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

3.98  ·  Rating details ·  1,059 ratings  ·  71 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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Average rating 3.98  · 
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 ·  1,059 ratings  ·  71 reviews

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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 First published in the 70′s it probably contains some disputed or out-of-date ideas and evidence by now, but it was one of (if not ‘the’) first academic texts to thoroughly examine women’s roles in Ancient Greece and Rome.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
Jan 28, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019-read, ancient, women
Wide-ranging, interesting and provocative, this was marred by lackluster prose, projection of modern viewpoints, and long quotations out of place in such a slender work.
Alexia Moon
I finally had the chance of reading and finishing this book and I loved it. This book is amazing and I love how detailed and accurate it is. The author is an academic so all of her work is based on historical sources which, for me, as history student, is ideal. I have a big problem with most books about the Sacred Feminine or about Women in History because there's a big tendency to just say things and not back it up with historical references. Some authors tend to say "Women did this" or "Goddes ...more
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.
Stephen Simpson
Jul 19, 2018 rated it really liked it
Short, but pretty densely-packed with information, and yet still pleasant to read. I'm sure armchair historians will quibble with the work, but let 'em (where's their book?) ... I found the book to be well-researched, well-sourced, and well-reasoned. There were some "leaps" and assumptions, but that goes with the territory.

I would have liked another 100-200 pages of this book, but I enjoyed what was there.
Ellana Thornton-Wheybrew
I'm not convinced by all the arguments raised in this, but as a groundbreaking book it is exceptional.

This is a thorough look at a subject that has only recently been a part of Classical Studies, and often discusses the lack of evidence as well as the evidence itself.
Nov 04, 2016 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
Feb 29, 2012 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
Oct 09, 2009 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.
Erik Graff
Aug 27, 2010 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
Mar 10, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: books-i-own
I really wanted to like this book, but the author jumps around too much to make any sense. There's a lot of 'we'll see that in such and such chapter' or just plain jumping from one culture to another without clear connections. All around disappointing read.
Catherine Siemann
Sep 08, 2010 rated it really liked it
Now-classic feminist history of the topic; seems fairly obvious, but that means that it did its job.
Jun 20, 2012 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
Jun 06, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, history
more like a 3.75. Good, very interesting.
Jun 03, 2019 rated it really liked it
'Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence' pretty much sums up this book. Pomeroy does her absolute best with the slim historical record available to her, and this is a scrupulous cataloguing of deep and careful research into the lives of women of Greek and Roman antiquity. That it is sometimes a little dry speaks more to Pomeroy's very elevated self-definition of the historian's role. She is at pains to point out that you can make inferences and draw hypotheses but that none of them can b ...more
Eli Pollard
Jun 30, 2020 rated it really liked it

A really incredible feminist perspective in Ancient Greece and Rome. It talks about all the forgotten parts of history that are taught with ancient Rome and Greece. I found this incredibly powerful because I went really in-depth Greek and Roman history before so to read this and learn about all the parts I did not learn about was very powerful. The amount of forgotten history occurs is really tragic and this book was and it displayed the facts very overtly which I also really appreciated.
Oct 11, 2016 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A pretty interesting account of the lives of women in classical Greek and Roman societies. My main problem with it would be the form or pace of it which made it longer to read than I expected. I enjoyed the material and the way the author made good efforts to take a look at all women, not just the upper class ones, but I did not always have the motivation for this kind of scholar writting; so I often picked up another read instead of continuing this one when the motivation wasn't there.
Mar 02, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, greece
A useful, well-reasoned book, but I wish Pomeroy had taken the trouble to create a second edition. The feminist perspective is very 1975. Further, I wish Pomeroy had brought more "academic imagination" and less "strangled precision" to the text. Sure, I expect fidelity to the evidence in a work of nonfiction, but, really, classics is a field that requires some leaps of insight. Otherwise, a statue is just a statue.
Apr 16, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Thorough treatment of women's lives in classical Greece, the Hellenistic period, and ancient Rome. Painstakingly put together from the limited sources available, it is written to be accessible to the lay reader and will be a guaranteed good read for anyone interested in women and/or the ancient world.
Katherynne Boham
Jun 06, 2017 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.
Jul 04, 2017 rated it liked it
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.
Jul 29, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018
This is a book I read with a history book reading club. This book was published in 1975 and you can hear the 1970's come through loud and clear. An interesting read especially if you are interested in Early Rome and Greece. Having a bit of knowledge of antiquity would is helpful.
Becky Carr
Sep 08, 2018 rated it really liked it
A good overview of women’s roles and status in Ancient Greece and Rome. You might need some secondary sources to look up some of the events or myths that Pomeroy briefly touches on.
Andrea Hickman Walker
This was much drier than I was hoping and ended up being nothing more than a slog in the end. A pity because the content is actually interesting.
Jan 05, 2020 rated it really liked it
4.5 stars. A great read for people who are intrigued by a women's role during ancient antiquity.
Paul Brooks
Jan 10, 2020 rated it really liked it
Looking backward and looking forward! A great history of patriarchy and a great inspiration to an alternative.
Janna G. Noelle
Mar 12, 2017 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
Mar 25, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
Ah. What a fine and refreshing read after multiple non-scientific ones I have encountered recently.

The book was very detailed, scientifically-accurate, at moments brutally honest and, most surely, a non-biased feminist read.

Sarah B. Pomeroy stuck to her book's title and managed to do an excellent job in showing the reader what it was like being a goddess, whore, wife or a slave in classical antiquity, offering us multiple references to historical artifacts and literature descriptions, that hav
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Sarah B. Pomeroy (born 13 March 1938) is an American ancient historian, author, translator, and former professor of classics. She is best known for her work on women's history in classical antiquity.

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