The social and legal position of widows and orphans in classical Athens
I have attempted in the following pages to examine Athenian law and customary practices that shaped the lives of widows and orphans in the society during the classical period, using evidence mainly from the Attic orators. The work has two main divisions classified as follows: (A): The Athenian Widow in Law and Society; (B): Orphans in Classical Athens. Among the main issues discussed in section A, are the impact of the cycle of wars (foreign and internal) and other demographic features on family life and structure, instances of family laws about widows and orphans, and what role the archon could play the protect the welfare of widows and orphans in the society. Other matters discussed also are the status of the widow's marriage and dowry at the death of her husband, her residential status, rights to maintenance and support, the question of remarriage among widows, and what influence the widow could exert in either her deceased husband's household or that of her kindred. The fundamental motives for the striking phenomenon of appointing nearest relatives as guardians of orphans are discussed in Section B. An attempt has also been made not only to resolve the seeming uncertainties among scholars as to whether or not an epikleros, the other of the two categories of females with special legal protection, could be claimed before her puberty at the death of her father, but to examine also her peculiar status in the family and kinship structure. Other issues discussed also in Section B are the assumption of responsibilities of guardians, how the duties of guardians reflected the social and legal status of orphans under their guardians, and the position of state orphans.