What Did Virgin Mean in Ancient Greece?

In Ancient Greece, the term “virgin” had a different meaning than it does in modern times. While today, we often associate the term with someone who has not engaged in sexual activity, in Ancient Greece, it had a much broader definition.

The Meaning of Virginity in Ancient Greece

In Ancient Greece, a virgin was simply a woman who was not married. This meant that she had not yet entered into a legal contract with a man to become his wife.

While it was expected that virgins would remain chaste until marriage, there was no social stigma attached to sexual activity outside of wedlock. In fact, many young women engaged in sexual relationships before they were married.

The Role of Virginity in Greek Society

Despite the fact that virginity did not hold the same moral weight as it does today, it still played an important role in Greek society. For one thing, marriage was seen as essential for women in order to achieve social and economic stability.

Additionally, virginity was closely tied to ideas of purity and innocence. Because women were seen as the caretakers of the household and bearers of children, being a virgin was seen as a marker of good character and morality.

Virginity and Religion

Religion also played a role in shaping attitudes towards virginity in Ancient Greece. The goddess Athena was often depicted as a virgin, which reinforced the idea that this state was something to be valued and revered.

In addition to Athena, other goddesses such as Artemis were associated with virginity. Artemis was known as the goddess of hunting and childbirth and was said to have taken a vow of chastity when she reached puberty.


So while modern definitions of virginity place an emphasis on sexual activity (or lack thereof), this is not necessarily how the term would have been understood in Ancient Greece. Instead, it was tied to ideas of marriage, purity, and morality.

Understanding the historical context of the term can help us to better appreciate the nuances of Ancient Greek society and the ways in which gender roles and expectations were constructed.