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Collection Highlights

Statuette of a schoolgirl

Statuette of a schoolgirl
© BA Antiquities Museum/C. Gerigk


showcase 18

Statuette of a schoolgirl

Category:
Sculpture in the round, figurines / statuettes, human / gods and goddesses figurines
Date:
Graeco-Roman Period (332 BCE-395 CE)
Provenance:
Unknown
Material(s):
Man made material, pottery (terracotta)
Height:
10.2 cm
Hall:
Greco-Roman Antiquities, showcase 18


Description

Painted terracotta statuette representing a school girl sitting on a chair and copying out her lesson on a wax tablet on her lap. The statuette is from the Tanagra collection. Tanagra was the name of the city that included the largest number of these statuettes which were made of burnt clay with colors that depicted actual clothes, hairstyles, and facial features. This kind of statuettes appeared in Alexandria in large quantities, from the 4th century until the 2nd century BCE.

Education

Girls and boys were not treated equally, although each was educated in ways which would best equip them when they become adults. The Greeks believed that education was important and that it involved more than simply attending school. Greek citizens believed that an education should enrich the mind, the body and the manners. The city-state girls could receive an education from their mothers at home rather than at school. They also received an athletic education: they were taught to run, wrestle and take part in athletic contests. In Sparta, which was a military society, women were highly honored. Spartan women were expected to be strong and brave, and to give up everything in times of war. They were also asked for advice on important matters.

Young family girls, documented in papyri, acquired a variety of skills which prepared them to become good wives and mothers, such as spinning, weaving, clothes-making, preparation of food, and direction of domestic workers and slaves. The education of a slave was also an investment which was expected to yield in the future income from her work, either in the master's household or hired for wages.

Opportunities to receive education, particularly during the Roman period, were more plentiful in the metropolis than in villages, and more available to the elite classes who could afford private tutoring for their children.

The ability to write fluently was a matter of considerable pride for a woman. Most adult women had less occasions than men to write and sign documents in their own handwriting and less opportunity to practice with pen and ink.

Alexandria was, throughout the Ptolemaic and Roman periods, the cultural and scientific center of the Eastern Mediterranean. Its academic claims eclipsed those of Athens, and it vied with Rome.


The information given here is subject to modification/update as a result of ongoing research.

Bibliography
  • Odijk, Pamela. The Greeks. Oxford: Heinemann, 1989.
  • Rowlandson, Jane and Roger Bagnall, eds. et al. Women and Society in Greek and Roman Egypt. Cambridge; New York: Cambridge University Press, 1998.
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