[+]Not the comedies—they were too broad for refined women. But the fact that Athenian ladies seem to have been allowed to attend the tragedies is a tribute to their intellectual capacities. Only an acute and intelligent mind can follow Aeschylus, Sophocles, and Euripides.
Nevertheless our judgment upon the Athenian women is mainly one of regret. Even if not discontented with their lot, they are not realizing the full possibilities which Providence has placed within the reach of womanhood, much less the womanhood of the mothers of the warriors, poets, orators, and other immortals of Athens. One great side of civilization which the city of Athens might develop and realize is left unrealized. This civilization of Athens is too masculine; it is therefore one sided, and in so far it does not realize that ideal “Harmony” which is the average Athenian’s boast.
Chapter VI. Athenian Costume.
33. The General Nature of Greek Dress.—In every age the important kingdom of dress has been reserved for the peculiar sovereignty of woman. This is true in Athens, though not perhaps to the extent of later ages. Still an Athenian lady will take an interest in “purple and fine linen” far exceeding that of her husband, and where is there a more fitting place than this in which to answer for an Athenian, the ever important question “wherewithal shall I be clothed”?
Once again the Athenian climate comes in as a factor, this time in the problem of wardrobe. Two general styles of garment have divided the allegiance of the world,—the clothes that are put on and the clothes that are wrapped around. The former style, with its jackets, trousers, and leggings, is not absolutely unknown to the Athenians,—their old enemies, the Persians, wear these[*]; but such clumsy, inelegant garments are despised and ridiculed as fit only for the “Barbarians” who use them. They are not merely absurdly homely; they cannot even be thrown off promptly in an emergency, leaving the glorious human form free to put forth any noble effort. The Athenians wear the wrapped style of garments, which are, in final analysis, one or two large square pieces of cloth flung skillfully around the body and secured by a few well-placed pins. This costume is infinitely adjustable; it can be expanded into flowing draperies or contracted into an easy working dress by a few artful twitches. It can be nicely adjusted to meet the inevitable sense of “beauty” bred in the bone of every Athenian. True, on the cold days of midwinter the wearers will go about shivering; but cold days are the exception, warm days the rule, in genial Attica.[+]
[*]The Persians no doubt learned to use this style of garment during their life on the cold, windy steppes of Upper Asia, before they won their empire in the more genial south.