Constructing Athenian Masculinities : Masculinities in Theophrastus' Characters and Menander's Comedies

University dissertation from Uppsala : Institutionen för arkeologi och antik historia, Antikens kultur och samhällsliv


This study examines the construction of masculinities in Theophrastus’ Characters and Menander’s comedies. As these works were written in early Hellenistic Athens during a period of great political and social changes, there is reason to assume that also the construction of gender changed. The aim of the study is to identify the hegemonic masculinity in the literary sources and see how it and other masculinities were constructed. This is carried out with the help of contemporary critical theories on men and masculinities, especially R. W. Connell’s theory of hegemonic masculinity and perspectives of intersectionality. The study argues that the use of contemporary theories helps to broaden the understanding of gender in antiquity.

With the use of Connell’s theory on hegemonic masculinity a complex picture of masculinities emerges that intersects several social constructions including age, financial and social belonging. The hegemonic masculinity that emerges is one of Athenian citizenship at the age of being a kyrios with an oikos that contained children. It is also a masculinity that is dependent on fulfilling or obtaining the three virtues of sophrosyne, autarkeia and philantropia. The hegemonic masculinity seems to be one of nostalgia, focusing on how the contemporaries of Theophrastus and Menander perceived the hegemonic masculinity of a past era when Athens was one of the great powers in the region without foreign domination and interference.

The study shows that, as in Connell’s theory, the hegemonic masculinity was one that no single male could obtain or maintain for any longer period of time. It is also the case that all gender relates in one way or another to the hegemonic masculinity.

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