Articles from the
Oxford Classical Dictionary
women | gender | sexuality | masculinity | homosexuality | heterosexuality | household | housework | cookery | textile production | betrothal | marriage law | marriage ceremonies | childbirth | midwives | motherhood | breast-feeding | children | adultery | inheritance | widows | gynaecology | embryology | menstruation | abortion | prostitution: secular | sacred
This work explores transgender practices, in particular cross-dressing, and their literary and figurative representations in antiquity. It offers a ground-breaking study of cross-dressing, both the social practice and its conceptualization, and its interaction with normative prescriptions on gender and sexuality in the ancient Mediterranean world. Special attention is paid to the reactions of the societies of the time, the impact transgender practices had on individuals’ symbolic and social capital, as well as the reactions of institutionalized power and the juridical systems. The variety of subjects and approaches demonstrates just how complex and widespread "transgender dynamics" were in antiquity.
Centering on the examination of the social and legal context of adultery, homosexuality, impiety, and the public-private dichotomy in Athenian society, this book attempts to examine the problems of social control and the regulation of sexuality in a way that will be of interest to a broad readership. It uses a comparative approach to show how the examination of such issues can deepen our understanding of classical Athens, particularly in regard to the role of law in society. Further, it argues that this historical investigation can, in turn, enrich our general appreciation of the relation of social and legal norms, and the roles they play in regulating complex social practices such as those associated with sexuality, morals, and the family. This illuminating book develops a view of classical Athenian society that emphasizes the study of social control as the dynamic interplay of legal and social norms within the context of ideology and practice.
The division of land and consolidation of territory that created the Greek polis also divided sacred from productive space, sharpened distinctions between purity and pollution, and created a ritual system premised on gender difference. Regional sanctuaries ameliorated competition between city-states, publicized the results of competitive rituals for males, and encouraged judicial alternatives to violence. Female ritual efforts, focused on reproduction and the health of the family, are less visible, but, as this provocative study shows, no less significant. Taking a fresh look at the epigraphical evidence for Greek ritual practice in the context of recent studies of landscape and political organization, Susan Guettel Cole illuminates the profoundly gendered nature of Greek cult practice and explains the connections between female rituals and the integrity of the community. In a rich integration of ancient sources and current theory, Cole brings together the complex evidence for Greek ritual practice. She discusses relevant medical and philosophical theories about the female body; considers Greek ideas about purity, pollution, and ritual purification; and examines the cult of Artemis in detail. Her nuanced study demonstrates the social contribution of women's rituals to the sustenance of the polis and the identity of its people.
In this sumptuously illustrated book, Joan Breton Connelly gives us the first comprehensive cultural history of priestesses in the ancient Greek world. Connelly presents the fullest and most vivid picture yet of how priestesses lived and worked, from the most famous and sacred of them--the Delphic Oracle and the priestess of Athena Polias--to basket bearers and handmaidens. Along the way, she challenges long-held beliefs to show that priestesses played far more significant public roles in ancient Greece than previously acknowledged. Connelly builds this history through a pioneering examination of archaeological evidence in the broader context of literary sources, inscriptions, sculpture, and vase painting. Ranging from southern Italy to Asia Minor, and from the late Bronze Age to the fifth century A.D., she brings the priestesses to life--their social origins, how they progressed through many sacred roles on the path to priesthood, and even how they dressed. She sheds light on the rituals they performed, the political power they wielded, their systems of patronage and compensation, and how they were honored, including in death. Connelly shows that understanding the complexity of priestesses' lives requires us to look past the simple lines we draw today between public and private, sacred and secular. The remarkable picture that emerges reveals that women in religious office were not as secluded and marginalized as we have thought--that religious office was one arena in ancient Greece where women enjoyed privileges and authority comparable to that of men. Connelly concludes by examining women's roles in early Christianity, taking on the larger issue of the exclusion of women from the Christian priesthood. This paperback edition includes additional maps and a glossary for student use.
Rich with implications for the history of sexuality, gender issues, and patterns of Hellenic literary imagining, Marcel Detienne's landmark book recasts long-standing ideas about the fertility myth of Adonis. The author challenges Sir James Frazer's thesis that the vegetation god Adonis-- whose premature death was mourned by women and whose resurrection marked a joyous occasion--represented the annual cycle of growth and decay in agriculture. Using the analytic tools of structuralism, Detienne shows instead that the festivals of Adonis depict a seductive but impotent and fruitless deity--whose physical ineptitude led to his death in a boar hunt, after which his body was found in a lettuce patch. Contrasting the festivals of Adonis with the solemn ones dedicated to Demeter, the goddess of grain, he reveals the former as a parody and negation of the institution of marriage. Detienne considers the short-lived gardens that Athenian women planted in mockery for Adonis's festival, and explores the function of such vegetal matter as spices, mint, myrrh, cereal, and wet plants in religious practice and in a wide selection of myths. His inquiry exposes, among many things, attitudes toward sexual activities ranging from "perverse" acts to marital relations.
The laments of captive women found in extant Athenian tragedy constitute a fundamentally subversive aspect of Greek drama. In performances supported by and intended for the male citizens of Athens, the songs of the captive women at the Dionysia gave a voice to classes who otherwise would have been marginalized and silenced in Athenian society: women, foreigners, and the enslaved. This book addresses the possible meanings ancient audiences might have attached to these songs. Casey Dué challenges long-held assumptions about the opposition between Greeks and barbarians in Greek thought by suggesting that, in viewing the plight of the captive women, Athenian audiences extended pity to those least like themselves. Dué asserts that tragic playwrights often used the lament to create an empathetic link that blurred the line between Greek and barbarian. After a brief overview of the role of lamentation in both modern and classical traditions, Dué focuses on the dramatic portrayal of women captured in the Trojan War, tracing their portrayal through time from the Homeric epics to Euripides' Athenian stage. The author shows how these laments evolved in their significance with the growth of the Athenian Empire. She concludes that while the Athenian polis may have created a merciless empire outside the theater, inside the theater they found themselves confronted by the essential similarities between themselves and those they sought to conquer.
This work explores the implications of sex-for-pay across a broad span of time, from ancient Mesopotamia to the early Christian period. In ancient times, although they were socially marginal, prostitutes connected with almost every aspect of daily life. They sat in brothels and walked the streets; they paid taxes and set up dedications in religious sanctuaries; they appeared as characters - sometimes admirable, sometimes despicable - on the comic stage and in the law courts; they lived lavishly, consorting with famous poets and politicians; and they participated in otherwise all-male banquets and drinking parties, where they aroused jealousy among their anxious lovers. The chapters in this volume examine a wide variety of genres and sources, from legal and religious tracts to the genres of lyric poetry, love elegy, and comic drama to the graffiti scrawled on the walls of ancient Pompeii. These essays reflect the variety and vitality of the debates engendered by the last three decades of research by confronting the ambiguous terms for prostitution in ancient languages, the difficulty of distinguishing the prostitute from the woman who is merely promiscuous or adulterous, the question of whether sacred or temple prostitution actually existed in the ancient Near East and Greece, and the political and social implications of literary representations of prostitutes and courtesans.
The figure of the dog is a paradox. As in so many cultures, past and present, the dog in ancient Greece was seen as the animal closest to humans, even as it elicited from them the most negative representations. Still a loaded term today, the word bitch not only signified shamelessness and a lack of self-control but was also exclusively figured as female. Woman and dogs in the Greek imagination were intimately intertwined, and in this careful, engaging analysis, Cristiana Franco explores the ancients' complex relationship with both. By analyzing the relationship between humans and dogs as depicted in a vast array of myths, proverbs, spontaneous metaphors, and comic jokes, Franco in particular shows how the symbolic overlap between dog and woman provided the conceptual tools to maintain feminine subordination. Intended for general readers as well as scholars, this book extends the boundaries of classics and anthropology, forming a model of the sensitive work that can be done to illuminate how deeply animals are imbricated in human history. The English translation has been revised and expanded from the original Italian edition, and it includes a new methodological appendix by the author.
What activities did the women of ancient Greece perform in the sphere of ritual, and what were the meanings of such activities for them and their culture? By offering answers to these questions, this study aims to recover and reconstruct an important dimension of the lived experience of ancient Greek women. A comprehensive and sophisticated investigation of the ritual roles of women in ancient Greece, it draws on a wide range of evidence from across the Greek world, including literary and historical texts, inscriptions, and vase-paintings, to assemble a portrait of women as religious and cultural agents, despite the ideals of seclusion within the home and exclusion from public arenas that we know restricted their lives. As she builds a picture of the extent and diversity of women’s ritual activity, Barbara Goff shows that they were entrusted with some of the most important processes by which the community guaranteed its welfare. She examines the ways in which women’s ritual activity addressed issues of sexuality and civic participation, showing that ritual could offer women genuinely alternative roles and identities even while it worked to produce wives and mothers who functioned well in this male-dominated society. Moving to more speculative analysis, she discusses the possibility of a women’s subculture focused on ritual and investigates the significance of ritual in women’s poetry and vase-paintings that depict women. She also includes a substantial exploration of the representation of women as ritual agents in fifth-century Athenian drama.
In ancient Greece, women's daily lives were occupied by various forms of labor. These experiences of work have largely been forgotten. Andromache Karanika has examined Greek poetry for depictions of women working and has discovered evidence of their lamentations and work songs. Voices at Work explores the complex relationships between ancient Greek poetry, the female poetic voice, and the practices and rituals surrounding women’s labor in the ancient world. The poetic voice is closely tied to women’s domestic and agricultural labor. Weaving, for example, was both a common form of female labor and a practice referred to for understanding the craft of poetry. Textile and agricultural production involved storytelling, singing, and poetry. Everyday labor employed—beyond its socioeconomic function—the power of poetic creation. Karanika starts with the assumption that there are certain forms of poetic expression and performance in the ancient world which are distinctively female. She considers these to be markers of a female "voice" in ancient Greek poetry and presents a number of case studies: Calypso and Circe sing while they weave; in Odyssey 6 a washing scene captures female performances. Both of these instances are examples of the female voice filtered into the fabric of the epic. Karanika brings to the surface the words of women who informed the oral tradition from which Greek epic poetry emerged. In other words, she gives a voice to silence.
The essential collection of source materials on the lives of women in the ancient world, now in its fourth edition, examines the public and private lives and legal status of Greek and Roman women. The texts represent women of all social classes, from public figures remembered for their deeds (or misdeeds), to priestesses, poets, and intellectuals, to working women, such as musicians, wet nurses, and prostitutes, to homemakers. The editors have selected texts from hard-to-find sources, such as inscriptions, papyri, and medical treatises, many of which have not previously been translated into English. The resulting compilation is both an invaluable aid to research and a clear guide through this complex subject. Building on the third edition’s appendix of updates, the fourth adds many new and unusual texts and images, as well as such student-friendly features as a map and chapter overviews. Many notes and explanations have been revised with the non-classicist in mind.
The study of women in the ancient Mediterranean world is a topic of growing interest among classicists and ancient historians, and also students of history, sociology and women's studies. This volume is an essential resource supplying a compilation of source material in translation, with suggestions for further reading, a general bibliography, and an index of ancient authors and works. Texts come from literary, rhetorical, philosophical and legal sources, as well as papyri and inscriptions, and each text will be placed into the cultural mosaic to which it belongs. Ranging geographically from the Greek mainland and the communities along the eastern shores of the Mediterranean, to Egypt and the Greek West (modern day southern Italy and Sicily), the volume follows a clear chronological structure. Beginning in the eighth century BCE the coverage continues through Archaic and Classical Athens concluding with the Hellenistic era.
Scholars have long been divided on the question of whether the Amazons of Greek legend actually existed. Notably, Soviet archaeologists' discoveries of the bodies of women warriors in the 1980s appeared to directly contradict western classicists' denial of the veracity of the Amazon myth, and there have been few concessions between the two schools of thought since. This work offers a ground-breaking re-evaluation of the place of martial women in the ancient world, bridging the gap between myth and historical reality and expanding our conception of the Amazon archetype. By shifting the center of debate to the periphery of the region known to the Greeks, the startling conclusion emerges that the ancient Athenian conception of women as weak and fearful was not at all typical of the region of that time, even within Greece. Surrounding the Athenians were numerous peoples who held that women could be courageous, able, clever, and daring, suggesting that although Greek stories of Amazons may be exaggerations, they were based upon a real historical understanding of women who fought. While re-examining the sources of the Amazon myth, this compelling volume also resituates the Amazons in the broader context from which they have been extracted, illustrating that although they were the quintessential example of female masculinity in ancient Greek thought, they were not the only instance of this phenomenon: masculine women were masqueraded on the Greek stage, described in the Hippocratic corpus, took part in the struggle to control Alexander the Great's empire after his death, and served as bodyguards in ancient India. Against the backdrop of the ongoing debates surrounding gender norms and fluidity, Postcolonial Amazons breaks new ground as an ancient history of female masculinity and demonstrates that these ideas have a much longer and more durable heritage than we may have supposed.
Informed by the work of seventy-five distinguished historians, this five-volume series sets before us an engaging, panoramic chronicle that extends from antiquity to the present day. The inaugural volume brings women from the margins of ancient history into the fore. It offers fresh insight into more than twenty centuries of Greek and Roman history and encompasses a landscape that stretches from the North Sea to the Mediterranean and from the Pillars of Hercules to the banks of the Indus. The authors draw upon a wide range of sources including gravestones, floor plans, papyrus rolls, vase paintings, and literary works to illustrate how representations of women evolved during this age. They journey into the minds of men and bring to light an imaginative history of women and of the relations between the sexes.
Beginning with Sappho in the seventh century B.C.E and ending with Egeria in the fifth century C.E., Snyder profiles ancient Greek and Roman women writers, including lyric and elegiac poets and philosophers and other prose writers. The writers are allowed to speak for themselves, with as much translation from their extant works provided in text as possible. In addition to giving readers biographical and cultural context for the writers and their works, Snyder refutes arguments representing prejudicial attitudes about women’s writing found in the scholarly literature. Covering writers from a wide historical span, this volume provides an engaging and informative introduction to the origins of the tradition of women’s writing in the West.
For centuries, classical scholars have intensely debated the "position of women" in classical Athens. Did women have a vast but informal power, or were they little better than slaves? Using methods developed from feminist anthropology, Winkler steps back from this narrowly framed question and puts it in the larger context of how sex and gender in ancient Greece were culturally constructed. His innovative approach uncovers the very real possibilities for female autonomy that existed in Greek society.