The following discussion will concern the works, Oeconomicus and Lysistrata, by Xenophon and Aristophanes. These two works will contrast the perception of the power of men as related to women in Greek society from 412 to 354 BC.
In the work Oeconomicus the author uses a conversation between Socrates and his friend Ischomachus to discuss a wife s role in the household. From this conversation a number of general statements telling the power of men and women in Greek society can be formed. The first idea displayed about Greek men and women is that men are the ruling power over women in the Greek society. Therefore men are always correct in there thinking. This is drawn from a statement made by Socrates wife, How can I possibly help you? What power have I? Nay all depends on you (page 69). In this society men were believed to have, God given, superior bodies and minds than that of the women s bodies and minds. This made men more suited for outdoor task such as farming or fighting. This idea is taken from the statement, For he (God) made mans body and mind more capable of enduring cold and heat, and journeys and campaigns; and therefore imposed on him the outdoor task (page 69). knowing that he who deals with the outdoor tasks will have to be their defender against any wrong-doer, he meted out to him again a larger share of courage (page 69). The wife is saying with this remark that Greek men are naturally braver that the women are.
In Greek society, according to this work, It is mans place, given to him by God, to be courageous, correct, attend the outside work, and be the master of woman.
The second work shows a very different and less powerful view of men and a more prominent view of females in Greek society. Lysistrata is a play that was written to show the authors distaste of the Peloponnesian War. Aristophanes seems to think that the men of Greece are fighting the war not like courageous and smart men but more like idiots, and women could fight the war more effectively. In the play the women characters take over the treasury of Athens in hopes of stopping the Peloponnesian War.
One of the main male characters of the play says, " I'm the Commissioner for Public Safety. I've got men to pay. I need the money and look what happens. The women have shut me out of the public treasury"(page 70). This line in the play shows not the power of the Greek man, but rather the strength of the Greek woman. The Commissioner can't even get to his treasury to pay his men, because the women have taken it over. In this work, as apposed to the first work talked about, the women are the ruling power over the men. In the play Lysistrata, a prominent female character, says, Not to let us advise against your idiocy was bad enough, but then again we d actually hear you out in public saying things like, Who can we draft? There s not a man left in the country (page 72). She goes on to say, The women must see to the fighting (page 72). Lysistrata is saying that the men are not mentally fit to do the fighting, they are getting every man in Greece killed. This is mainly due to there fighting more that one war at once. Lysistrata is saying women a smarter than men and just as strong, so the men need to step down and let the women take over.
Both of the works talk of power. Oeconomicus talks of the power the men have over the women in Greece. Men are seen to be brave. Men are always correct when questioned by a woman. In this work Greek male figures are naturally a dominant power over women. In contrast the play Lysistrata shows the Greek women over ruling the Greek males of the society. During the coarse of the play the women overrule the men by denying them access to the Public treasury. The females of the city become the ruling power, and reverse all the established roles identified in the first work discussed. It can be said that Greek men are only as powerful as the Greek women let them be.