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In large part as a consequence of the feminist movement, historians

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In large part as a consequence of the feminist movement, historians  [#permalink]

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New post Updated on: 25 Jan 2020, 15:34
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5-2 SECTION A 21-27

In large part as a consequence of the feminist movement, historians have focused a great deal of attention in recent years on determining more accurately the status of women in various periods. Although much has been accomplished for the modern period, premodern cultures have proved more difficult: sources are restricted in number, fragmentary, difficult to interpret, and often contradictory. Thus it is not particularly surprising that some earlier scholarship concerning such cultures has so far gone unchallenged. An example is Johann Bachofen’s 1861 treatise on Amazons, women-ruled societies of questionable existence contemporary with ancient Greece.

Starting from the premise that mythology and legend preserve at least a nucleus of historical fact, Bachofen argued that women were dominant in many ancient societies. His work was based on a comprehensive survey of references in the ancient sources to Amazonian and other societies with matrilineal customs—societies in which descent and property rights are traced through the female line. Some support for his theory can be found in evidence such as that drawn from Herodotus, the Greek “historian” of the fifth century B. C., who speaks of an Amazonian society, the Sauromatae, where the women hunted and fought in wars. A woman in this society was not allowed to marry until she had killed a person in battle.

Nonetheless, this assumption that the first recorders of ancient myths have preserved facts is problematic. If one begins by examining why ancients refer to Amazons, it becomes clear that ancient Greek descriptions of such societies were meant not so much to represent observed historical fact—real Amazonian societies—but rather to offer “moral lessons” on the supposed outcome of women’s rule in their own society. The Amazons were often characterized, for example, as the equivalents of giants and centaurs, enemies to be slain by Greek heroes. Their customs were presented not as those of a respectable society, but as the very antitheses of ordinary Greek practices.

Thus, I would argue, the purpose of accounts of the Amazons for their male Greek recorders was didactic, to teach both male and female Greeks that all-female groups, formed by withdrawal from traditional society, are destructive and dangerous. Myths about the Amazons were used as arguments for the male-dominated status quo, in which groups composed exclusively of either sex were not permitted to segregate themselves permanently from society. Bachofen was thus misled in his reliance on myths for information about the status of women. The sources that will probably tell contemporary historians most about women in the ancient world are such social documents as gravestones, wills, and marriage contracts. Studies of such documents have already begun to show how mistaken we are when we try to derive our picture of the ancient world exclusively from literary sources, especially myths.


1.​The primary purpose of the passage is to

(A) compare competing new approaches to understanding the role of women in ancient societies
(B) investigate the ramifications of Bachofen’s theory about the dominance of women in ancient societies
(C) explain the burgeoning interest among historians in determining the actual status of women in various societies
(D) analyze the nature of Amazonian society and uncover similarities between it and the Greek world
(E) criticize the value of ancient myths in determining the status of women in ancient societies


​2. ​All of the following are stated by the author as problems connected with the sources for knowledge of premodern cultures EXCEPT:

(A) partial completeness
(B) restricted accessibility
(C) difficulty of interpretation
(D) limited quantity
(E) tendency toward contradiction


3. ​​​​Which of the following can be inferred from the passage about the myths recorded by the ancient Greeks?

I.​They sometimes included portrayals of women holding positions of power.
II.​They sometimes contained elaborate explanations of inheritance customs.
III.​They comprise almost all of the material available to historians about ancient Greece.
(A) I only
(B) III only
(C) I and III only
(D) II and III only
(E) I, II, and III


4. ​​​​​​​​​Which of the following is presented in the passage as evidence supporting the author’s view of the ancient Greeks’ descriptions of the Amazons?

(A) The requirement that Sauromatae women kill in battle before marrying
(B) The failure of historians to verify that women were ever governors of ancient societies
(C) The classing of Amazons with giants and centaurs
(D) The well-established unreliability of Herodotus as a source of information about ancient societies
(E) The recent discovery of ancient societies with matrilineal customs


5. ​​​​​It can be inferred from the passage that the probable reactions of many males in ancient Greece to the idea of a society ruled by women could best characterized as

(A) confused and dismayed
(B) wary and hostile
(C) cynical and disinterested
(D) curious but fearful
(E) excited but anxious


6. ​​​​​​​​The author suggests that the main reason for the persisting influence of Bachofen’s work is that

(A) feminists have shown little interest in ancient societies
(B) Bachofen’s knowledge of Amazonian culture is unparalleled
(C) reliable information about the ancient world is difficult to acquire
(D) ancient societies show the best evidence of women in positions of power
(E) historians have been primarily interested in the modern period


7. ​​​​​​The author’s attitude toward Bachofen’s treatise is best described as one of

(A) qualified approval
(B) profound ambivalence
(C) studied neutrality
(D) pointed disagreement
(E) unmitigated hostility


Originally posted by pathy on 24 Jan 2020, 05:05.
Last edited by pathy on 25 Jan 2020, 15:34, edited 1 time in total.
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New post 14 Mar 2020, 22:42
+1 Kudos to posts containing answer explanation of all questions
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New post 15 Mar 2020, 02:12
What I understood from the passage is (in my own words), over-reliance on myths is detrimental. For e.g. reliance of Greek mythology on amazons is wrong, because the Greeks used it to convey a message (segregated groups depending on sex is wrong) which they thought was right.

1.​The primary purpose of the passage is to

(A) compare competing new approaches to understanding the role of women in ancient societies
No not really. There is no competing approach here. All the author says is he is wary about Bachofen's work. And in the last para he gives a proof supporting his argument.

(B) investigate the ramifications of Bachofen’s theory about the dominance of women in ancient societies
Is there any ramifications (consequences)? No.

(C) explain the burgeoning interest among historians in determining the actual status of women in various societies
This is definitely not the main purpose.

(D) analyze the nature of Amazonian society and uncover similarities between it and the Greek world
If I am sure about anything, this is it. The author does not try to compare the Greeks and Amazons. The author only says how the Greeks perceived the Amazons and wrote it in their mythologies.

(E) criticize the value of ancient myths in determining the status of women in ancient societies
this for me is the closest. He does criticize how myths determine the status of women in ancient societies. In all the 4 paragraphs this is the underlying thought of the author
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New post 15 Mar 2020, 02:16
2. ​All of the following are stated by the author as problems connected with the sources for knowledge of premodern cultures EXCEPT:

(A) partial completeness
Although much has been accomplished for the modern period, premodern cultures have proved more difficult: sources are restricted in number, fragmentary, difficult to interpret, and often contradictory.

(B) restricted accessibility
No mention of this. This is our answer.

(C) difficulty of interpretation
Although much has been accomplished for the modern period, premodern cultures have proved more difficult: sources are restricted in number, fragmentary, difficult to interpret, and often contradictory.

(D) limited quantity
Although much has been accomplished for the modern period, premodern cultures have proved more difficult: sources are restricted in number, fragmentary, difficult to interpret, and often contradictory.

(E) tendency toward contradiction
Although much has been accomplished for the modern period, premodern cultures have proved more difficult: sources are restricted in number, fragmentary, difficult to interpret, and often contradictory.
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New post 15 Mar 2020, 02:24
3. ​​​​Which of the following can be inferred from the passage about the myths recorded by the ancient Greeks?

I.​They sometimes included portrayals of women holding positions of power.
Bachofen argued that women were dominant in many ancient societies. And his work was supported by Greek historian Herodotus's work. hence this statement can be inferred from the passage.

II.​They sometimes contained elaborate explanations of inheritance customs.
It only talks about - matrilineal customs. But no explanations as such.

III.​They comprise almost all of the material available to historians about ancient Greece.
In the last paragraph it says there are other material - "Studies of such documents have already begun to show how mistaken we are when we try to derive our picture of the ancient world exclusively from literary sources, especially myths."
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New post 15 Mar 2020, 02:33
4. ​​​​​​​​​Which of the following is presented in the passage as evidence supporting the author’s view of the ancient Greeks’ descriptions of the Amazons?

(A) The requirement that Sauromatae women kill in battle before marrying
This supports Bachofen's view.

(B) The failure of historians to verify that women were ever governors of ancient societies
Definitely not. Do not know what to say here.

(C) The classing of Amazons with giants and centaurs
"The Amazons were often characterized, for example, as the equivalents of giants and centaurs, enemies to be slain by Greek heroes." This says that the author thinks that the Greek mythology's portrayal of Amazons was wrong.

(D) The well-established unreliability of Herodotus as a source of information about ancient societies
To be honest I chose this option first. I think the author does think Greek myths (like Herodotus's work) is unreliable. Is it well-established though? I am not sure. Need experts comments on this one.

(E) The recent discovery of ancient societies with matrilineal customs
No, author is against a specific portrayal of Amazons.
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New post 15 Mar 2020, 02:36
5. ​​​​​It can be inferred from the passage that the probable reactions of many males in ancient Greece to the idea of a society ruled by women could best characterized as

(A) confused and dismayed
not confused.

(B) wary and hostile
This is the easiest of the lot. Definitely hostile.

(C) cynical and disinterested
not disinterested and not cynical

(D) curious but fearful
not fearful

(E) excited but anxious
neither
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New post 15 Mar 2020, 02:42
This question boils down to two choices, so i am not even going to bother with the others -

6. ​​​​​​​​The author suggests that the main reason for the persisting influence of Bachofen’s work is that

(C) reliable information about the ancient world is difficult to acquire
The explanation is given in (E)'s answer.

(E) historians have been primarily interested in the modern period
This is completely true. However, it also does not mean that historians have been completely disinterested in the pre-mordern period. Whatever little work the modern scholars have done, might be sufficient to disregard Bachofen's work. They cannot disregard his work because - "reliable info is difficult to acquire" Option C
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New post 15 Mar 2020, 02:46
7. ​​​​​​The author’s attitude toward Bachofen’s treatise is best described as one of

(A) qualified approval
Definitely not approval.

(B) profound ambivalence
ambivalence = mixed feelings/ contradictory thoughts / whether to give the gmat again or not? Anyways back to the topic - our author is pretty sure that he does not agree with Bachofen

(C) studied neutrality
Not neutral. he does not agree with Bachofen.

(D) pointed disagreement
Yes he disagrees.

(E) unmitigated hostility
this is too strong.
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Re: In large part as a consequence of the feminist movement, historians   [#permalink] 15 Mar 2020, 02:46
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