Girls’ Bodies as Religious Objects in Classical Athens
Girlhood: the one time in an Athenian woman’s life where she had permission to shine on the public stage. A point when girls acted as conduits between the city and the gods and were therefore pre-eminently important for that relationship. In this paper, I will discuss the use of girls’ bodies as objects of civic Athenian religious practice. I will do this using two case studies: first, the arrhephoroi, who are girls between the ages of seven and eleven who serve Athena Polias; and then, the arktoi - ‘Bears’ played by five-to-ten-year-old girls to honour Artemis at the Brauronia. In each of these positions, it is not only the girls’ actions that determine ritual success, but also their bodies as religious objects. These case studies demonstrate how religious objectification is multi-layered. First, though the performance of objects, costumes and the experiences of the girls themselves, and then the way the girls are viewed as religious implements. I will also consider why and how prepubescent girls are made sacred by objectification. I will be applying the methodology of Religious Materialism to the girls’ actions and bodies to deduce whether we can say anything meaningful about their everyday lives through ritualised objectification.