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Water and Women in Ancient Greece

Greek Words Related to Water

  1. χέρνιβον — a vessel for water to wash the hands, a basin, Homer, Iliad, 24.303
  2. ὕδωρ — water, from Indo-European ‘9. au̯(e)-, au̯ed-, au̯er-‘, ‘to wet, flow, sprinkle; water, river, etc.’, Homer, Iliad, 24.303

Water in Homer

  1. Homer, Iliad, 6.457: “Then haply in Argos shalt thou ply the loom at another’s bidding, or bear water from Messeis or Hypereia, sorely against thy will, and strong necessity shall be laid upon thee. And some man shall say as he beholdeth thee weeping: ‘Lo, the wife of Hector, that was pre-eminent in war above all the horse-taming Trojans, in the day when men fought about Ilios.’ So shall one say; and to thee shall come fresh grief in thy lack of a man like me to ward off the day of bondage.
  2. Homer, Iliad, 24.299: “Then in answer spake unto her godlike Priam: [300] “Wife, I will not disregard this hest of thine; for good is it to lift up hands to Zeus, if so be he will have pity.”Thus spake the old man, and bade the housewife that attended pour over his hands water undefiled; and the handmaid drew nigh bearing in her hands alike basin and ewer. [305]
  3. Homer, Odyssey, 1.136: “Then a handmaid brought water for the hands in a fair pitcher of gold, and poured it over a silver basin for them to wash, and beside them drew up a polished table.”
  4. Homer, Odyssey, 4.51: “Then a handmaid brought water for the hands in a fair pitcher of gold, and poured it over a silver basin for them to wash,..”
  5. Homer, Odyssey, 7.172: “Then a handmaid brought water for the hands in a fair pitcher of gold, and poured it over a silver basin, for him to wash,..”
  6. Homer, Odyssey, 10.105: “And before the city they met a maiden drawing water, the goodly1 daughter of Laestrygonian Antiphates, who had come down to the fair-flowing spring Artacia, from whence they were wont to bear water to the town. So they came up to her and spoke to her, and asked her who was king of this folk, and who they were of whom he was lord. And she showed them forth with the high-roofed house of her father.”
  7. Homer, Odyssey, 10.347: “…then I went up to the beautiful bed of Circe. But her handmaids meanwhile were busied in the halls, four maidens who are her serving-women in the house. [350] Children are they of the springs and groves, and of the sacred rivers that flow forth to the sea, and of them one threw upon chairs fair rugs of purple above, and spread beneath them a linen cloth; another drew up before the chairs tables [355] of silver, and set upon them golden baskets; and the third mixed sweet, honey-hearted wine in a bowl of silver, and served out golden cups; and the fourth brought water, and kindled a great fire beneath a large cauldron, and the water grew warm. [360] But when the water boiled in the bright bronze, she set me in a bath, and bathed me with water from out the great cauldron, mixing it to my liking, and pouring it over my head and shoulders, till she took from my limbs soul-consuming weariness. But when she had bathed me, and anointed me richly with oil, [365] and had cast about me a fair cloak and a tunic, she brought me into the hall, and made me sit upon a silver-studded chair—a beautiful chair, richly wrought, and beneath was a foot-stool for the feet. Then a handmaid brought water for the hands in a fair pitcher of gold, and poured it over a silver basin [370] for me to wash, and beside me drew up a polished table.”
  8. Homer, Odyssey, 15.135: “And a handmaid brought water for the hands in a fair pitcher of gold, and poured it over a silver basin for them to wash, and beside them drew up a polished table.”

Images

  1. Women and the fountain:
    1. Thetis and other nymphs at a fountain
    2. Polyxena at the fountain, watched out by Achilles
    3. Polyxena at the fountain
    4. a scene at a fountain-house
    5. women at a fountain house
    6. hydria
    7. Women at fountain house, Terracotta hydria (water jar) Attributed to the Class of Hamburg 1917.477, The Metropolitan Museum of Art.
    8. woman approaching fountain
  2. Women washing
    1. Three women doing laundry
    2. Woman washing.
    3. Women washing.
  3. Implied water
    1. Thetis carrying shield to Achilles, on hippocamp
    2. women in the water