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Among Women

From the Homosocial to the Homoerotic in the Ancient World

Edited by Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz and Lisa Auanger

Publication Year: 2002

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.

Published by: University of Texas Press


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pp. vii-xii


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pp. xiii-xiv

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pp. xv-xvi

The editors would like to take this opportunity to thank the editorial staff at University of Texas Press: Ali Hossaini Jr. for approaching us at the APA and Jim Burr for taking over the project, patiently answering questions and waiting for the manuscript; Leslie Tingle, Allison Faust, and Nancy Moore have been unfailingly courteous and wise. We would also like to thank the...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-33

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...

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2. Imag(in)ing a Women’s World in Bronze Age Greece: The Frescoes from Xeste 3 at Akrotiri, Thera

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pp. 34-59

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...

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3. Aphrodite Garlanded: Er

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pp. 60-81

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...

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4. Subjects, Objects, and Erotic Symmetry in Sappho’s Fragments

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pp. 82-105

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...

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5. Excavating Women’s Homoeroticism in Ancient Greece: The Evidence from Attic Vase Painting

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pp. 106-166

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...

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6. Women in Relief: “Double Consciousness” in Classical Attic Tombstones

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pp. 167-210

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...

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7. Glimpses through a Window: An Approach to Roman Female Homoeroticism through Art Historical and Literary Evidence,

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pp. 211-255

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...

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8. Ovid’s Iphis and Ianthe: When Girls Won’t Be Girls

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pp. 256-285

Ovid’s story of Iphis and Ianthe in the Metamorphoses has 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...

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9. Lucian’s “Leaena and Clonarium”: Voyeurism or a Challenge to Assumptions?*

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pp. 286-303

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...

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10. “Friendship and Physical Desire”: The Discourse of Female Homoeroticism in Fifth-Century CE Egypt

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pp. 304-331

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...

Works Cited

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pp. 331-372

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 373-374


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pp. 375-390

E-ISBN-13: 9780292798168
E-ISBN-10: 0292798164
Print-ISBN-13: 9780292771130
Print-ISBN-10: 0292771134

Page Count: 407
Illustrations: 52 b&w photos, 16 line drawings
Publication Year: 2002

OCLC Number: 605244342
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Among Women

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Civilization, Classical.
  • Lesbianism -- History -- To 500.
  • Lesbians in art.
  • Art, Classical.
  • Lesbians in literature.
  • Classical literature -- History and criticism.
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