Published in Issue 27 of Visionary Tongue, Autumn 2011.
Since the publication of Sarah Pomeroy’s book (Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity) in 1975, the awareness that women in antiquity have been denied their own historical narrative has increased, sometimes with controversial results.
Blundell’s monograph remains a ground-breaking attempt to consolidate the existing scholarship on the representation of women, with a clear objective to provide an accessible overview. The introduction to Women in Ancient Greece effectively illuminates the limitations of the sources available, and recognises that the scope of this book remains by necessity, populated by specifically Athenian women who belong to the ‘upper echelons of the citizen body’ (p.10). Blundell provides an additional caveat that her historical focus is further narrowed to the period from 750 BC – 336 BC.
Women in Ancient Greece is organised into four parts, the first dealing with the representation of women which Blundell characterises as having an ‘obvious element of fantasy’ (p.10) while the remaining parts pursue a chronological study of the social reality of women during the Archaic and Classical Ages, finishing with a short postscript. A comprehensive bibliography and index compliment forty-five black and white illustrations, the majority again from an Athenian context.
This remains an assessable sourcebook, providing English translations for longer quotes and judicially employing Greek terminology as required. Despite the monograph’s unavoidable Athenian bias, Women in Ancient Greece remains successful in achieving its core objectives of providing an overview of women‘s social reality and their place in the literary and visual representations of the period. Blundell’s assessment and sharply defined historical period aids the cohesion of this evidence considered.
Mass: Harvard University Press, 1995. 224pp
Review by Jamie Spracklen