Christmas gifts for children inspired by ancient Greeks

As Christmas fast approaches and you are drawing up a shopping list of seasonal gifts, you may not realise that many of the choices you will make will be influenced by the ancient Greeks.

Christmas gifts for children inspired by ancient Greeks
Little horse on wheels, Ancient Greek child's toy. From a tomb dating 950-900 BCE, Kerameikos Archaeological Museum, Athens [Credit: Wikipedia]
“We still revert to centuries-old gender stereotypes when deciding what to buy,” said Dr Richard Hawley from the Classics Department at Royal Holloway.

Indeed, many examples of this will be seen this Christmas, with dolls and princess outfits for girls and action figures and mini tool kits for the boys.

“In classical Greece and Rome girls had their own clay dolls, with tiny gold rings on their fingers, not that different from today’s Barbie. These prepared girls for their role as passive objects of male desire, wearing clothes and jewellery that signified their family’s wealth.

“For the boys, there were ancient action figures - the souvenirs that could be bought from the Roman arena in the shape of popular gladiators, the WWF celebrities of their day. These were the role models who growing boys looked up to”, Dr Hawley added.

Citing gift catalogues that often divide presents into ‘his’ and ‘hers’ sections, Dr Hawley argues that our sense of gender equality seems to fade away during the holiday season.

“When it comes to Christmas and the marketing of gifts, particularly for children, we seem to revert back to the ‘old’ times”, he said. “What people may not realise, though, is how far back these traditions really go!” 

Source: Royal Holloway, University of London [December 17, 2012]

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