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Women in the Classical World

Image and Text

Elaine Fantham, Helene Peet Foley, Natalie Boymel Kampen, Sarah B. Pomeroy, and H. A. Shapiro

Publication Date - March 1995

ISBN: 9780195098624

448 pages
7 x 10 inches

In Stock

Only book on ancient women that integrates a wide range of textual and visual materials into one volume


Information about women is scattered throughout the fragmented mosaic of ancient history: the vivid poetry of Sappho survived antiquity on remnants of damaged papyrus; the inscription on a beautiful fourth century B.C.E. grave praises the virtues of Mnesarete, an Athenian woman who died young; a great number of Roman wives were found guilty of poisoning their husbands, but was it accidental food poisoning, or disease, or something more sinister. Apart from the legends of Cleopatra, Dido and Lucretia, and images of graceful maidens dancing on urns, the evidence about the lives of women of the classical world--visual, archaeological, and written--has remained uncollected and uninterpreted.
Now, the lavishly illustrated and meticulously researched Women in the Classical World lifts the curtain on the women of ancient Greece and Rome, exploring the lives of slaves and prostitutes, Athenian housewives, and Rome's imperial family. The first book on classical women to give equal weight to written texts and artistic representations, it brings together a great wealth of materials--poetry, vase painting, legislation, medical treatises, architecture, religious and funerary art, women's ornaments, historical epics, political speeches, even ancient coins--to present women in the historical and cultural context of their time. Written by leading experts in the fields of ancient history and art history, women's studies, and Greek and Roman literature, the book's chronological arrangement allows the changing roles of women to unfold over a thousand-year period, beginning in the eighth century B.C.E. Both the art and the literature highlight women's creativity, sexuality and coming of age, marriage and childrearing, religious and public roles, and other themes. Fascinating chapters report on the wild behavior of Spartan and Etruscan women and the mythical Amazons; the changing views of the female body presented in male-authored gynecological treatises; the "new woman" represented by the love poetry of the late Republic and Augustan Age; and the traces of upper- and lower-class life in Pompeii, miraculously preserved by the eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79 C.E. Provocative and surprising, Women in the Classical World is a masterly foray into the past, and a definitive statement on the lives of women in ancient Greece and Rome.

About the Author(s)

Elaine Fantham is Giger Professor of Latin at Princeton University. Helene Peet Foley is Olin Professor of Classics at Barnard College. Natalie Boymel Kampen is Professor of Women's Studies and Art History at Barnard College. Sarah B. Pomeroy is Professor of History at Columbia University. H. Alan Shapiro is Professor of Classics at the University of Canterbury, New Zealand.


"A much needed book which synthesizes text and image very effectively for undergraduates."--Wendy Slatkin, University of Redlands

"Well-written and well-organized text. Good use of artistic and archaeological evidence."--Thea Smith, University of Cincinnati

"A broad range of primary sources is well integrated into interpretive essays on various aspects of the female experience in Greek and Roman societies. The authors are to be congratulated for doing such a good job of introducing the students to the issues."--W.J. Murnane, University of Memphis

"Highly interesting!"--Ann Nauman, St. Joseph Seminary College

"One of the finest works to emerge from recent feminist scholarship....This is the first study to recognize the bounty that previously-ignored source material yields....Seasoned scholars and novices alike will be entranced by this clearly written, richly illustrated account of a mysterious age."--Bookman's World

Table of Contents

    1. Women in Archaic Greece: Talk in Praise and Blame
    2. Excursus--Spartan Women: Women in a Warrior Society
    3. Women in Classical Athens: Heroines and Housewives
    4. Excursus--Amazons: Women in Control
    5. The Hellenistic Period: Women in a Cosmopolitan World
    6. Excursus--Medicine: The "Proof" of Anatomy
    7. Republican Rome I: From Marriage by Capture to Partnership in War--The Proud Women of Early Rome
    8. Excursus--Etruscan Women
    9. Republican Rome II: Women in a Wealthy Society--Aristocratic and Working Women from the Second Century B.C.E.
    10. Excursus--The "New Woman": Representation and Reality
    11. Women, Family, and Sexuality in the Age of Augustus and the Julio-Claudians
    12. Excursus--The Women of Pompeii
    13. Women of the High and Later Empire: Conformity and Diversity
    Chronology of the Greek and Roman Worlds 776 B.C.E.-313 C.E.
    List of Illustrations