Matthew J. Perry
This chapter examines how law contributed to the definition and establishment of gender in the Roman world, and ways that gender shaped the law. Lawmakers and jurists established distinct legal statuses for men and women, and it was critical to elucidate precisely how individuals fit into this legal framework. Even when not deliberately defining gender to clarify law or legislating overtly gendered matters, legal sources reveal gendered thinking. In establishing the specific rules governing Roman society, lawmakers and jurists drew upon and reproduced prevalent and entrenched assumptions and beliefs about the nature of men and women and their place in the world. The final section of the chapter outlines the legal regulation of sexuality, critical to defining gender norms in the Roman world. The proper performance of sexual conduct was an important element of gender archetypes; those individuals who deviated from established standards were deemed problematic and potentially dangerous.
Sylvia Parsons and David Townsend
The pervasively male authorship and audience of medieval Latin literary culture powerfully naturalizes an ideology that allows the relativity of the tradition's gendered constructions to masquerade as given and unexceptionable. This article explores the ways that intertextual and reflexive constructions of authority and textuality both enable and circumscribe medieval Latin authors as they develop and critique models of gender. Implicit and explicit metacritical self-understandings of textuality are addressed through Benedictine texts: the dramas and narrative poems of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, the Waltharius, Reginald of Canterbury's Vita Sancti Malchi, and the lyrics of Baudri of Bourgeuil. The rhetoric of gender as deployed in medieval Latin reflects and shapes extratextual realities. At a prior level, it depends upon a system of palimpsested, specifically textual cultural markers bounded within the constraints of quintessentially Latinate expectations of diction and genre. Prior to the syntagmatic relations of text to social environment lay the paradigmatic requirements of gender as dictated by ubiquitous classical and patristic models, and as expressed not merely in the specifics of a male or female character's representation but in the very constraints of generic expectation.
This chapter investigates the relation between gender and slavery among the Greeks and Romans. It considers the gendered division of labour for slaves with a special emphasis on female slaves and female masters in the domestic context. Important topics covered include sexual violence against slaves, manumission, and prostitutes as slaves. It argues that female slaves were most common in domestic contexts and the sex and entertainment industry. Both contexts, however, meant that female slaves were open to sexual abuse, but close contact with the free might also benefit female slaves by leading to their manumission. Slaves frequently appear outside ancient constructions of gender, officially denied socio-political status as husbands, wives, fathers, and mothers, and free from behavioural expectations like male courage and female virtue; but this lack of a gendered identity was likely another element of their oppression.
Hesiod’s famous misogyny is part of a larger “poetics of the powerless” that pervades his epics. The poetic persona of his epics establishes a hierarchy of gender as a defense against his own situation of powerlessness, as presented in the poem. Hesiod subtly challenges those with power, whether in the human or divine realms, and condescends to those below him in the hierarchy, whether female or male. The poet’s portrayal of men and women is therefore the expression of a desire to reduce the power difference between himself and those around him in both the mortal and immortal spheres. As a result, gender in Hesiod is not binary but has aspects coded as positive or negative along a spectrum based on how the individual figure fits into the cosmic power hierarchy.
Melanie Sherratt and Alison Moore
Despite an increasing interest in social identity, the topic of gender identity remains under-theorized within Romano-British archaeology: gender categories are often assumed to be fixed and unchanging within the archaeological literature on the province. However, the concept of gender is complex and is impacted on by other aspects of social identity such as age, status, and ethnicity. This chapter provides an overview of the development of gender as a subject in the archaeological record of Roman Britain and explores the problems and potential of how gender is approached in present scholarship through four key areas: burial evidence, dress and adornment, economic activity, and family roles.
This article describes the daily life of Jewish women. It shows how and where women's experience can be compared with, and even connected to, those of men. It determines the major types of sources on Jewish women in Roman Palestine and studies the influence of the Graeco-Roman context on women. The article also discusses other features of women's daily life, including motherhood and the issue of menstrual purity.
Marilyn B. Skinner
This article examines the meaning given within different social structures to human individuals, whose relationship even with their own bodies is culturally determined. While ‘gender’ is widely understood to be a hermeneutic tool used in feminist research, its relationship to other feminist approaches is not altogether clear. Gender studies as a field is a relatively recent spin-off from ‘women in antiquity’. Investigation of ancient women, the realities of their lives and the representations of them in art and literature began in the early 1970s, as a project designed to supplement the existing historical record.
Writers in ancient Rome devoted considerable energy to the investigation of gender, revealing a deep interest in the nature of masculinity and femininity as well as in a third category that they labelled the characteristically non-committal term neutrum (‘neither’). The time these writers spent considering grammatical gender is remarkable: Nonius Marcellus devotes in modern editions seventy pages of his treatise on Latin grammar and vocabulary to the subject. ‘Gender Studies’ among contemporary classicists has decidedly different origins and approaches from its ancient counterpart. Recent studies of Roman rhetoric and oratory demonstrate some of the repercussions of the underlying principle that ‘speaking style mirrors life style’. The notion that the very language is masculine provides an interesting lens through which to view gender criticism in Latin poetry. The relationships of dominance and submission observable in poetic and prose texts are often accompanied by both verbal and physical violence. This article also discusses the construction of sexuality in art and archaeology during the Roman Empire, along with gender and law, ritual, and medicine.
This article investigates the relation between gender and cuneiform literacy in ancient Mesopotamia. It suggests that the apparent exclusion of women from written culture needs to be nuanced given that in mythological texts goddesses, more than gods, have mastered writing and calculation. It highlights the achievements attributed or attributable to women and mentions that previous studies on the question of literacy have not always taken into consideration the relationships that women could have with writing.
Lawrence A. Tritle
This chapter elaborates the understanding on Greek and Roman men at war. Preparation for battle in the ancient world was carefully approached. Military training at Rome was no less severe and regimented than in early Sparta. The ferocity and brutality in the killing zone of battle have no limits. Examples of atrocity and mutilation appear from the very beginning of Greek literature. Mutilation of the dead was an example of what the modern world knows as payback or revenge, and a ritualistic form of this came in stripping the dead of their armor (and weapons) after battle. It is observed that when a soldier survived in battle, they never forgot the experience.
This chapter argues that Second Sophistic texts express the erotic in terms of the past: retrosexuality. Starting from the all-male bilingual dinner party at Gellius 19.9, the discussion traces the eroticization of women, boys, eunuchs, cinaedi, and sophists, conditioned by slavery. Chastity armors women writers of the period, historians revel in past unchastity among Imperial women, and letter-writers pose with female icons; fiction invents women’s depravity and serves a policing function alongside medical and philosophical texts. Pederastic poetry valorizes itself through a Platonic or Stoic pedigree, abetted by the slave trade; allusive language veils the letters between Marcus Aurelius and his teacher Cornelius Fronto; explicit language enlivens the epigrams of Martial and Strato. If Domitian’s law illegalized castration of child sex slaves, still Statius and Martial praised Domitian’s boy eunuch Earinus. Cinaedi flourished as popular entertainers in the 100s ce, attested even by Justin Martyr. Philostratus’s sophists embrace a butch aesthetic.
Thomas A. J. McGinn
This article examines the marginalization of Roman prostitutes. It first looks at how prostitutes were marginalized, including the mechanisms that were used to move them to the very edges of Roman society. It then identifies the reasons why prostitutes were marginalized. The article also studies the meaning of marginalization for Roman prostitutes and prostitution.
This article analyzes the ways that Latin texts not only reflect but also fundamentally inflect the production of a central aspect of the interior self, namely, sexuality. Two tenacious misconceptions about sex and sexuality in medieval Latin culture are contended with: first, the claim that medieval culture, because of its pervasive devotion to Christianity, had little interest in sex and sexuality; second, the claim that Latin was the language of authority. A sketch of the treatment of sex and sexuality in medieval Latin culture is outlined by concentrating on the ideal of natura, its peculiarly double discursive structure, and its parallel articulations in two quite distinct ecclesiastical traditions: the contemplative and the penitential. Both of these traditions emerge largely, though not exclusively, out of monasticism. They constitute the most individuated of medieval clerical discourses. The Church's authoritativeness was never pure and not always evenly distributed. At surprising points, it could be relatively open or inclusive. Therefore, the role of Latinity in relation to the Church's sexual teachings was as often dispersive and inclusive as it was repressive.
Roman sexuality is only just emerging from the scholarly shadows. As the sexual domain became a valid, and increasingly vital, subject of historical enquiry, it was classical Greece that was selected to speak for the ancient world, and to challenge modern assumptions about the constitution, organisation, and valorisation of sexual desire, activity, and identity; with considerable, though certainly not uncontested, success. In the pursuit of radical difference from the present, past divisions were elided, and Rome's sexual patterns were subsumed within a classical paradigm of distinctly Greek construction. They are now breaking free, however, and more recent scholarship has been concerned, quite precisely, with demarcating and exploring definitively Roman sexual territories. This article explores the most recurrent themes to emerge from the recent scholarship on Roman sexuality. It discusses the sharp division, and clear double standard, between men and women as sexual subjects; the Roman sexual order; and Musonius's views about the ongoing conundrum concerning women, sexuality, and subjectivity.
In discussing sexual identity, this article focuses on specific issues in understanding how individuals could be constructed as sexual beings. The ancient Greeks themselves had no specific or overarching terms for either gender or sexuality, yet distinctions based on biological sex were deeply embedded in the linguistic, cognitive, political, and social structures of their society at all periods. Just as biological sex precedes sexuality in many accounts, so men were thought to come into being before women in Greek mythology. Meanwhile, the sexual practices of the ancient Greeks attracted the attention of scholars much earlier than questions about the status and position of Greek women.
What is a woman? Is ‘women’ most appropriately a category of biology? Of society or culture? Of language? Is naming oneself a woman a right? A responsibility? A burden? These questions are difficult enough to address when we are speaking of the modern day, but become even more so when we look back to antiquity. The idea that the definition of ‘woman’ cannot be separated from the definition of her social role is not unique to the Romans, but it is one which is frequently repeated and strongly emphasised in their myths and history. One of the most popular and enduring myths of early Rome is the story of the rape of the Sabine women, in which the early male settlers of the city stole the daughters and sisters of neighbouring tribes in order to take them as wives. Roman women could possess property – inherited or otherwise – so it is not surprising that one of the few places in the Digest of Roman Law where we find an actual definition of ‘women’ is in the context of inheritance.
Women as legally acting individuals rather than as tangential actors are to be found in the classical sources more often than is generally assumed. This is borne out by literary reports as well as in documents from legal practice, the latter have come down to us to a limited extent and have only recently been the subject of evaluation from the point of view of the participation of women. But the jurist writings provide us with a range of cases in which women are involved, in which they take a stand for their claims and where an unequal treatment in the legal opinion is not discernible. Here the task is to direct our focus onto these configurations, while taking into account the Roman social order, and not to allow the issue to be clouded by subsequent measures which limited the autonomy of (above all married) women.
This article takes a look at women in Roman society. It first examines Galen's On Prognosis, which provides a view of the wide range of social roles and relationships that women could have in second century Rome. It then notes that history was basically a story of (male) society, politics, and culture. Although women played a role in that story, they were usually treated as a disruption of the normal course of events. The discussion shows that women were considered as part of the “marginalized” groups of Roman society. This article shows the hidden power wielded by the women, especially those belonging to the Roman aristocratic families. The article also looks at some Roman women who held a “public” position in Roman society, such as Otacilia Laterensis and Aemilia Hilaria.