Questions for Feb 26th
- What are the problems associated with defining categories of class
in Roman culture? How did the class structures differ from our own?
Was there such a thing as the middle class? How was the issue of class
complicated by the cultural and religious diversity as the empire grew?
How did economic level and degree of Romanization combine with status
(slave, freed, freeborn) to affect women's lives? Were women such as
Panthia (L&F 373), Pythias (L&F 169) or Abudia Megiste (Fantham
et al. pg. 378) any more or less "Other" than elite women
such as Zenobia or Cleopatra?
- What kind of work did female slaves do? Did their work differ from
that done by freedwomen or freeborn women? How were their circumstances
different? How might the conditions of urban slaves differ from those
in the countryside? How did manumission work in Roman society? Why would
it make sense to free a slave? Why would it make sense to free slaves
posthumously? What happened to a slave in terms of her legal and social
position if she managed to be freed?
- It has been argued that because of the frequency of manumission, slavery
functioned as a way of incorporating outsiders into Rome, which was
far more open and less exclusive than the Greek city-state. How convincing
is this argument? Were freed slaves immediately on the same footing
as freeborn citizens? Did they still suffer economic and social disabilities?
- What were some of the Roman attitudes toward foreign women? How well
were they incorporated into Roman society? Do you see any parallels
to the ways Roman sources depict foreign women of various classes: wet
nurses, female rulers, witches? How might ethnicity affect the way female
slaves, freedwomen, and elite women were treated?
- What were Roman attitudes toward midwives and female healers? Why
do you think women in these occupations were liable to accusations of
witchcraft? Where else have you seen this trend in European history?
- We spent some time talking about the nature of women's separate communities
in Greece in our discussions of Sappho, religious festivals, and women's
work within the oikos. To what extent were there parallel communities
- Finally, as we approach the end of the course, I'll ask each of you
if studying women in antiquity has complicated or clarified your understanding
of women's history, ancient Greece and Rome, the origins of patriarchy,
women's resistance to patriarchal structures, and the impact of each
of these things on our own culture. Berkin has said that "looking
at gender challenges assumptions, reveals new questions an forces reinterpretation
of historical issues." To what extent has focusing on gender in
this course challenged your assumptions or revealed new questions about
ancient Greek and Roman cultures?
- I also want to revisit some questions that we started out with. How
have you tried to overcome some of the challenges to studying women
in antiquity? What methodological approaches have you found most useful
(Lerner, Johnstone, Stehle and Day, King, Synder, Fantham et al.)? Would
you classify yourself as an epistemological optimist or pessimist, a
chronological dualist, or something else? What is your model of viewing
history? Do you tend to focus on how the stratification of society has
created hierarchies that have positioned women at the bottom, or do
you believe in the "complementary model" which argues that
although society has become stratified, women have a different kind
of power and occupy a separate, but equally important, position in society?
Has your position changed from the beginning of the block? Have you
found a way to resolve the ethnographer's dilemma as it pertains to
women in antiquity? How did you go about recovering the history and
voice of your woman for your final project? What were your considerations
in the process of reconstructing her history and giving her a voice?