legal reasoning. From what I have researched on biological sex and sexuality norms of Ancient Athens, I have found that men were given more freedom than women, but with the expectation that they would maintain self-control. Same-sex relations between men of differing ages were likely looked at negatively as a loss of moral control, but were legal as long as the younger was not a citizen. Prostitution was also legal, but also frowned upon if sought in excess. Citizen women were important primarily in their ability to produce more Athenian citizens. If a man were to harm a woman's purity, it was seen as a heinous crime in that it would obstruct the production of legitimate citizens. Most laws concerning sexual offenses of citizen women related back to this idea. Citizen status' standards of control and purity are echoed in their laws and legal speeches where I was able to detect how much pride Athenians had for their city.

Accessibility Status

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Included in

Classics Commons



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