Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
No Cover Image

Among Women

Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz
Lisa Auanger
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Among Women
    Book Description:

    Women's and men's worlds were largely separate in ancient Mediterranean societies, and, in consequence, many women's deepest personal relationships were with other women. Yet relatively little scholarly or popular attention has focused on women's relationships in antiquity, in contrast to recent interest in the relationships between men in ancient Greece and Rome. The essays in this book seek to close this gap by exploring a wide variety of textual and archaeological evidence for women's homosocial and homoerotic relationships from prehistoric Greece to fifth-century CE Egypt.

    Drawing on developments in feminist theory, gay and lesbian studies, and queer theory, as well as traditional textual and art historical methods, the contributors to this volume examine representations of women's lives with other women, their friendships, and sexual subjectivity. They present new interpretations of the evidence offered by the literary works of Sappho, Ovid, and Lucian; Bronze Age frescoes and Greek vase painting, funerary reliefs, and other artistic representations; and Egyptian legal documents.

    eISBN: 978-0-292-79816-8
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

Export Selected Citations Export to NoodleTools Export to RefWorks Export to EasyBib Export a RIS file (For EndNote, ProCite, Reference Manager, Zotero, Mendeley...) Export a Text file (For BibTex)
  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Illustrations
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. Abbreviations
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. CHAPTER ONE Introduction
    (pp. 1-33)
    Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz

    This volume is unusual in the field of classics in that it bridges literary and archaeological evidence and defines antiquity expansively (preclassical Greece to fifth-century ce Egypt), whereas most similar anthologies or books have been either literary/historical or art historical/archaeological and have tended to define the field more narrowly. But most importantly, it focuses exclusively on women’s relationships with other women. The essays published here present new interpretations and new evidence about the homosocial and homoerotic relationships between women in the ancient world.

    Over the last twenty-five years there has been an enormous amount of research undertaken and published on...

  7. CHAPTER TWO Imag(in)ing a Women’s World in Bronze Age Greece: The Frescoes from Xeste 3 at Akrotiri, Thera
    (pp. 34-59)
    Paul Rehak

    Although many images of women have survived from the Late Bronze Age Aegean world (ca. 1700 –1100 bce), it has proved extremely difficult for us to recover information about how they constructed their own sexuality at the time.¹ For in contrast to the other cultures of the eastern Mediterranean at the time, or the later cultures of Greece,² Aegean art contains virtually no explicit depictions of sexual activity or even personal affection: there are no scenes of women or men engaged in sexual intercourse (or other natural bodily functions, for that matter), no individuals who embrace, kiss, hold hands, or...

  8. CHAPTER THREE Aphrodite Garlanded: Erôs and Poetic Creativity in Sappho and Nossis
    (pp. 60-81)
    Marilyn B. Skinner

    Can a woman poet have a muse? Feminists have debated this question urgently ever since they realized the pitfalls of subscribing to the androcentric and heterosexist paradigm of creativity that describes poetry as the product of intercourse between the artist and his own powers of inspiration personified as his mistress.¹ As numerous critics have observed, this model symbolically appropriates female reproductive ability, subordinating it to a genius regarded as intrinsically masculine.² Implicitly, then, it denies flesh-and-blood women the capacity to make anything other than babies, even as it devalues biological, in contrast to intellectual, paternity.³ When the heterosexual framework is...

  9. CHAPTER FOUR Subjects, Objects, and Erotic Symmetry in Sappho’s Fragments
    (pp. 82-105)
    Ellen Greene

    Ever since she composed her poems on the island of Lesbos at the end of the seventh century bce, the life and lyrics of Sappho have haunted the Western imagination. Sappho is not only the earliest surviving woman writer in the West, but she is also one of the few and certainly one of the earliest woman writers before the twentieth century to explicitly express in verse the (erotic) desire of one woman for another.¹ Indeed, Sappho’s provocative images of lesbian love have disturbed readers through the ages and have given rise to a multitude of fantasies, fictions, and myths...

  10. CHAPTER FIVE Excavating Women’s Homoeroticism in Ancient Greece: The Evidence from Attic Vase Painting
    (pp. 106-166)
    Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz

    This essay focuses on the representation of women’s relationships to women on ancient Greek vases. In some ways, it is the obverse of my first book, a study of asymmetrical compulsory heterosexuality in the plays of Euripides (Anxiety Veiled: Euripides and the Traffic in Women) in which I argued that the exchange of women takes women out of relation to other women and places them in primary relationships with men, simultaneously strengthening relationships between men. Having finished the book, I started to ask to what extent women were really taken from other women and began to look for those very...

  11. CHAPTER SIX Women in Relief: “Double Consciousness” in Classical Attic Tombstones
    (pp. 167-210)
    John G. Younger

    In much recent scholarship on the lives of women in Athens of the Classical period (broadly, fifth and fourth centuries bce), there is a recurring insistence that women were objects in a patriarchal system, the property of men, and the objects of male sexual desire and an all-encompassing male gaze. Were women ever subjects? Could women feel their own personhood even within the confines of a patriarchal system? And if so, under what circumstances?

    Lauren Petersen argues that “it was possible for a woman of ancient Greece to liberate herself from the oppression of patriarchal constructs by actively reading her...

  12. CHAPTER SEVEN Glimpses through a Window: An Approach to Roman Female Homoeroticism through Art Historical and Literary Evidence
    (pp. 211-255)
    Lisa Auanger

    To have even a partial understanding of the place and meaning of homoeroticism within a Roman context, one must abandon one’s modern notions. We must realize that we cannot find our twins or clones in the past: we cannot assume that for the ancient Romans the dominant form of female homoeroticism was manifested in cultural institutions such as marriage (or formal domestic partnership) or that it was necessarily acting against those gender expectations we might hold, for example, having short hair, wearing men’s clothes, and speaking like a man.¹ Largely constructs of modern definition, these criteria should not form our...

  13. CHAPTER EIGHT Ovid’s Iphis and Ianthe: When Girls Won’t Be Girls
    (pp. 256-285)
    Diane T. Pintabone

    Ovid’s story of Iphis and Ianthe in theMetamorphoseshas always raised more questions than it has answered about ancient concepts of female homoeroticism. The myth itself concerns Iphis, a girl raised as a boy, who ultimately is changed into a boy so that she can marry Ianthe. By placing the tale in the contexts of feminist theory and classical scholarship, we can at least identify the questions. By additionally looking at this story within the framework of Ovid’sMetamorphosesas a whole, we can approach some answers. In this essay, I hope to add to the current body of...

  14. CHAPTER NINE Lucian’s “Leaena and Clonarium”: Voyeurism or a Challenge to Assumptions?
    (pp. 286-303)
    Shelley P. Haley

    As the movement for the civil and human rights of gays, lesbians, bisexuals, and the transgendered and transsexual communities has progressed, it has brought greater visibility to the cultural aspects of these groups. This in turn has given rise to a subfield of critical theory, known as “queer” theory. Like any theoretical critique of the dominant culture, whether it is feminist theory, Afrocentric theory, or Black feminist thought,¹ queer theory developed as an oppositional stance, in this case, to the dominant heterosexist paradigms. As a term, one of its earliest uses was in a special issue of the journaldifferences...

  15. CHAPTER TEN “Friendship and Physical Desire”: The Discourse of Female Homoeroticism in Fifth-Century ce Egypt
    (pp. 304-330)
    Terry G. Wilfong

    Taêse and Tsansnô, two women living in the White Monastery in Southern Egypt sometime in the fifth century ce, were sentenced to beatings by Shenute, their monastic superior, for engaging in homoerotic activity. Shenute ordered the punishment of these women (and provided a justification for it) in a letter to the women of his monastic community. He described Taêse and Tsansnô as “running after” other women in “friendship and physical desire.” Although Shenute’s letter, with its specific listing of individual women to be punished for homoerotic activity, is unique in many ways, his language and attitude are typical of contemporary...

  16. Works Cited
    (pp. 331-372)
  17. Notes on Contributors
    (pp. 373-374)
  18. Index
    (pp. 375-390)