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Like the rules concerning inheritance and dowry, Athenian law concerning heiresses1 also supported the goal of providing resources to enable as many male citizens as possible to form households. Under Athenian law, if a father died leaving only a daughter to survive him, his property devolved upon her as his heiress, but she did not own it in the modern sense of being able to dispose of it as she pleased. Instead, the law (in the simplest case) required her father's closest male relative —her official guardian after her father's death—to marry her himself, with the aim of producing a son. The inherited property then belonged to that son when he reached adulthood. This rule theoretically applied regardless of whether the heiress was already married (without any sons) or whether the male relative already had a wife. The heiress and the male relative were both supposed to divorce their present spouses and marry each other, although in practice the rule could be circumvented by legal subterfuge. This rule about heiresses preserved the father's line and kept the property in his family, prevented rich men from getting richer by engineering deals with wealthy heiresses' guardians to marry them and therefore merge their estates, and, above all, prevented property from piling up in the hands of unmarried women. At Sparta, Aristotle reported2, precisely this kind of agglomeration of wealth took place as women inherited land or received it in their dowries without—to Aristotle's way of thinking—adequate regulations promoting remarriage. He claimed that women in this way had come to own forty percent of Spartan territory. The law at Athens was more successful at regulating women's control over property in the interests of forming households headed by property-owning men.

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