A Private Prayer

Kylix (cup) depicting a woman at an altar. Athens, circa 475-25 BCE. 8-923.

This kylix was found in Orvieto, Italy but was made in Athens in the fifth century BCE. The inside of this drinking vessel depicts a young woman wearing a heavy mantle over a generously pleated dress and a head covering on her head. She stands before an altar with a flower in her extended left hand. Absent the traditional libation bowl or other celebrants, the woman is likely offering a personal prayer rather than officiating a ritual. Greek women took active part in the religious rituals of their cities. They served as priestesses, organized rituals, maintained temples, washed cult statues and wove new garments for them, and dedicated offerings. These religious rituals, seen as key to the preservation of the polis, thus gave women visibility, agency and social recognition.

-William Sieving

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