Every once in a while, I get tagged on things on social media; Facebook, Youtube, Google+, etc. In general, that means one of you lovely readers has decided I know something about the subject at hand or would take an interest in it. I love it when that happens, so never stop! Anyway, this time I was tagged in the comments of a Youtube video, this Youtube video, made by a young woman with the (screen) name 'Ioana Răducanu', who, in short, asks what the heck is up with the Delphic Maxim 'Rule Your Wife' (Γυναικος αρχε); all the others make sense but that one just hasn't withstood the teeth of time. Well, yeah, that's pretty much true: it made sense in ancient Hellas, and now it really doesn't anymore. Ioana, let me try to explain.

Many traditions have a set of ethical and moral codes placed upon it by our ancestors. For Hellenics, they are the Delphic Maxims and there are a 147 of them. The maxims are said to be delivered by Apollon Himself to his Oracle at Delphi. They represent a honest, worthy way of living but are not to be taken as commandments. They are guidelines, forming a framework to life, without restraining the mortal soul. Because our ability to think and act for ourselves is a great good, even to the Theoi. In fact, it might have been a logical conclusion after receiving the gifts of Pandora.

The maxims are said to have been written down by the Seven Sages. They are usually identified as: Solon of Athens, Chilon of Sparta, Thales of Miletus, Bias of Priene, Cleobulus of Lindos, Pittacus of Mitylene and Periander of Corinth. Once noted down, they were shared with any who would listen.
Rule 95 is 'Rule Your Wife', and in the setting of ancient Hellas, it makes perfect sense to have a maxim like that. Now, as a woman and self-proclaimed feminist, one of the most prevalent questions I get asked is how I, as said woman and feminist, can worship a pantheon of raping Gods and why I would want to recreate the religious (and partly social) practices of a masochistic society. I don't; I believe religion should be seen and set against the backdrop of the society it came up in, so what follows is going to be a long lesson in Hellenic society and the dynamic between men and women.
It is true that marriage in ancient Hellas, and ancient Athens specifically, was a family affair. The father of the groom--who was often in his thirties by the time he got married--opened negotiations with the family of a bride in her teens. The two families came to an agreement about dowry, a contract was signed by the father of the groom and the father of the bride in front of witnesses, and the groom met his new wife--often for the first time--at the marriage ceremony before taking her to bed. In ancient Hellenic society, free women lived separate from men. They rarely had interactions with men not from their oikos.
Men married to have children, and to have someone to tend to the home while he was out, dealing with public affairs. Romance didn't counter into it. Demosthenes, a prominent statesman and orator in ancient Hellas, once said: "We have prostitutes for our pleasure, concubines for our health, and wives to bear us lawful offspring."

These lawful offspring were so important that, if a wife had not bore a husband children by the end of the tenth year of their marriage, the man was forced to file for divorce. This was a costly affair because a divorce  meant parting with the dowry that was paid to the husband upon marriage, as the ex-wife was entitled to it.

Should a husband die before producing offspring, the widow was encouraged--even forced--to take a new husband as soon as possible and produce a child with him. This first born child was considered to be the child of the widow's first husband and counted towards his family line and heritage. The practice was called 'raising up seed' and was a lawful and legitimate way of parentage, usually executed with the brother of the deceased husband. The custom of raising up seed also opened the way for the practice of adoption to sustain the family line.

Something that's important to understand is that children in ancient Hellas were born with a different sentiment than children are born these days. Children, now, are born out of love and a need of the parents to create something of 'theirs'. A child is precious, irreplaceable. We tend to have few children and place all our eggs in their basket(s). In ancient Hellas, families tended to be as large as possible. Children could help out around the house, the farm or with sustaining the family any other way but they also tended to die. Children were made for the hearth, not the other way around.
Adultery was a punishable offense. If a married woman had intercourse with a man other than her husband, she could be killed. Another option was to divorce. She was then sent back to her father. If he rejected her (and he usually did), she was left to fend for herself, which often led to a life of slavery. The man she cheated with was often worse off. He was also liable to get killed, especially if caught in the act, because the husband had the right to kill him, without getting punished for it.

It makes sense that the male involved with the adultery was more severely punished than the woman; birth control was available in ancient Hellas, but rarely applied. To bring an illegitimate child into the oikos was a terrible offense, and one for which the male was blamed. Needless to say, the husband was free to find pleasure with any woman who was not married and not above his societal rank.
Now, because much of what has remained from ancient Hellas was written, created, or otherwise preserved by men, it's easy to get a lasting negative impression of women in the ancient Hellenic society. In fact, until a couple of decades ago, that was the prevalent notion in the scholarly community. I grew up believing all women in ancient Hellas were good for was breeding strong sons. It's a very one-dimensional view, and one that has been proven incorrect again and again and again in more recent years.

Well-off women--the women who could actually afford to stay at home--were generally married to well-off men with high functions. With their future's finances secure, they could strive for the ideal of an ancient Hellenic woman. Especially in Attica, these women tended to write and publish poetry. They came together with other women to socialize and increase the standing of their husbands, they kept the oikos well-stocked and the Serfs under control. Women who were less well-off worked alongside their husbands on the fields, in the shops, and in any other capacity.
Women in ancient Hellas did not have the freedoms we have as women today, and they definitely lived in a society that favoured the men. That said, they had an important role to fulfil, and they did it well. They were often praised for their virtues, and because they were rather important for continuing the all-important family line, they were often cherished and protected as much as possible.
Ancient Hellenic society had strong gender roles, and we protest that today. Ruling your wife in ancient Hellas meant making sure she protected the family line, that she helped around the house and helped bring income into it where possible. Women, for men, were near-mythological creatures; they didn't see many of them in their daily lives--safe for their mothers and wives, and even them, they hardly saw because they spent most of their time separate. Men feared women a little, and because of that, they felt they had to keep a close eye on them or they would go wild--women, so men thought, were closer to their primal nature because they bled once a month and because they are simply wired differently; women were less capable of controlling their emotions, for example, a nd that made them unpredictable.
Two thousand years later, we pretty much know better; we understand the differences that make up our brains and brain chemistry, and we have somewhat accepted that at least in theory, men and women are equal. Still, we have lots of 'men come from mars, women come from venus'-books, because we tend to get each other's reactions wrong a lot of the time.
Especially in ancient Hellas, religion was so entwined with daily life, they would not have understood that there was a difference between religion and culture, but we know that difference exists today. Every single practice, for them, was tied to the Gods and Their worship. We try to reconstruct the religious practices of the ancient Hellenes, but in general, we do not reconstruct their culture. 'Rule Your Wife', as a maxim, is one of those instances where culture has seeped into religion, and visa versa. We no longer consider women property, and it's no longer encourage to control her actions and life. this maxim is one of the few we can simply leave in the past.
Anyone looking to reconstruct an ancient religion needs to do so with a firm and clear head on their shoulders. Always ask 'why' something was done, and try to understand the reasoning behind it. Reconstruction is not a matter of 'doing something because the ancient Hellenes did it', it's interpreting the practices of the ancients to form a modern religion our shared Gods can appreciate and relate with. Ruling over your wife was never a religious practice, and cultural practices, we can leave behind; we already have a culture and while it's far from perfect, that's what we work with today.