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Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity

4.5 out of 5 stars 32 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0805210309
ISBN-10: 080521030X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

“An essential text in the process of retrieving women's part in history, it is also an absorbing story, fascinating and dramatic to read.”
—Marilyn French

“With this book Sarah Pomeroy created a new area of modern classical studies. . . . The book has itself become a classic.”
—H. A. Shapiro, University of Canterbury

“Pomeroy’s pioneering study on the status and activities of women in antiquity was, and has remained, a milestone in classical historiography. . . . That no one today would dream of writing a major work on ancient social history with no index entry for ‘women’ is due in no small part to her revolutionary, yet scrupulously scholarly, trail-blazing work.”
—Peter Green, Univerity of Texas at Austin

“Extraordinary and durable. . . . Opens up a traditional discpline to a whole new range of questions and issues while providing enlightenment about the past for feminists and nonfeminists alike.”
—Natalie Kampen, Barnard College

“The first general treatment of women in the ancient world to reflect the critical insights of modern feminism. Though much debated, its position as the basic textbook on women's history in Greece and Rome has hardly been challenged.”
—Mary Beard, The Times Literary Supplement (London)

From the Publisher

"The first general treatment of women in the ancient world to reflect the critical insights of modern feminism. Though much debated, its position as the basic textbook on women's history in Greece and Rome has hardly been challenged."--Mary Beard, Times Literary Supplement

"Pomeroy's pioneering study on the status and activities of women in antiquity was, and has remained, a milestone in classical historiography."--Peter Green, Univerity of Texas at Austin
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Schocken (January 17, 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 080521030X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0805210309
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (32 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #159,708 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I first read this book in highschool(Latin Class) back in 1985, and to this day, I still find it to be one of the best overviews on the lives of Classical Women ever. While there are some other good works out there, theya re few and far between, and many are not translated into English-which is a shame.

I realize that there may some material for scholars to pick at, but I do feel that the author has sourced her material well, and does offer alternative viewpoints, as well as mention when there are difficulties in proving certian theories. The fact that she is apparently a feminist as some sort of come down for the book doesn't hold water with me. The same could be said for many male historians, as the roles of women and their significance is often ignored.

The book does cover a very large time period-about 1500 years, but I feel does an excellent job in looking at the social, cultural, and legal expectations for women, and how those roles changed over time, and between societies. In some ways it is darker than imagined, and others far more hopeful, as demonstrated by some of her focus on the women of Pompeii, and the evidence of their wealth, independence, and individuality. Some of the more famous women are covered, and their activites placed into context.

Perosnally, if there was a book that belong in all Ancient Civ/Western Civ surveys or introductory classes, I beleiev unequivocally that this is one of them. I felt that way in highschool, and I feel that way today.
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Format: Paperback
Grim picture of the status of women in Greek and Roman society. A scientific exploration based on classical marriage contracts, legal and medical texts, demographic data (on female infanticide) and philosophical and literary works (Plato, Aristoteles, Homeros and others).
The status of Aspasia (Pericles' hetaera) was an exception. Women were confined to the domestic sphere, totally inferior to men and the subject of systematic misogyny by poets and philosophers.
The author also elucidates why the Isis cult was persecuted by emperor Tiberius.
This is a model study. A necessary work not to be missed by readers interested in classical history. It is a look at that section of ancient culture that didn't take part in philosophical discussions or political decision making, but that composed the majority on which the first democracy - for a minority - was built. Work by Catherine Salles and Bettina Eva Stumpp on the same subject is also a compelling read.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
_Goddess, Whores, Wives and Slaves_ was originally written because, in Pomeroy's words, "most of the standard references in the field of Classics did not include women in their purview.... major works ... (had) splendidly detailed indexes, but (none of them had) an entry for 'Women.'" It is precisely because of works such as this - and the efforts of professors like Pomeroy, this is no longer the case. The discipline of history and its students are richer and better for it.

In examining the role of women in ancient Greece and Rome, the historian faces a number of challenges, not the least being the relative lack of primary work by women, but also the relative dearth of women as the subject of classical authors. As a result, much must be inferred (albeit historically and textually supported) from what works we have. Pomeroy does a magnificent job of examining the roles, social mores and attitudes of ancient Greeks and Romans from a wide variety of sources: myths, art, literature and polemical tracts.

Pomeroy begins her study by closely considering the way in which female deities were portrayed in Greek myths. This fascinated me. For example, I had never thought of the creation story of Athena as significant or telling in terms of gender. That Athena was born out of Zeus' head (without any participation of woman), that she is the most "masculine" of female dieties (as goddess of both wisdom and warfare), and also the most prominent female deity in ancient Greece - perhaps as a result of all this - got me to see and think about issues of gender in the ancient world in a new and different way.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The saucy title is certainly enough to lure readers who might not otherwise be interested in the topic to give this book a look. The content, like all of Pomeroy's other writing, is enough to keep them engaged. Pomeroy has the gift of being a scholar that can write for arm chair history professors. It is engaging and interesting. It's the book on women in the ancient world that I have been wanting to read for a long time.
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Format: Paperback
The author does provide good information on the status of women in the ancient world, but has some completely baseless theories. She tries to juxtapose the masculine Persian god Mithras with the feminine god Isis, claiming Isis was supressed and Mithras welcomed. The problem is, Mithrism, after Christianity and Judaism, was persecuted heaviest because it was though to indicate loyalty to Persia, Rome's enemy. Isis, on the other hand, after some early initial efforts to ban all foreign religions, was fully tolerated. It saw nothing like the persecution the other three religions saw. Also, she overstates Isis as a feminist figure. Most papyrus quotes from ancient Egypt have her worshiped as a traditional wife and mother goddess. All she has as proof of her contention that wasn't so is one Oxyrhyncus papyrus quote and a quote from the always unreliable Diodorus.
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