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Sharon L. James and Sheila Dillon

Subject History

Key-Topics gender, women

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405192842.2012.00005.x


Ever since the groundbreaking work of Pomeroy (1975) , which brought forth a new era of study in the subject, “Women in Antiquity” has become a standard and expanding field of scholarship in Classics, Ancient History, Archaeology, and Art History, and an increasingly popular course offering in colleges and universities. These fields, however, have historically been split between textual and material evidence, a divide that poses special problems for the study of women. The ancient materials on women pose further interpretive challenges because of unexamined biases in both the sources themselves and in traditional scholarship on the subject, inherited from the nineteenth century. Methodology thus becomes a primary issue in the study of these materials: inherent biases in the materials mean that what we read and see cannot be taken at face value. For example, how literally should we take sexual invective by the likes of Archilochus and Juvenal? By the same token, how should we read sexualized images of women on Attic vases? Do these sources represent historical or literal truths, as they have sometimes been taken to do? Specialists in a given field know not to treat their evidence naively, but do not necessarily recognize the gender biases in other materials. The ancient sources on women seem so starkly self-evident, and are so visually striking, that they themselves tempt readers ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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