What! we ought not to punish you, who alone have dared to defend the man who has done so much harm, whom it pleases to put all the vile women that ever were upon the stage, who only shows us Melanippes and Phaedras? But of Penelope he has never said a word, because she was reputed chaste and good.
I know the reason. It’s because not a single Penelope exists among the women of to-day, but all without exception are Phaedras.
Women, you hear how this creature still dares to speak of us all.”
from Aristophanes’ Thesmophoriazouses
And here Aristophanes asks the question that is in every dramatic literature scholar’s mind. Why oh why, despite an overwhelming number of ancient heroines, who are genuinely “heroic” for city-state standards- and we will see them in the future- tragedy that has survived revolves around women who are considered problematic in ancient athenian thought.
This question is intricately tied to Thesmophoria, athenian Democracy-and its legacy to the world of today- and as we will see; the concept of matriarchy in early greek space. And I tell you now, matriarchy, is not at all what you think it is. It’s not the dominance of women over men and it is not a utopic perfect equality between the genders- because of slavery not all women are created equal.
Quotes from this translation here