Beauty & The Beast – Double Standards in Ancient Greece

Standards of beauty have always changed through the years and from country to country.  What is fashionable in one time and place may not be in the other.  Whilst today is most Western countries it is considered trendy to sport a glowing sun tan, a few centuries ago being as white as a ghost was the look to go for.  Showing a sun tan meant that you must go outside and perform work and just how fashionable could working be compared to being a Lord or Lady of leisure.

High-heeled shoes and boots are now firmly the purview of women but it wasn’t always the case as for a long time it used to be men who wore them as many portraits of British nobility clearly indicate.  All of a sudden women began to wear them too and as quick as a flash, men dumped them and have never worn them again since.

Sometimes what is considered beautiful or desirable depends almost entirely on the class and style of the person.  Whilst in some countries ostentatious displays of gold or diamonds is a clear status sign showing that the owner is successful, in most situations such displays are considered distasteful, common and only donned by the section of the population known as Chavs in the U.K.

Ancient Greek Hunk

Ancient Greek Hunk

You have to go a long way though to beat the double standards of Ancient Greece though. For those handsome Greek men it was clear that their beauty was a gift from the Gods.  They may have been the first but not the last to assume that if someone looked nice on the outside then they were also a good person on the inside or kaloskagathos as they called it.

Unfortunately the beautiful Greek ladies of times past were not so fortunate.  In the 8th Century BC the writer Hesiod labelled the first woman as  kalon kakon or beautiful-evil thing. She was evil because she was beautiful and beautiful because she was evil.  To be a beautiful woman in Ancient Greece was as bad news as it was a good thing to be a handsome man.   No doubt a Greek precursor to the modern stories of plain looking women to be of good character whilst the beautiful women in Hollywood films are often shown as being evil and untrustworthy.   Or perhaps Ancient Greek men couldn’t control themselves unless around unattractive women as except for a few exceptions such as Helen of Troy, Greek women were best if on the large size.

Ancient Greek Lady

Ancient Greek Lady, modestly dressed and modestly attractive.

It was entirely bad for beautiful Greek ladies of times past as although the fashion was to have pale skin, often by being painted in a white substance much like Elizabethan ladies covered themselves in white powder, ancient Greeks rather liked ladies with red or ginger hair whereas for much of the next 2,000 years and in some places even today, ladies with ginger hair were thought to be witches.

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About Stephen Liddell

I am a writer and traveller with a penchant for history and getting off the beaten track. With several books to my name including a #1 seller, I also write environmental, travel and history articles for magazines as well as freelance work. Recently I've appeared on BBC Radio and Bloomberg TV and am waiting on the filming of a ghost story on British TV. I run my own private UK tours company (Ye Olde England Tours) with small, private and totally customisable guided tours run by myself!
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2 Responses to Beauty & The Beast – Double Standards in Ancient Greece

  1. EBotziou says:

    Those pesky Greeks! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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