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Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves

3.94  ·  Rating Details  ·  678 Ratings  ·  44 Reviews
s/t: Women in Classical Antiquity
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 populatio
Kindle Edition, 288 pages
Published (first published 1975)
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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 First published in the 70′s it probably contains some disputed or out-of-date ideas and evidence by now, but it was one of (if not ‘the’) first academic texts to thoroughly examine women’s roles in Ancient Greece and Rome.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
Jul 23, 2015 Amy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Jul 12, 2015 Suz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 09, 2009 Tanya rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Erik Graff
Apr 16, 2013 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.
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
Jun 20, 2012 Brenda rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 16, 2010 Catherine Siemann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Now-classic feminist history of the topic; seems fairly obvious, but that means that it did its job.
more like a 3.75. Good, very interesting.
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 09, 2013 Pillow rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jul 11, 2016 K rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Apr 07, 2013 Orla rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
May 23, 2015 Aj rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book discusses the roles of females, whether mortal or divine, during classical times. It wasn't a quick read for me but an an interesting one. A good reference book.
One of the first studies on women's history of any place or period, this book was revolutionary when it was published, and is still seminal today.
Mar 05, 2016 Dana rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A quick run-through of a lot of information, which I generally found to be easily understandable and fairly engaging.
May 29, 2016 Kimberly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the best books on the role of women in classical antiquity I have ever read, a classic in the field.
Jun 12, 2015 Shea rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: not-fully-read
Very useful and informative
Oct 09, 2014 Fostergrants rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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 29, 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
Lisa Kavanaugh
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.
Bruce Morton
Sep 05, 2011 Bruce Morton rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
E.j. Kay
Apr 04, 2012 E.j. Kay rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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!
Sarah Schanze
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.
Feb 27, 2008 Richelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Mar 12, 2016 Xander rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 09, 2007 Emily rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: scholars of classical antiquity or women's studies
Great study, pretty easy to read - even for those who aren't professional academics. Clear presentation of the roles of women in Roman and Greek (esp. Athenian) society. Still a classic in the field.
Jul 26, 2007 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Feb 09, 2016 Julie rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Just tried this a 2nd time and still couldn't get very far into it. Reads like a textbook and since I'm not going to be tested, there is no need to slog through it.
Jul 09, 2012 Kim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was part of the syllabus for a college history course. After reading it became one of my all time favorite books. Every women needs to read this book
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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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