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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Some Cool Projects from Greek Classes

Zenobius 1.89

“The doors of the muses are open”: a proverb applied to those readily acquiring the best things in their education.”

᾿Ανεῳγμέναι Μουσῶν θύραι: ἐπὶ τῶν ἐξ ἑτοίμου λαμβανόντων τὰ κάλλιστα τῶν ἐν παιδείᾳ.

I have shared some of my successes and failures from Greek Classes before on this site–I like to celebrate student achievements where I can and also share the little bit I learn about trying to get out of their way while they are in the business of actually learning. Two of my colleagues at other universities have shared some of their student projects this semester, and I think both projects deserve wider notice.

Podcasting the Iliad

Dr. Deborah Beck at the University of Texas had her students produce podcasts on specific passages from Homer’s Iliad. (Deborah has created a great list of instructions she is happy to share with anyone who contacts her.) Each podcast lasts about 12 minutes and can be listened to in sequence or as a standalone piece. The podcasts started as class presentations and were be expanded with reflections on the process of preparing a class as well as the content. The podcasts are produced by the students and they are of a fine quality–they are listenable, personable and enjoyable. The discussions are deep and indicative of sustained and meaningful engagements with the text. After just a few minutes of listening, I became convinced that this is a project worth repeating.

Dr. Beck starts the project off herself with a nice introduction and a discussion of Iliad 22.199-213. In looking at Hektor’s flight from Achilles provides her an opportunity to think about divine engagement in the war “helps to …make the Iliad a universal story of loss and war rather than a more simplistic and less interesting victory song of the Greeks.”

The first student presentation by Ethan Russo looks at Achilles’ reflection on Hektor and his treatment of the body. Ethan emphasizes the emotive experience of reading the passage out-loud as a method in re-embodying the text. The third episode turns to Andromache’s laments for Hektor and how the narrator characterizes her ignorance (“evoking the distance between Andromache’s expectations and reality”). Sam Ross’s reflections on presenting this text in class are a personal and useful reminder of what it is like for anyone to plan a class.

Altogether the podcasts provide an intimate view of the tools and assumptions that shape the way we read Homer together. Claudia Cockerell brings us to the beginning of book 23 in the 4th episode and asks us to think about the catharsis of the coming funeral. She starts with a reading of the appearance of Patroklos at the beginning of the book and “the fact that Patroklos thinks they will be able to embrace one more time further underlines how little he knows of the current situation”. Claudia communicates her own deep conflict in witnessing the dream sequence and being unsure of which character deserves our pity.

In Episode 5, Austin McDow  expands on the simile which precedes Priam’s supplication of Achilles in the middle of book 24 (24.424-506). Austin does a great job of invoking the basic themes of Priam’s katabasis before turning to the simile–he summarizes how his fellow students responded to his simile and the potentially ungovernable range of responses to such a charged moment.

In Episode 6, Rachel Pritchett focuses on Achilles’ response to Priam’s request–she surveys each of Achilles’ speeches in book 24 to show how each one of them emphasizes “important insights into the character’s worldview, emotions, and sympathies.” Staying with this movement, Trey Timson uses Episode 7 to talk about Achilles’ myth of Niobe in book 24. This paradeigma (a hero’s telling of a previous myth for a specific purpose) is one of the more hotly debated topics in Homeric scholarship.  Trey brings together multiple interpretations and the conventional tale to bear on the strangeness and power of this moment. He notes smartly that ancient audiences might not be troubled by contradictions–he sees a blend of different traditions operative at the same time. (He spends an extra bit of time focusing on the importance of sitos (“grain”) in this passage.)

Episode 8 (which comes a bit out of order) looks at the final 100 lines of the Iliad. Lauryn Hanely  provides a proud overview of the poem’s end, starting with a tangent about the importance of a three-act structure for works of art, separating the poem into three parts. For her, books 23 and 24 present the denouement of the three-part movement. Lauren goes through the powerful laments that close the epic’s final book

One of the neatest things about this project is that it is clear that the students have listened to each other both inside and outside of class and that their interpretation of the poem is a both a product of and producer of a community, the very thing the Homeric poems are too.

Gnomologium Vaticanum, 469

 [Plato] used to say that someone being educated needs three things: ability, practice and time.”

῾Ο αὐτὸς ἔλεγεν ὅτι ὁ παιδευόμενος τριῶν τούτων χρῄζει· φύσεως, μελέτης, χρόνου.

Lysias Puppet Show

Dr. Suzanne Lye’s Greek class at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill did a puppet show based on Lysias’ “Murder of Eratosthenes”.

Ok, this is awesome. Puppets? Murder? There is something for everyone! In all seriousness, it is a great exercise for teamwork, pronunciation, and a deeper understanding of the speech. The show replays part of the case–this is some Law and Order stuff here–which means students have to investigate material culture and the legal background more extensively than one might in a typical class.

If you have any great projects with an online presence, let me know. I would be happy to share them.

Image result for homer's iliad

Stob. 2.31.38

“Noble Socrates reproached fathers who did not teach their sons and then, when they were destitute, took their sons to court and sued them as ungrateful because they did not support their parents. He said that the fathers were expecting something impossible: those who have not learned just actions are incapable of performing them”

Σωκράτης ὁ γενναῖος ᾐτιᾶτο τῶν πατέρων ἐκείνους, ὅσοι <μὴ> παιδεύσαντες αὑτῶν τοὺς υἱεῖς, εἶτα ἀπορούμενοι ἦγον ἐπὶ τὰς ἀρχὰς τοὺς νεανίσκους καὶ ἔκρινον αὐτοὺς ἀχαριστίας, ὅτι οὐ τρέφονται ὑπ᾿ αὐτῶν. εἶπε γὰρ ἀδύνατον ἀξιοῦν τοὺς πατέρας· μὴ γὰρ οἵους τε εἶναι τοὺς μὴ μαθόντας τὰ δίκαια ποιεῖν αὐτά.

The New Sappho Poem: a Student Commentary

As part of an in-class, group assignment, I had my Greek Lyric class collaborate on writing a commentary on the new Sappho Poem. The students had to read Obbink 2014 (below), scan the poem, translate it, and then we went through and marked the sections which needed to be commented upon. The students worked in groups to create a commentary geared towards students who primarily know attic Greek. The translation below the commentary is mine. We welcome suggestions and additions.

The New Sappho (Aka “Brothers Poem”)

ἀλλ’ ἄϊ θρύληϲθα Χάραξον ἔλθην
νᾶϊ ϲὺµ πλέαι· τὰ µέν̣, οἴο̣µα̣ι, Ζεῦϲ
οἶδε ϲύµπαντέϲ τε θέοι· ϲὲ δ’ ̣οὐ χρῆ
ταῦτα νόειϲθαι

ἀλλὰ καὶ πέµπην ἔµε καὶ κέλ{η}`ε΄ϲθαι
πόλλα λί̣ϲϲεϲθαι̣ βαϲί̣λ̣η̣αν Ἤ̣ραν
ἐξίκεϲθαι τυίδε ϲάαν ἄγοντα
νᾶα Χάραξον,

κἄµµ’ ἐπεύρην ἀρτ̣έ̣µεαϲ· τὰ δ’ ἄλλα
πάντα δαιµόνεϲϲ̣ιν ἐπι̣τ̣ρόπωµεν·
εὐδίαι̣ γ̣ὰρ̣ ἐκ µεγάλαν ἀήτα̣ν̣
αἶψα πέ̣λ̣ο̣νται·

τῶν κε βόλληται βαϲίλευϲ Ὀλύµπω
δαίµον’ ἐκ πόνων ἐπάρ{η}`ω΄γον ἤδη
περτρόπην, κῆνοι µ̣άκαρεϲ πέλονται
καὶ πολύολβοι.

κ̣ἄµµεϲ, αἴ κε τὰν κεφάλα̣ν ἀέρρη
Λάρι̣χοϲ καὶ δήποτ’ ἄνη̣ρ γένηται,
καὶ µάλ’ ἐκ πόλλ{η}`αν΄ βαρ̣υθύ̣µιάν̣ κεν
αἶψα λύθειµεν.

h/t to Armand D’Angour for some improvements to the commentary

Commentary

1. Ἄϊ: take as ἀεί, “always”, while scanning the meter is
read as short-long

Θρύληϲθα: θρυλεω- to blabber or chat incessantly. 2nd, singular, preset, middle,
indicative  of θρύλημι, the Aeolic form of θρυλέω.

Χάραξον: Sappho’s brother, referenced by both Herodotus and Posidippus, inclusion
of this name aided in the identification of this poem

ἔλθην: Aeolic aorist infinitive of ἒρχομαι

2. Ϲὺµ: Aeolic form of συν, compare with Latin cum

Πλέαι: adjective, ship full, to not be confused with πλέω (“to sail”)

τὰ µέν̣…ϲὲ δ’: correlative structure; τὰ µέν pronomial use

οἶδε: 3rd singularindicative active of the verb οἶδα, to know

5. Πέµπην: infinitive used as imperative
Κέλ{η}`ε΄ϲθαι: from κέλομαι ; infinitive used as imperative

7. Τυίδε: Aeolic for τῇδε
Ϲάαν: alternative form of adjective “σως”; contract for σόος, σοῦς

8. Νᾶα: aeolic form for accusative singular of ship “ναῦς”

9. κἄµµ’:και + ἄμμε, Aeolic form of Attic ἣμιν
ἐπεύρην: Aeolic aorist infinitive of ἐφευρίσκω

10. Ἐπι̣τ̣ρόπωµεν: hortatory subjunctive

11. µεγάλαν ἀήτα̣ν̣: Aeolic genitive plural form, large gales (of wind). Final syllables
should be scanned as a long

12. πέ̣λ̣ο̣νται: 3rd, plural, present, middle, indicative from πέ̣λ̣ω, an Aeolic equivalent
to εἰμί and γίγνομαι

13. Τῶν κε: genitive used substantively, i.e. “of whomever”; correlative with the κῆνοι in line 15. Obbink (2014) takes it as a relative pronoun used as a genitive of possession.

Βόλληται- Aeolic form of the Attic Βούληται

Ὀλύμπω: genitive, singular, masculine; alternate genitive ending where the -οιο
ending in the uncontracted Ὀλύμποιο is shorted to -ω instead of -ου.

14. Ἐπάρ{η}’ω’γον: a later correction of the manuscript reading of “ἐπάρηγον,” an
unaugmented 1st singular or 3rd plural imperfect form from ἐπάρηγω, to “ἐπάρωγον,”a noun in this context used as a predicate accusative meaning “as a helper.”

17. Κ̣ἄµµεϲ: Aeolic for Attic ἡμεῖς. κἄµµεϲ: Aeolic for καὶ ἡμεῖς (with crasis i.e. stuck together like κἄµµ’ in line 9).

17. αἴ κε: general clause; the protasis is a future more vivid, while the apodosis is a
future less vivid, resulting in a “future more or less vivid”; modal particle in the
apodosis denotes a hyper-unreal situation

17-20. Ἀέργη corrected to ἀέρρη as the former is not attested. ἀέρρη = αἴρῃ ‘raises’ (pres. subj. of the Aeolic equivalent)  third person singular, present subjunctive active. Double-rho form appears in Sappho,
fr. 111.3: ἀέρρετε τέκτονες ἄνδρες·

Translation

“But you are always saying that Kharaksos

Is coming with a full ship. These things, I think,

Zeus knows along with the rest of the gods. But it is not right

That you consider them.

 

Instead, both send me and order me

To plead much with queen Hera

That Kharaksos comes here

Leading a safe ship

 

And finds us all safe. Let’s entrust the rest of it

To the gods. For days of fair weather

Come quickly from

Great gales.

 

For whomever the king of Olympos

Wishes to set a god as a helper from toils,

Those people are blessed

And very wealthy.

 

And we, if Larikos should ever raise his head

And then in some way become a man,

We would be quickly relieved of our

Great heaviness of heart.”

 

Bibliography 

Allan, William, and Laura Swift. “Introduction to “Moralizing Strategies in Early Greek Poetry”.” (2018): 3-6.

Bettenworth, Anja. “Sapphos Amme: ein Beitrag zum neuen Sapphofragment (Brothers Poem).” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, no. 191 (2014): 15-19.

Bierl, Anton, and André Lardinois. The newest Sappho. P. Sapph. Obbink and P. GC inv. 105, frs. 1-4. Vol. 392. Brill, 2016.

Burris, Simon Peter, Fish, Jeffrey and Obbink, Dirk D.. “New fragments of Book 1 of Sappho.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, no. 189 (2014): 1-28.

Danielewicz, Jerzy. “Early Greek lyric and Hellenistic epigram: new evidence from recently published papyri.” The Journal of Juristic Papyrology 43 (2013): 263-275.

Gribble, David. “Getting ready to pray: Sappho’s new « brothers » song.” Greece and Rome Ser. 2 63, no. 1 (2016): 29-68. Doi: 10.1017/S0017383515000248

Lardinois, André. “Sappho’s Brothers Song and the Fictionality of Early Greek Lyric Poetry.” BIERL, A. y LARDINOIS, A.(Eds.) (2016): 167-187.

LIBERMAN, GL. “Reflections on a New Poem by Sappho concerning her Anguish and her Brothers Charaxos and Larichos.” Reception of Greek Literature 300 BC-AD 800: Traditions of the Fragment (2015).

Martin, Richard P. “Sappho, Iambist: abusing the brother.” Bierl, A. y Lardinois, A.(Eds.) (2016): 110-126.

Mueller, Melissa, “Re-Centering Epic Nostos: Gender and Genre in Sappho’s Brothers
Poem,” Arethusa 49 (2016) 25-46.

Nagy, Gregory. “A poetics of sisterly affect in the Brothers Song and in other songs of Sappho.” Bierl, A. y Lardinois, A (2016): 449-492.

Neri, Camillo. “Il « Brothers Poem » e l’edizione alessandrina: (in margine a « P. Sapph. Obbink »).” Eikasmos 26 (2015): 53-76

Obbink, Dirk. “Interim notes on « Two new poems of Sappho ».” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, no. 194 (2015): 1-8

Obbink, Dirk. “Provenance, Authenticity, and Text of the New Sappho Papyri.” Society for (2015).

Obbink, Dirk D.. “Two new poems by Sappho.” Zeitschrift für Papyrologie und Epigraphik, no. 189 (2014): 32-49.

Velasco López, María del Henar. “La súplica a Hera en el « Poema de los Hermanos » de Safo.” Emerita 84, no. 2 (2016): 343-351. Doi: 10.3989/emerita.2016.17.1520

Image result for new sappho

Some Student Projects from Ancient Greek Class

When I was a sophomore in high school my Latin teacher assigned us each some new part of grammar to teach to the class. For most teachers now, this probably seems like a rather simple exercise, but for me then it was the first time I had encountered such an assignment. I got the double dative construction. I have never forgotten it.

Even though I had this important experience, I never really thought about its impact until years later. Like many of us, I started to teach Latin and Greek because I love the literature–this means my whole focus in teaching has been to shove as much grammar and vocabulary into young minds as possible so that they can get to the ‘important’ work as soon as possible.

But as I taught–or more often, failed to teach–Greek over the years and learned more about pedagogy and assessment, I kept returning to that exercise in Latin class. Over the years I have tried to integrate active learning and experiential learning into daily language instruction. I have also moved away from conventional grading–I have long made it a rule that if you mess up all semester but can read Greek to the level needed at the end of the course, whatever percentages are on the syllabus really don’t matter.

(From experience and theory, I don’t think grades do what we want them to do in general. But when it comes to learning something as incredibly complex as a language over multiple semesters, grading the wrong way is a serious impediment to learning.)

Over the years I have tried many alternative types of assessments in lieu of heavily graded exams: I tried self reflection sheets and questions for each chapter; I tried small group work with portfolios and self-assessments. I tried these in concert with regular quizzes (especially on vocabulary and morphology). I’ll basically do anything to get better results in class. But I am really skeptical that my methodological changes make that much difference.

One thing that does seem to help are student projects. I always have these too close to the end of the semester to be truly impactful (ideally they should be spread throughout the semester). I leave things really open: students have to pick something they don’t understand or want to learn about and design some sort of ‘teaching tool’ to  help either introduce the topic or practice using the material.

Invariably the students design activities that are more creative and more fun than anything I do in class. Here’s a selection of what some of my students designed this semester

  1. Principal Part Connect the Dots: One student decided to design a connect-the-dot that required you to know principal parts, Bonus points for Greek-Themed Images.

2. Word Puzzle: Another student took sentences from Plato and broke them up into words. We had to put the sentences back together based on our understanding of Greek Grammar. This and the last would work great in digital form as well

 

3. Irregular Verb Jeopardy: Like Jeopardy, but with Irregular verbs. This is harder than you think.

4. Imperative Menu and Fortune Cookies: Another student made an elaborate restaurant menu of imperative types and, as part of dessert, made a bunch of Greek fortunes (she even tried to make the cookies for the fortunes–the cookies didn’t happen, but the Greek prose comp did.

 

5. Lego Participles! Another student submitted a set of Legos modified for the construction of Greek participles. How cool is that?

Other projects: Songs to remember conditionals (with written music); a form of twister adapted to the use and generation of imperatives; and songs/chants to remember prepositions with multiple meanings.

A List of Women Authors from the Ancient World

I am reposting this list for International Women’s day. I would also like to ask for help from anyone who would like to aid in creating individual posts for each of the names in this list and any that have been left out.

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. Many of the testimonia and fragments concerning these authors have also not been collected. Please email me (joel@brandeis.edu) if you would like to post a guest entry or two.

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 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

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

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 behaviour of women, two extracts of which are preserved by Stobaeus.” –Wikipedia

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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Scamming on Skammonia

I have a graduate student working on spices in the ancient world. Expect random posts this semester.

Hesychius

“Skilla: skammônia, it brings death to mice.”

σκίλλα· σκαμμωνία, θανατηφόρος μυῶν

Suda

“Skammônia: a type of plant.”

Σκαμμωνία: εἶδος βοτάνης.

Convolvulvus Scammonia

Galen De Theriaca ad Pisonem 14.223

“just as scammony appears to treat yellow bile”

ὥσπερ ἡ σκαμμωνία ξανθὴν χολὴν ἕλκουσα φαίνεται.

Aetius, Med. 3.25.2

“Scammony: Scammony especially treats yellow bile. But it causes cardiac distress,  a bad smell, melancholy, and it makes people really thirsty,”

῀Σκαμμωνία. ῾Η δὲ ϲκαμμωνία ἄγει μάλιϲτα χολὴν ξανθήν· καρδιαλγὴϲ δέ ἐϲτι καὶ δύϲοϲμοϲ καὶ ἀτερπὴϲ καὶ ἄγαν διψώδηϲ.

 

Image result for scammony

Using The Ancient World to Think about Leadership

In a class of mine this semester on Leadership in the Ancient World, students were asked to work in groups for their final project and to use some inspiration from ancient literature and history to develop approaches to teaching about leadership.

The project had few other instructions besides that; and the students developed some entertaining and fabulous final products.

One group, inspired by Homer and discussions of the metaphor of “shepherd of the host”, created a Jenga Challenge–they asked groups of students around campus to designate a leader and complete a giant Jenga task in exchange for cookies. I would tell you more, but the video tells it all.

Another group of students, inspired by decision-making scenes in the Odyssey made a choose your own adventure comic book based on the scene in Polyphemos’ cave. The site Pixton has the digital version, but the paper edition is amazing.

choose your own

Another group banded together and started a website called HomerandHomies where they are sharing their own stories, experiments, interviews and thoughts about the ancient world and leadership.  Any summary here fails to describe their work.

Some highlights include: an analysis of the Beatles’ leadership issues informed by the conflict between Achilles and Agamemnon; A piece of fiction about a football team based on Odysseus’ struggles to get home; leadership advice from that wily hero Himself; and a debate about education modeled on Plato’s Lesser Hippias..

To all readers, check out these projects.  To my students, I cannot express my gratitude for a wonderful semester.