Women’s History Month, Week 2

For the first week of posts, go here.

 

Women Authors

Telesilla, Argive Warrior-Poet

Theano, Philosopher

 

Documentary Evidence

Hades’ Newest Bride: An Epitaph

“If it is a girl…” A Letter on (female) child exposure

Inscriptions for Women Doctors from the Roman Empire

Septicia’s Marriage: Legal Testament and Marriage from ValMax

Roman Epitaphs for Wives

 

Philosophy

Plato on Gendered Differences and Love

 

Cultural Material

Boccacio on Flora, a “dishonorable” woman, Part 1 and Part 2

Plutarch on Women Causing Earthquakes

Sex, Slaves, and Sin in the Odyssey

What Did Helen Look Like?

Gellius on the Original Virgin Suicides

ValMax on Indian and Phoenician Women

First Wives: Paris’ Oenone and her Son

Helen’s Serving Girl and the First Sex Manual

Woman with mirror, Louvre CA587
Woman with mirror, Louvre CA587

Women’s History Month, Week 1

A Round-up of our first week of posts for Women’s History Month

Women Authors:

The Fragments of Hedyle

The Fragments of Phintys the Pythagorean: Part 1 and Part 2

Cleobulina’s Riddles

Poems by Nossis: Part 1 and Part 2

Two Poems by Erinna

The Poems of Anyte of Tegea

The First Hexameter Song and the Fragments of Boio

The Poems of Moero

A List of Women Authors from the Ancient World

 

Cultural Issues:

A Funerary Inscription for the 12 Year old Girl

Odysseus’ Sister and Names for In-laws

A Physician’s Notes on the Lives and Deaths of Women

The Names of the Fates and their Domains

The Phrasikleia Inscription: A Tomb Instead of a Marriage

Moirai

A List of Women Authors from the Ancient World

I am reposting this list for International Women’s day.

Most of the evidence for these authors has been collected only in Wikipedia. We can probably do better by adding more information from ancient sources and modern ‘scholarly’ texts. I have been translating the fragments of some for the website and linking as appropriate

I received a link to the following in an email from my undergraduate poetry teacher the amazing poet and translator Olga Broumas. The post is on tumblr on a page by DiasporaChic, bit the original author who has already won my admiration is Terpsikeraunos.

*denotes comments I have added with this re-post

** denotes names I have added

Calliope

Women in ancient Greece and Rome with surviving works or fragments

 

PHILOSOPHY

Aesara of Lucania: “Only a fragment survives of Aesara of Lucania’s Book on Human Nature, but it provides a key to understanding the philosophies of Phintys, Perictione, and Theano II as well. Aesara presents a familiar and intuitive natural law theory. She says that through the activity of introspection into our own nature – specifically the nature of a human soul – we can discover not only the natural philosophic foundation for all of human law, but we can also discern the technical structure of morality, positive law, and, it may be inferred, the laws of moral psychology and of physical medicine. Aesara’s natural law theory concerns laws governing three applications of moral law: individual or private morality, laws governing the moral basis of the institution of the family, and, laws governing the moral foundations of social institutions. By analyzing the nature of the soul, Aesara says, we will understand the nature of law and of justice at the individual, familial, and social levels.” – A History of Women Philosophers: Volume I: Ancient Women Philosophers, 600 B.C.-500 A.D., by M.E. Waith

*Wikipedia on Aesara

Melissa: “Melissa (3rd century BC)[1][2] was a Pythagorean philosopher…Nothing is known about her life. She is known only from a letter written to another woman named Cleareta (or Clearete). The letter is written in a Doric Greek dialect dated to around the 3rd century BC.[2] The letter discusses the need for a wife to be modest and virtuous, and stresses that she should obey her husband.[2] The content has led to the suggestion that it was written pseudonymously by a man.[2] On the other hand, the author of the letter does not suggest that a woman is naturally inferior or weak, or that she needs a man’s rule to be virtuous.[1]” –Wikipedia

Perictione (I and II): “Two works attributed to Perictione have survived in fragments: On the Harmony of Women and On Wisdom. Differences in language suggest that they were written by two different people. Allen and Waithe identify them as Perictione I and Perictione II. Plato’s mother was named Perictione, and Waithe argues that she should be identified as the earlier Perictione, suggesting that similarities between Plato’s Republic and On the Harmony of Women may not be the result of Perictione reading Plato, but the opposite–the son learning philosophy from his mother. On the Harmony of Women, however, is written in Ionic prose with occasional Doric forms. This mixed dialect dates the work to the late fourth or third centuries BC. The reference in On the Harmony of Women to women ruling suggests the Hellenistic monarchies of the third century BC or later. On Wisdom is written in Doric and is partly identical with a work by Archytas of the same name. This work should be dated later, to the third or second centuries BC. Both the dates of the works and their dialects mean Perictione as the mother of Plato could not have written them. We then have two Pythagorean texts, attributed to otherwise unknown women named Perictione who should be dated perhaps one hundred years apart.” –Women Writers of Ancient Greece and Rome: An Anthology, by I.M. Plant

*N.B. This account leaves out the the basic narrative from Diogenes Laertius, that Plato’s father Ariston raped his mother Perictione.

Phintys: “Phintys (or Phyntis, Greek: Φίντυς; 4th or 3rd century BC) was a Pythagorean philosopher. Nothing is known about her life, nor where she came from. She wrote a work on the correct behavior of women, two extracts of which are preserved by Stobaeus.” –Wikipedia

*Note, Stobaeus (4.32.61a) calls her the daughter of  Kallikrates the Pythagorean (Φιντύος τᾶς Καλλικράτεος θυγατρὸς Πυθαγορείας). Here are some of her fragments on the prudence befitting women: part 1 and part 2.

Ptolemais of Cyrene: “Ptolemais is known to us through reference to her work by Porphyry in his Commentary on the Harmonics of Ptolemy. He tells us that she came from Cyrene and gives the title of her work, The Pythagorean Principles of Music, which he quotes. She is the only known female musical theorist from antiquity. Her dates cannot be known for sure. She clearly preceded Porphyry, who was born about AD 232; Didymus, who is also quoted by Porphyry, knew Ptolemais’ work and may even have been Porphyry’s source for it. This Didymus is probably the one who lived in the time of Nero, giving us a date for Ptolemais of the first century AD or earlier…One of the problems in dealing with this text is that it is in quotation. Porphyry does not clearly distinguish between the text he quotes from Ptolemais and his own discussion of the issues raised…A second issue is the problem of the accuracy of the quotation. Porphyry says in the introduction to fragment 4 that he has altered a few things in the quotation for the sake of brevity. We should not assume that this is the only quotation to have suffered from editing. On the other hand, where he quotes the same passage twice (fragment 3 is repeated almost verbatim in fragment 4) his consistency is encouraging. Ptolemais’ extant work is a catechism, written as a series of questions and answers. She discusses different schools of thought on harmonic theory, distinguishing between the degree to which they gave importance to theory and perception. Her text prefers the approach of Aristoxenus to that of the Pythagoreans, thus she should not be thought a Pythagorean, despite the title of her work.” –Women Writers of Ancient Greece and Rome: An Anthology, by I.M. Plant

**Theano the Pythagorean (I have collected her words here)

“When Theano the Pythagorean philosopher was asked what eros is, she said ‘the passion of a soul with spare time.’ ”

Θεανὼ ἡ πυθαγορικὴ φιλόσοφος ἐρωτηθεῖσα τί ἐστιν ἔρως ἔφη· ” πάθος ψυχῆς σχολαζούσης.”

“While Theano was walking she showed her forearm and some youth when he saw it said “Nice skin”. She responded, “it’s not communal”.

Θεανὼ πορευομένη ἔξω εἶχε τὸν βραχίονα· νεανίσκος δέ τις ἰδὼν εἶπε· ” καλὸν τὸ δέμας·” ἡ δὲ ἀπεκρίνατο· ” ἀλλ’ οὐ κοινόν.”

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“What Kinds of Things Are Roses”: More Poems from Nossis

Earlier this week I posted some fragments from Nossis. Here are some more. I noted in the earlier post that while Nossis leaves us the most lines of any woman poet from Ancient Greece other than Sappho, she is barely known.

Greek Anthology, 6. 265

“Reverent Hera, who often comes down
From the sky to gaze upon your fragrant Lakinian home.
Take the linen robe which Theophilos, the daughter of Kleokha
Wove for you with the help of her noble daughter Nossis.”

Ἥρα τιμήεσσα, Λακίνιον ἃ τὸ θυῶδες
πολλάκις οὐρανόθεν νεισομένα καθορῇς,
δέξαι βύσσινον εἷμα, τό τοι μετὰ παιδὸς ἀγαυᾶς
Νοσσίδος ὕφανεν Θευφιλὶς ἁ Κλεόχας.

6.138

“These weapons the Brettian men hurled down from their unlucky shoulders
As they were overcome by the hands of the fast-battling Lokrians.
They are dedicated here singing the Lokrians glory in the temple of the gods.
They don’t long at all for the hands of the cowards they abandoned.”

Ἔντεα Βρέττιοι ἄνδρες ἀπ᾿ αἰνομόρων βάλον ὤμων,
θεινόμενοι Λοκρῶν χερσὶν ὕπ᾿ ὠκυμάχων,
ὧν ἀρετὰν ὑμνεῦντα θεῶν ὑπ᾿ ἀνάκτορα κεῖνται,
οὐδὲ ποθεῦντι κακῶν πάχεας, οὓς ἔλιπον.

7.414

“Pass by me, give an honest laugh, and speak over me
A loving word. I am Rhintho from Syracuse,
A minor nightingale of the Muses. But from my tragic
Nonsense poems, I made my own ivy crown.”

Καὶ καπυρὸν γελάσας παραμείβεο, καὶ φίλον εἰπὼν
ῥῆμ᾿ ἐπ᾿ ἐμοί. Ῥίνθων εἴμ᾿ ὁ Συρακόσιος,
Μουσάων ὀλίγη τις ἀηδονίς· ἀλλὰ φλυάκων
ἐκ τραγικῶν ἴδιον κισσὸν ἐδρεψάμεθα.

Greek Anthology, 5.170

“There is nothing sweeter than love: all other blessings
Take second place. I even spit honey from my mouth.
This is what Nossis says. Whomever Kypris has not kissed,
Does not understand her flowers, what kinds of things roses are.”

Ἅδιον οὐδὲν ἔρωτος· ἃ δ᾽ ὄλβια, δεύτερα πάντα
ἐστίν· ἀπὸ στόματος δ᾽ ἔπτυσα καὶ τὸ μέλι.
τοῦτο λέγει Νοσσίς· τίνα δ᾽ ἁ Κύπρις οὐκ ἐφίλασεν,
οὐκ οἶδεν τήνας τἄνθεα, ποῖα ῥόδα.

Greek Anthology, 9.604

“This frame has the picture of Thaumareta. The painter
Caught the form and the age of the soft-glancing woman well.
Your house dog, the little puppy, would paw at you if she saw this,
Believing that she was looking down at the lady of her home.”

Θαυμαρέτας μορφὰν ὁ πίναξ ἔχει· εὖ γε τὸ γαῦρον
τεῦξε τό θ᾿ ὡραῖον τᾶς ἀγανοβλεφάρου.
σαίνοι κέν σ᾿ ἐσιδοῖσα καὶ οἰκοφύλαξ σκυλάκαινα,
δέσποιναν μελάθρων οἰομένα ποθορῆν.

Rising and Evolving: Classical Studies in the News

The the Notes & Comments Article from the March 2019 Issue of New Criterion (“Decline and Fall: Classics Edition.”) presents not a moment of original thought or convincing argumentation. Instead, it is an intellectually lazy but rhetorically effective collection of fear-mongering and base-rallying. I say “rhetorically” effective because it plies the right phrases and plays the right notes to get the right people riled up about an attack on their culture they just can’t wait to complain about abide.

The essay’s first rhetorical aim is to incense and by incensing reaffirm a sense of community and belonging which is so ephemeral and hard for this embattled audience to maintain. Its second (or perhaps coterminous) aim is to inspire response and rage from its targets and those aligned from them in hopes of a juvenile opportunity to say “Look, these are savage maniacs. Hypocrites. Not (really serious) people.” Those who are targeted and attacked can do nothing about the first aim. The rhetoric is to belittle, dehumanize, and marginalize the ideas (and people) found threatening.

The thing that is important about this piece, the Quillette piece (and its ongoing tweetstorm), the Breitbart coverage, and the ongoing plunge of the participants of Novae Famae into that whitest of darknesses, is that they are all over-reactions to cultural change–they are examples of white fragility. But in doubling down on certain values and ideas, in rhetorically crafting this whitest of universes, these voices have the potential to do more than simply join a Trumpian paroxysm of sub-literate protest. They cause emotional harm to those already marginalized; they prey upon those who feel isolated and feed on their worst inclinations; they further polarize and by polarizing obscure pathways to truth; and through their deceptions and misconceptions they lay the groundwork for violence (emotional and otherwise).

My friends, these reactions are not a sign of the progressive vision of the future of Classics losing. I know it feels like it and this noise hurts. But this whitegasm of fury is a sign of fear. International coverage of the SCS is a sign of a shifting battleground, of a desperate search for a win, of an attempt to grab some territory before all is lost. They are attacking Eidolon, and Sarah Bond, Rebecca Futo Kennedy and Dan-el Padilla Peralta on the message boards and these articles because they represent the future and because they represent what they fear.

This is what intellectualized racism and misogyny looks and sounds like. Who gets attacked matters because we are not dealing with strategic masterminds: they tip their hand every time they make up a juvenile nickname. They fear women. They fear people who aren’t white. They fear the changing field. They fear challenges to a ‘traditional field’ because it is a metonym for a changing world. We can ignore them to take their power away. (And I am not doing a good job of that). We can show how foolish and frightened they are. But we must keep doing the work that we do in aligning our values and beliefs with the way we work in the world. We must support our colleagues. We must speak out where we can. But above all, we must just keep doing what we do.

They are attacking because they are losing.

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Give Your Money to The Sportula

Publilius Syrus, 78

“Generosity even devises an excuse for giving”

Benignus etiam causam dandi cogitat.

I am just going to get straight to it. This is a request for money. Not for me. Not for this site. There isn’t going to be a prolonged funding drive and there won’t be any cool canvas tote bags. But this is a plea for money.

I am asking you to support The Sportula. If you don’t know what The Sportula is, you probably have not been active on Classics Twitter for the past year or so, but it is, in my ever so humble opinion, one of the most original, important, and socially minded initiatives to develop in the disciplines of Classical Studies in a generation. It is a collective of graduate students who provide microgrants “ to economically marginalized undergraduates in Classics.” It is original because no one has done it before; it is important because it addresses an overlooked set of needs traditional fellowships and grants can rarely touch; and it is socially minded because it directly addresses issues of equity and inclusion that plague our field.

Big Heart

I don’t want to make this about me (although I will shortly). But Erik and I have never asked for money. We have run this site for the past eight years without support from anyone. We can do this because we are both lucky enough to have full-time, renewable, long-term employment in the fields of classics. If the founders of The Sportula are not inspiration enough for you, but you have ever been amused, educated, enraged, or otherwise distracted from the horrors of life by this website or its twitter feed, please give some money.

If you missed Amy Pistone’s virtual 5K, you can can donate through Go-Fund Me with a single payment; you can become a patron through Patreon and donate a small amount every month; or you can donate through the book auction book on by the phenomenal and dauntless Dr. Liv Yarrow. The twitter feed for our site has alone 23 thousand followers: if every one gave a single dollar a month, we could fund the next generation of Classics alone.

And let me be clear about this. I do not actually know the founders or directors of the Sportula. I have never even exchanged an email with them. But I believe so deeply in what they do and think that it is evidence not merely of great minds but also of great souls that I will gladly make some noise for them.

If we lived in a more perfect world, all students would have the financial means to attend school, buy books, get to class, pay rent. If we lived in a better world, the inability to do any of this would not be tied to historical, structural, and institutional racisms and prejudice. But we do not live in that world. That’s why we need revolutionary vision, a DIY aesthetic, and the courage to ask for help and give it whenever capable. This is why we need The Sportula.

 

Dicta Catonis 15

“Remember to tell the tale of another’s kindness many times
But whatever kind deed you do for others, keep quiet.”

Officium alterius multis narrare memento;
at quaecumque aliis benefeceris ipse, sileto.

 

Ok, here’s a story. As I have talked about before, I didn’t come from much money, but I could cut some corners and bend some rules here and there and I didn’t realize how much of that success depended on my race, gender, and sexual orientation until much later in life. The point is, despite this, funding and living in graduate school was hard. In 2001, I started at NYU on a stipend of 13,000.00 dollars a year with no health insurance. I hustled a bit: I worked in the Dean’s office; I was an editorial assistant for the Classical World; I took every tutoring job I could find; and then I taught every summer course they’d give me.

But even with long days which afforded just barely enough time to finish course work, my financial support was a shell game that required credit cards, student loans, and some willful denial. All this fell apart in my fourth year of graduate school when there was an electrical fire that burned out my apartment. I lost everything. No, I did not have renter’s insurance. No, I did not have savings. I had the clothes on my back, a cat who survived the fire (and needed $900.00 in medical treatment, thank you MBNA America), and an equally broke fiancee in dental school. Oh, and 18 thousand dollars in credit card debt. Those years of cutting corners had caught up.

My department bought me a new computer so I could continue my dissertation the very next day. When the red cross assistance turned out to be $200.00 dollars, some graduate student friends raised over 700 dollars at a party so my roommate and I could buy stuff for a renovated place. That was the community I had and it filled me with joy and well-being.

But I still had to face the fact that I was financially insolvent. My future wife and I were able to take out even more student loans (at 6.9% interest, a damn sight better than the 29% APR my credit card had ballooned to after I failed on my monthly payments). I was lucky enough to get a job in the last good year on the market in 2007—but even then we struggled for a few years (starting salary for a Homerist in 2007, 52K a year). I just paid off my final student loan this year at age 40.

When I think back on this ‘success story’, I don’t see a good plan or smart decisions, I see a series of close misses and dumb luck. We got health insurance as part of a graduate student union deal my second year: this meant I could have shoulder surgery. What if something had happened earlier or the insurance company had denied a pre-existing condition? What if there had been one fewer class for me to teach in the summer? What if I had gotten sick? What if I had been robbed while paying my rent for half a year in cash? (This happened to a classmate. And yes, I paid cash to my shady orthodontist land-lord in exchange for never facing a rent increase.) What if I had been arrested and had to pay legal fees (it was NYC, there were reasons)? What if I had not gotten a job right away or not had a supportive partner to help me bear the burden?

And all of these questions come after the question, what if I had been born looking like someone who isn’t me? As human beings, we have an insistent and necessary capability for denial—I mean, we walk around every day acting like we are not going to die and all. But this also means that we deny the essential precarity that attends each of our lives and take credit for the fact that bad shit does not happen every day. This is not a true view of the world. People slip on sidewalks and get concussions; people get cancer; people get treated like shit by other people; shit happens and too much of it is out of our control.

The Sportula is a force of good in the universe, designed and aimed at exerting just a little bit of corrective control. Microgrants may seem minor, but when you can’t make ends meet and need just a little help, they are the thing. This work is small in the every day, but aggregated over time it is transformative. The Sportula is that group of friends who threw a party for a kid whose apartment burned down. But they do it every day for people they don’t know.

Please, give some money to The Sportula. They make me believe in the basic goodness of humankind.

 

Seneca, De Beneficiis 4

“All generosity hurries—it is characteristic of one who does something willingly to do it quickly. If someone comes to help slowly or drags it out day by day, he does not do it sincerely. And he has thus lost the two most important things: time and a sign of his willing friendship. To be slowly willing is a sign of being unwilling.”

Omnis benignitas properat, et proprium est libenter facientis cito facere; qui tarde et diem de die extrahens profuit, non ex animo fecit. Ita duas res maximas perdidit, et tempus et argumentum amicae voluntatis; tarde velle nolentis est.

Figs in a basket, Fresco (Pompeii)