This video, which features 138 works of art from 5th century Greece, is an overview of the first ancient art exhibition in the world to center around women; it is being shown in 1995-96 at the Walter's Art Gallery in Baltimore, the Dallas Museum of Art and the Antikenmuseum in Basel, Switzerland.  With a text by Dr. Ellen Reeder, Curator of Ancient Art at the Walter's Art Gallery, it provides groundbreaking perspectives into the lives, customs, rituals and myths of Classical Greece, traditionally considered to be a most influential time in the development of Western civilization.

The masterpieces viewed and discussed display a range of archetypes--mother, virgin, prostitute, protectress--that have been woven so tightly into the fabric of Western culture that they are still with us today. Organized in four sections, the lecture begins with what constituted the ideal woman in Greek society, including proper body language, facial expression and general comportment.  The second section explores a key metaphor for women in Ancient Greece: women as vessel.  Images of containers and containment, confinement to hearth and home, and the womb for childbearing inspire the symbolism on vases and statues.  The third section examines the metaphor of woman as a wild animal who needs to be tamed.  This includes fertility rites and the view of courtship as a hunt, with woman as the prey.  The final section focuses on various myths that dramatize the anxiety and apprehension the Greeks felt regarding the taming of women.  Representations of mythological figures, such as Artemis, Athena, Circe, the Sirens among others are discussed in terms of their dominant roles and connotations of independence.

The video, Pandora's Box: The Roles of Women in Ancient Greece, is intended for home viewing by the general public as well as for use in educational settings.  With its interdisciplinary approach it presents material directly connected to Art History and Classical Archaeology; in addition, its subject matter is of great value to Women's Studies, Sociology and Anthropology.




Aidos and Sophrosyne–Modesty and Dignity

Gesture and Gaze

The Wedding

Containers as Metaphors for Women

Woman and the Metaphor of Wild Animals

Mythical Woman as Images of Apprehension




For thousands of years Greek myths have survived providing instuction, amusement and life affirmation for both adults and children. Myths change with the telling whether it be in words or images. Scholars have come to realize that the artists of ancient Greece, in preserving interpretations of myths and rituals in vase paintings and sculpture, used a wealth of visual imagery. Through works of art gathered from museums and private collections the world over, the lecturer Dr. Ellen D. Reeder, illustrates how that imagery reveals to us today the values, perceptions and concerns that surrounded the woman of Classical Greece.


Study Questions



Agamemnon King of Mycenae, father of Iphigenia

Amazon female warrior

Amymone maiden pursued by Poseidon

Aphrodite goddess of love

Artemis goddess of the hunt, guardian of young girls

Atalanta a hunter and runner, adverse to marriage

Circe daughter of Helios and a famed magician who turns men to swine

Demeter goddess of the earth and mother of Persephone

Eos goddess of the dawn

Epimetheus husband of Pandora

Erichthonios Attic hero, king of Athens

Eros (Cupid) son of Aprhrodite

Gorgon femal monster. Medusa was a Gorgon

Hades god of the underworld

Herakles son of Zeus, renowned for his strength

Hermes the messenger god

Iphigenia daughter of Agamemnon, who killed her

Maenad female follower of Dionysus, often frenzied

Medusa Gorgon slain by Perseus

Odysseus king of Ithaca

Orpheus poet and singer

Pandora the first woman, created by the gods from clay

Pegasus winged horse, offspring of Medusa

Peleus suitor who won Thetis as his wife

Perseophone wife of Hades
Sirens: bird women who sing a fatal song
Tithonos: mortal lover of goddess Eos


General Terms:

aegis shaggy skin with fringe of snakes worn by Athena

aidos modesty of demeanor

amphora two-handled jar

anakalypteria the moment of the bride's unveiling

Arrephoroi young girls who participate in a ritual of Athena

Brauron a religious sanctuary of Artemis in ATtica

Eschara central hearth of a house

hetaira prostitute

hydria water vessel

kanephoros(oi) unmarried virgin(s) who functioned as a ritual basket carrier

kanoun basket used for ritual purposes

kiste basket or chest, usally short and cylindrical

kore (ai) unmarried maiden(s) with the connotations of daugher

krater mixing bowl for wine and water

kylix two handled drinking cup

lebes famikos "wedding bowl," a deep bolw with a stand

mychos innermost part of a house

nympheutria assistant to the bride

oinochoe one-handled jug used to hold and pour liquid

omophagy: eating raw flesh
parthenos (oi) unmarried maiden(s)

phiale a wide, flat bowl used for ritual libation

pithos a storage jar

pyxis vessel used to contain jewelry and toiletries

sophrosyne discretion, dignity

stamnos a large jar used for wine