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

3.95  ·  Rating Details ·  780 Ratings  ·  54 Reviews
"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. Illustrations.
Paperback, 304 pages
Published May 18th 2011 by Schocken Books (first published 1975)
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Louise

4 Stars

My last couple of forays into non-fiction historical writing have been kind of disappointing three-star affairs. This book, however – whether it’s the more academic tone or simply the subject matter – I really enjoyed. First published in the 70′s it probably contains some disputed or out-of-date ideas and evidence by now, but it was one of (if not ‘the’) first academic texts to thoroughly examine women’s roles in Ancient Greece and Rome. So, as a woman who is interested in Ancient Greek a
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Tanya
Oct 09, 2009 Tanya rated it it was amazing
One of my absolute favorite books from college. Note that the list of "types" in the title is also a ranking. In many ways it was better to be a whore in Classical Greece than a wife, especially in the upper classes. Exhaustively researched using primary sources such as laws, legal documents, letters, plays, etc. from the period. Surprisingly engaging and easy to read.
Jo
Pomeroy looks at the roles of women in the classical world of the Greeks, Romans and Egyptians. Interesting to see how some attitudes rarely change, even after thousands of years. Well written and researched, worth reading whether you're a feminist or not
Erik Graff
Aug 27, 2010 Erik Graff rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: classics fans
Recommended to Erik by: no one
Shelves: history
Published during the seventies, this is one of the first--if not the first--books in English to discuss the roles of women in classical antiquity from a scholarly feminist perspective. It is written on an introductory level suitable for undergraduates and studious high schoolers.
Kristen
Jun 06, 2015 Kristen rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
more like a 3.75. Good, very interesting.
Brenda
Jun 20, 2012 Brenda rated it liked it
Shelves: a330
Really enjoyed the chapters about Athens and Sparta but towards the end of the Roman chapters it kind of ran out of steam which is odd as that's where the evidence becomes more available
Catherine Siemann
Sep 08, 2010 Catherine Siemann rated it really liked it
Now-classic feminist history of the topic; seems fairly obvious, but that means that it did its job.
K.A.M. Boham
Jun 06, 2017 K.A.M. Boham rated it really liked it
In this book, Ms. Pomeroy draws on archeological evidence as well as histories and literature of the times to bring to light the little known stories of women in the Ancient World. It's an excellent read and a recommended resource for anyone with an interest in the Ancient World.
Darío
Jul 04, 2017 Darío rated it liked it
Shelves: historia
Don't judge me, yes, I'm able to read two books in the same day. This book was easy to read, the font was huge, and I already knew most of the information. I'd recommend it to people just getting into the ancient world.
Martine
An informative book, but Pomeroy's feminism shines through so much that I have no faith in her objectivity. Combined with the age of this book, I'd advise everyone to look at Pomeroy's assertions with a highly critical eye.
Janna G. Noelle
Mar 12, 2017 Janna G. Noelle rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-in-2017
This book is said to be a ground-breaking text in the realm of Classical Studies in that it seeks to describe the status of women in antiquity from the Bronze Age through to the Hellenistic Period of Ancient Greece and onto the late Republic and early Empire of Rome. What results from this inquiry is utterly fascinating. Other than some surviving poetry by Sappho, the bulk of what the author had to work with was written by men about women – often in a seemingly hyperbolic, idealized view on how ...more
Daisy
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Amy
Jul 23, 2015 Amy rated it really liked it
"Poets, Athenian and otherwise, were not uniformly misogynistic, and the literary portraits of women, even when monstrous, show self-assertion, self-esteem, dignity, and rage at injustice—and not all of them were monstrous. I can think of no other literature in which women are such compelling figures, beginning with Andromache and Penelope. These Galateas are so seductive that scholars have chosen to pursue them with greater zeal than they display in their attempts to study flesh-and-blood women ...more
Matt Sautman
Jan 23, 2017 Matt Sautman rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Detailing the lives of women within Greece and Rome, Pomeroy presents a history that seeks to dismantle the patriarchal narratives casted upon contemporary understandings of classical cultures. While Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves may not be as revolutionary as some of the prominent works of the black feminist authors I have reviewed in the past, there is a cultural value to Pomeroy's approach. Pomeroy presents patriarchy not as something that has always-already existed, but instead as the ...more
Skye
Nov 04, 2016 Skye rated it really liked it
I read this book because I am a feminist, a Latin teacher, and a lover of anything about the ancient world. Clearly this book is well deserving of its secure place on college curricula, and is a fantastic sourcebook. I learned so much, often about areas of the ancient world I didn't even know I didn't know about. The writing style is direct and organized, and I underlined frequently because I was learning so much.

The only downside was that it wasn't exactly a page-turner. I get that it's hard to
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Suz
Jul 12, 2015 Suz rated it really liked it
The more things change, the more things stay the same.

An older book (published in '75), it's a scholarly discussion of the attitudes and roles of women during Classical/Hellenistic Greek/Roman times. It's a nice book, discussing issues from a feminist point of view, and is one of the earliest/first books looking at how (Mediterranean) women lived during ancient times.

I studied Classical Civilizations as an undergrad, but the professors rarely focused on the lives of women, so it was nice to see
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Pillow
Feb 29, 2012 Pillow rated it did not like it
Shelves: books-i-own
I found that I couldn't focus well on this book. It isn't very academic because it treats a lot of assumptions about the classical world as fact. This is a common problem with the question of women in the ancient world as remaining literature generally portrays women in epic roles which are quite a bit different from the material evidence that is now used to understand the lives of everyday women. It is disappointing

For a more accurate and thoughtful critical review of women's role in classic l
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Orla
Sep 02, 2012 Orla rated it really liked it
Pomperoy is one of my favourite academics when it comes to Gender in the ancient world, I enjoyed her contribution to 'Ancient Greece: A Political, Social and Cultural History' and her work in 'Spartan Women'.

This book really brings together a lot of her work really highlights both the difficulty and the importance of examining the lives of women in ancient Greece and Rome. She crosses class boundaries, a rare thing for a classicist and talks about the use of goddesses in patriarchal societies,
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Fostergrants
Dec 07, 2008 Fostergrants rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This book was perfect for a paper I wrote on the sexism and misogyny we inherited from Victorian-age interpretations of pre-Gothic art and artifacts. This is a perspective, since so much of ancient history is left unverifiable, but I enjoyed her perspective immensely. As always, cross-check your ideas with updated research, but this book added a lot of depth and texture to my concepts of women in history, and how skewed things get when we rely solely on the analyses of men long dead in piecing t ...more
Cody VC
Jul 22, 2012 Cody VC rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dry in places but still very interesting. It's also a bit fascinating how relevant this continues to be in terms of our understanding the roots of Roman-influenced Western culture - the author observes as much in her preface from 1994 when discussing why she didn't revise the 1975 text, and it's now 2012. She writes that she "would present some of this material slightly differently today" but the crux of it remains the same, which says as much about the strength of her work as it does about our ...more
Bruce Morton
Sep 05, 2011 Bruce Morton rated it really liked it
Sarah Pomeroy places students of the New Testament in her debt in this careful study. She provides a view of the ancient cults which sharpens the background detail in Paul's letters to Corinth and Roman Asia. Never again can students of Ephesians and 1 and 2 Timothy announce that we can know little about the ancient religions of the people of Asia. Sarah Pomeroy leads us by the hand on an expedition that finds the facts.
K
Jun 25, 2016 K rated it liked it
I probably had unrealistic expectations about this one, based on how long I've been hearing about it. Informative and fairly easy to read (for an academic book). Some conclusions seem based on Pomeroy's opinions without really explaining to us why/how her opinions are informed, but at least once that was based on my missing an earlier citation (e.g. my own reading comprehension fail). Ends fairly abruptly.
Madeline
May 28, 2015 Madeline rated it it was amazing
Pomeroy's book about women in antiquity is rich in information, and spans across many historical periods in antiquity to give an in-depth account of women's lives and stories during those eras. It covers views of women in literature, poetry, mythology, and philosophy, as well as legislation pertaining to women and their rights. Highly recommend for people interested in women's history and history in general!
Lisa Kavanaugh
Nov 30, 2013 Lisa Kavanaugh rated it it was ok
I enjoyed the first half of this book (3.5 stars) as it was a history lesson/refresher as well as a (depressing) eduction into the roles of women throughout these periods. It got bogged down around 55% (near the end since after 76% its all footnotes) with the marital and property laws concerning women in Ancient Rome vs Greece and I never finished it.

I was inspired to read this after reading Fatima Mernassi's Dreams of Trespass: Tales of Harem Girlhood which I highly recommend.
E.j. Kay
Apr 04, 2012 E.j. Kay rated it liked it
A really great source book - perhaps not one you sit down and read from cover to cover. Sarah Pomeroy has done a great job in researching the sources for the book, and paints a vivid picture of the life of women in classical Greece and Rome. It makes me very glad I'm alive now, and wasn't then!
Richelle
Feb 27, 2008 Richelle rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Richelle by: Margaret Toscano
Shelves: latin-and-greek
One of the books I remember best from my undergraduate experience. A fascinating look at how women were viewed and treated in antiquity that makes it very clear how those attitudes continue to manifest in western culture hundreds of years later.
Sarah Schanze
May 15, 2014 Sarah Schanze rated it liked it
Shelves: historical-facts
I had no idea Athenian women had it so bad! It was kind of depressing to read. Even Roman women didn't have it easy. Thanks, Patriarchy! Still this was a good book, and felt like a solid overview of the culture and time period, though it's not one I'm familiar with.
Xander
Jun 15, 2011 Xander rated it really liked it
Shelves: books-i-own
I got this book to use for a paper, and I wasn't expecting it to be super exciting, but it actually was. It's really interesting and informative, and even if one does not need to write a paper on the subject the book is still interesting.
Brianna
Aug 03, 2016 Brianna rated it really liked it
DOCKED A STAR FOR NOT HAVING A REFERENCE PAGE TO THE ANCIENT MATERIAL REFERENCED >:( Otherwise real good
Leslie
Jul 26, 2007 Leslie rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: people who like ancient Rome
Shelves: history
I read this book in college for my Ancient Rome and Greece class. It's a great read for people who like women's studies. It's still on my bookshelf. I need to reread it again.
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“In her relationships with humans, Artemis is primarily concerned with females, especially the physical aspects of their life cycle, including menstruation, childbirth, and death, however contradictory the association of these with a virgin may appear. (She is also cited as the reason for the termination of female life: when swift death came to a woman, she was said to have been short by Artemis.) The Artemis of classical Greece probably evolved from the concept of a primitive mother goddess, and both she and her sister Athena were considered virgins because they had never submitted to a monogamous marriage. Rather, as befits mother goddesses, they had enjoyed many consorts. Their failure to marry, however, was misinterpreted as virginity by succeeding generations of men who connected loss of virginity only with conventional marriage. Either way, as mother goddess or virgin, Artemis retains control over herself; her lack of permanent connection to a male figure in a monogamous relationship is the keystone of her independence.” 2 likes
“It is no surprise that the only woman in antiquity who could be the subject of a full-length biography is Cleopatra. Yet, unlike Alexander, whom she rivals as the theme of romance and legend, Cleopatra is known to us through overwhelmingly hostile sources. The reward of the ‘good’ woman in Rome was likely to be praise in stereotyped phrases; in Athens she won oblivion.” 1 likes
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