The Women Take Over: Female Leadership in Aristophanes’ Assemblywomen


This case study examines Praxagora’s ascent to leadership, especially her efforts to empower other women to become leaders themselves. Praxagora is a fictional character in the ancient Athenian comic play Assemblywomen by Aristophanes (392 BCE). The title of the play is a joke: in the eyes of the ancient Athenian audience, it would seem absurd that the major democratic legislative body of Athens (the Ecclesia, or Assembly) should be composed of women. But in Assemblywomen, that is precisely what happens. Ignoring cultural expectations, Praxagora (whose name means someone who does things in the public forum) replaces the all-male Assembly with women, and begins major cultural reforms which reflect a perspective on gender and civic participation that differs from real-world Athenian theory and practice.

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