GRE Reading Comprehension

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Source: CHP

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. Nonetheless, this assumption that the first recorders of ancient myths have preserved facts is problematic. Ancient Greek descriptions of those 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; thus, their customs were presented not as those of a respectable society, but as the very antitheses of ordinary Greek practices.

Question List: 1 2 3

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

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