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What did women do in ancient Greece and Rome? Did Socrates' wife Xanthippe ever hear his dialogues on beauty and truth? How many many women actually read the histories of Herodotus and Thucydides? When pagan goddesses were as powerful as gods, why was the status of women generally so low? Why, in traditional histories, is half the population effectively invisible? This unique and important book spans a period of 1500 years - from the fall of Troy to the death of Constantine. It examines all the available evidence - literary and archaeological - and reconstructs the lives of women from all classes of society.

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Book Details

ISBN: 9780712660549
ISBN-10: 0712660542
Format: Paperback
(216mm x 135mm x 21mm)
Pages: 288
Imprint: Pimlico
Publisher: Vintage Publishing
Publish Date: 5-May-1994
Country of Publication: United Kingdom

Reviews

UK Kirkus Review » Primarily for scholars but of general interest - and contemporary relevance some might say. The author examines why, when the goddesses of Greek and Roman theogony were fully as influential as the gods, there is such a dearth of background information about the women of antiquity in the 1300 years between the fall of Troy and the death of Constantine. Solon legalized state brothels in Athens, largely (it is supposed) for foreign traders, but any romance was reserved for homosexual relationships; women were kept in virtual purdah, and although the Roman matron had certain property rights she remains a blank in history. Even Plato, a world-mind if ever there was one, while he theorized about women in the abstract, accepted their role in the cradle of democracy as housewives and breeders only. (Kirkus UK)

US Kirkus Review » An intelligent but spotty book that should have been much longer and more rigorously organized. One learns a lot, but Pomeroy's methodological vagueness results in dribs and dabs of seemingly arbitrarily selected information. Scholars will like the author's caution about throwing female-chauvinist brickbats and feminists will find some chilling facts about the origins of modern sexism - but, conversely, both will be annoyed at concessions to the expectations of the other. The weakest and most tentative sections are on Greek mythology (a list of goddesses with a few timid but unprovable psychological and historical speculations) and drama (sketchy, unimaginative descriptions of a few major heroines). On the other hand, things pick up a lot when we get to the actual legal and social position of women. Here Pomeroy gives specific and illuminating detail about dowries, living arrangements, population control (chiefly through infanticide), and the rights of slaves. It's clear that women were much better off under the Romans than the Greeks, and the Roman model of the family distributes domestic responsibilities much more evenhandedly than the modern nuclear family - as evidenced by flexible Roman divorce practices. But throughout antiquity being a woman entailed actual physical hardship we can barely imagine, beginning with the smaller amounts of food given to female children and culminating in an appallingly short life expectancy (five to ten - or more - years less than for men). By way of diversion from these grim truths, the illustrations include some remarkably frank scenes, like masturbation with leather phalluses - remember your Aristophanes? (Kirkus Reviews)


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Author Biography - Sarah B. Pomeroy

Sarah B. Pomeroy was born in New York City and educated at Barnard College and Columbia University. She has lived in England and several other European countries and has taught at a number of universities, including Vassar College and Columbia. Her books include, Women in Hellenistic Egypt from Alexander to Cleopatra, Women's History and Ancient History, Women in the Classical World: Image and Text and Xenophon: Oeconomicus: A Social and Historical Commentary.

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