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A Roman Women Reader: Selections from the Second Century BCE through Second Century CE

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Series: BC Latin Readers
Authors: Sheila K. Dickison, Judith P. Hallett
Product Code: 6625
ISBN: 978-0-86516-662-2
Availability: In stock.
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This selection of Latin readings, drawn from texts in a variety of genres across four centuries, aims to provide a comprehensive and accurate picture of the images and realities of women in Roman antiquity. Depicted in the readings are both historical and fictional women, of varying ages and at different stages of life, from a range of social classes, and from different locales. We see them dramatized—sometimes in their own words—in the roles the women actually played, as wives and mothers, friends and lovers. This Reader differs from others in showing women in explicitly erotic roles, in drawing some of its passages from "archaic" Latin, and in encouraging a variety of critical approaches, all suitable for its intended college-level audience.


Special Features

  • Introduction to the study of Roman women
  • 780 lines of unadapted Latin text in 21 readings, drawn largely from literary sources (Plautus, Cato the Elder, Cornelius Nepos, Livy, Aulus Gellius, Cicero, Horace, Tibullus, Propertius, Ovid, Petronius, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Sulpicia, Martial, Juvenal), with a few from inscriptions and other documents
  • Notes at the back and complete vocabulary
  • Suggested reading; time line
  • 3 illustrations

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Reviews

Review by: Emily Hauser - February 2, 2016

In producing a collection of sources which illuminate the lives of Roman women, Sheila K. Dickison and Judith P. Hallett have made a valuable addition to the growing number of sourcebooks and readers introducing students to the lives and experiences of women in antiquity. A Roman Women Reader is a stimulating teaching aid that enables a combined learning approach to Latin, the ancient world, and gender studies. The publication collates passages from works that are usually excluded from standard Latin textbooks and looks beyond the traditional canon of authors such as Catullus, Cicero, Caesar, Virgil, Horace, Ovid and Livy, to embrace a broad selection of readings from different time periods – the inclusion of archaic authors like Plautus and Cato the Elder is particularly unusual. The passages are drawn from a range of genres such as drama, elegy, history, biography, letter-writing and satire. Various types of media are successfully incorporated, from literary texts, to funerary inscriptions, to the Vindolanda tablets. The Reader subverts the paradigm for Latin learning which does not consider women intrinsically, as individuals or as members of larger social entities, and which thus fails to explore the problematic representation of women, or emphasises the misogynistic sentiments often voiced by ancient authors. Dickison and Hallett deliberately situate the publication within the rise in scholarly interest in ancient women’s experiences, lives, and depictions. At an affordable price, the Reader is designed to broaden accessibility to this burgeoning field of research beyond the academic specialist to college and university students who can read, or are learning to read, more advanced Latin. The function of the work to facilitate a critical awareness of gender in ancient source material is therefore of primary importance.


The Reader is divided into an introduction, Latin text, commentary, timeline, and vocabulary. The work is structured around 21 Latin passages, none of which exceeds 3 pages. In contrast with Raia, Luschnig and Sebesta's The Worlds of Roman Women, Dickison and Hallett have chosen to organise the passages chronologically rather than thematically. This arrangement, so the authors suggest, is designed to illustrate the major linguistic changes in Latin from republic to empire, and the intertextual allusions made by later authors to earlier works (p. xvi). The diversity of source material within what is a relatively small amount of Latin is crucial in producing a pedagogical text that is dynamic and stimulating, but that also avoids a monolithic or reductive representation of Roman women.


Two additional teaching resources are provided within the volume: the bibliography at the end of the introduction, which is thorough and serves to point the reader towards further research on Roman women, and the timeline which follows the commentary. The timeline provides a framework of dates for the composition of the Latin material and is useful in contextualising the sources in chronological relation to one another. However the addition of key dates in Roman history might have been helpful in order to situate the sources within their respective eras, especially in light of the introduction which specifically frames the work within a periodised approach to Roman history (p. xvi).


The main strength of the volume, and its appeal as a teaching resource, lies in the dynamic intertext forged between the wide-ranging choice of source materials in combination with the thoughtful and concise commentary. The commentary which accompanies the passages is the fertile core of the work and by far the lengthiest portion at 137 pages, introducing each passage of text and its author before paraphrasing the content and themes of the passage in English. Much of the line-by-line commentary is engaged with grammatical and syntactical explanation, which is supplemented by the full and helpful vocabulary at the back of the book, as well as touching upon issues of content and intertext. Questions of the portrayal of women and other social, historical, or literary concerns are raised in the commentary, providing rich material for class discussion. The presentation of the Latin passages is clear and accessible and includes detailed references. None of the selections are overly long, which helps to sustain the readers’ attention. Preceding the Latin passages is a useful list of ‘Latin text credits’ which enables the student to contextualise the readings within the source from which the excerpted material was taken.


The broad agenda of Dickison and Hallett’s Reader is to provide textual evidence of the lives of Roman women to students who might not otherwise have had access to such material, and to introduce advanced Latin students to non-canonical texts. This is amply achieved. The strength of the content of the selections, all of which are interesting in their own right, and the diversity of passages, promises to engage the attention of those studying the ancient world. The inclusion of Cicero’s invective against Clodia Metelli (Reading 8) in the same volume as letters written by the wife of a Roman military officer on the borders of the empire (Reading 19), for example, cannot but provoke discussion about our understanding of the lives of Roman women – how their own words and the words of canonical male authors depict them differently; and how their representation shifts across different geographical locations, different genres, and different time periods. Opening this volume is like opening up a (very sensible and considered) provocation. Dickison and Hallett’s selection of texts, in their variety and their crossing of boundaries of canon, genre, time and space, becomes a statement of the complexity of understanding the “real lives” of Roman women. But it is also an invitation to discover how rewarding the acknowledgement and discussion of such complexity can be.

—Emily Hauser and Victoria Leonard

Review by: Caitlin Gillespie, Temple University - August 6, 2015

Dickison and Hallett’s intermediate/advanced reader aims to introduce students to the study of Roman women in the manner of a sourcebook, to trace developments in the Latin language, and to present numerous critical approaches to the central topic of Roman women, while providing grammar and syntax assistance for students transitioning from graded readers to advanced commentaries.1 In 780 lines of Latin from texts written across four centuries, this unique selection of readings is “designed specifically to furnish Latin students with a comprehensive and accurate picture of what our sources relate about the images and realities of women in Roman antiquity” (xv).


The editors have utilized a chronological rather than thematic organization, distinguishing their work from Raia, Luschnig, and Sebesta’s intermediate Latin reader, The Worlds of Roman Women.2 In addition, their expansive purview includes more challenging archaic material, a wide selection of documentary and inscriptional evidence, and passages concerning female erotic desire. The reader opens with Plautus’ Casina and closes with Aulus Gellius on the captio of the Vestal Virgins, and includes excerpts from Cato the Elder, Nepos (Cornelia), Livy, Cicero, Horace, Tibullus (Sulpicia), Propertius, Ovid, Petronius, Suetonius, Pliny the Younger, Sulpicia, Martial, and Juvenal. Readers are prompted to trace three themes throughout: the influence of genre, the depiction of women as “same” and “other”, and how female-authored texts confirm or contradict male stereotypes about women (xiii).3


Dickison and Hallett have the difficult task of presenting a cohesive set of texts centered on a theme, while providing sufficient grammar and syntax guidance for the upper - intermediate student, as well as interpretive issues and questions inviting student discussion. Passages range in difficulty, and the commentary outlines the grammar of more elusive sections, rearranging elliptical phrases and sometimes providing translations (e.g. Tibullus (Sulpicia) 3.16). Several passages highlight specific grammatical and literary features, providing opportunities for presentation and review. Plautus’ Casina introduces archaism; Cato's outline of the vilica's duties reviews future imperatives and jussive subjunctives. Literary devices are defined throughout: Cicero's condemnation of Clodia challenges students to identify prosopopeia, hendiadys, anaphora, and asyndeton.


Introductions to each passage give the literary and historical context, and present the purpose of the inclusion of the passage. Passages prioritize historical women and first person narratives in order to elucidate the lives of women from a range of ages, classes, and locales. The familiar character sketches of Lucretia, Sempronia, Turia, and Dido are absent, replaced by the words of Cornelia, the two Sulpicias, and Claudia Severa. Selections speak across the centuries to reflect Roman cultural attitudes, stereotypes, and social practices. Common motifs include female erotic desire, overbearing mothers, and domestic concerns regarding marriage, adultery, and divorce. Within the primarily negative representations are observations about women with property (Clodia, Eumachia), pride in one’ s ancestry (Suetonius), female artistry (Sulpicia, Ovid), education and writing (Pliny the Younger, the Vindolanda Tablets), and religion (Aulus Gellius).


The chronological framework allows students to trace developments in the Latin language, and specific word choice and literary devices illustrate cultural themes. Pliny’s use of concordiam in letter 4.19 prompts the observation, "In this period 'harmony' in a married relationship has become a very important ideal for Romans" (157 ad 19 – 20). In Cicero's Pro Caelio, the phrase in gloria muliebri distinguishes the sexes: "Noble Roman males and females achieved a high reputation in totally different ways. The moral reputation of a noblewoman was based largely on her display of chaste behavior" (88 ad 27–28). The excitement of the editors is ubiquitous: in Petronius' Satyricon, expugnare provides "military terminology!" (140 ad 37), while the use of castae and pudicitiam "reminds us of the matrona's claim to fame, now under siege and shortly to surrender!" (14 2 ad 51).


One of the main strengths of the volume is its inclusion of passages for comparison. Epitaphs provide glimpses of life outside the elite and away from Rome: before we read Augustan elegiac poetry, we investigate the playful, erotic undertones of a funerary inscription written in elegiac meter (CIL VI.18324). Certain readings combine related materials: the manipulative Clodia of Cicero's Pro Caelio emerges as a wealthy landowner in Cicero's letters (Reading 8), and the Fulvia of Cicero's Philippics is further denounced in sling bullet inscriptions from the Perusine War (Reading 9). Four Sulpicia poems are joined by the epitaph of Petale Sulpicia that helped "quell suspicions about Sulpicia’s authorship," as well as a letter from Sulpicia's father to Cicero (133, Reading 11). Reading 3 tenuously pairs the letter of Cornelia with Livy’s Sophoniba, an African queen that may have provided a moral example for Cornelia, "at least as Livy characterizes her" (56). Sophoniba is a powerful example of a foreign woman committing a noble suicide, similar to Horace's Cleopatra and Vergil's Dido.


Bolchazy - Carducci readers may be used in conjunction with other texts; this text would pair well with Catullus or Roman elegy, Livy book one or Aeneid book four (alluded to in Tibullus (Sulpicia) 3.9, Sophoniba’s suicide, Petronius' Satyricon, and the Tabula Vindolanda 2.291). The introduction is accompanied by an excellent starter bibliography; a timeline and complete vocabulary list end the volume. Images of the sling bullets, Vindolanda tablets, and representative inscriptions would be useful. For example, the editors note that a "reversed C in Latin inscriptions signifies Caiae = Gaiae" in CIL I.2.1570 (74 ad 1), but we do not see the epitaph under discussion. In addition, while the meter is noted for all verse texts, a brief metrical guide would be helpful. These quibbles are few, and readers are sure to emerge with a multiplicity of images regarding the lived realities of Roman women from texts rarely discussed in the undergraduate Latin classroom. The reviewer looks forward to putting this text to good use.


Caitlin Gillespie,
Temple University


1E.g. Page xvi cites as a model Bonnie MacLachlan. Women in Ancient Rome: A Sourcebook. London and New York: Bloomsbury Press, 2013.

2 Ann Raia, Cecilia Luschnig, and Judith Lynn Sebesta. The Worlds of Roman Women: A Latin Reader. Newburyport, MA. Focus Press: 2005. The online companion can be found here: online companion

3Cf. Judith Hallett. "Women as 'Same' and 'Other' in [the] Classical Roman Elite." Helios 16.1 (1989) 59-78.

Review: The Euroclassicist - January 23, 2015
http://theeuroclassicist.blogspot.co.uk/2015/01/roman-women.html
Review by: Sharon Kazmierski, The Classical Outlook - June 1, 2009
GOOD THINGS COME IN SMALL PACKAGES Bolchazy-Carducci has recently commenced launching the first titles in its Latin Reader series, a new collection of innovative high intermediate and advanced Latin readers, specifically designed for college-level study. Under the expert guidance of series editor Ronnie Ancona, Professor of Classics at Hunter College and The Graduate Center, City University of New York, these small, duodecimo-sized paperbacks are intended to introduce authors and genres to students in upper division undergraduate courses. Written by recognized experts, each book will include approximately 500-600 lines of authentic Latin text, accompanied by a thorough introduction, bibliography of suggested reading, annotated commentary, and full vocabulary. There are currently two volumes available, A Lucan Reader: Selections from Civil war (ISBN 978-0865166615) by Susanna Braund and A Terence Reader: Selections from Six Plays (978-0865166783) by William S. Anderson. According to the Bolchazy website, seventeen additional volumes are currently scheduled to be issued. Upcoming authors include Plautus, Sallust, Cicero, Sueconius, Tacitus, Vergil, Caesar, Martial, Apuleius, and Livy. Topics co be covered include Roman Women, Roman Verse Satire, Latin Epic, and Roman Army. Additional authors and themes are under consideration. The inaugural volume, A Lucan Reader, is an introduction to the Silver Age epic poem (often referred to as Pharsalia) retelling the events of the Civil War between Julius Caesar and Pompey. Rarely studied by third and fourth-year college Latin students, this reader provides the opportunity for advanced undergraduates to sample some difficult but fascinating Latin. Following a detailed and compelling introduction, Braund has selected high interest passages: the causes of the Civil war, Caesar at the Rubicon, the abandonment of Rome, the necromancy of Erichtho, Pompey's visitation by Julia's ghost, and Caesar in Troy. I have never read Lucan, bur now find myself intrigued. The second volume, A Terence Reader, released just this summer, is an introduction to Roman Comedy. Following a consistent format, Anderson's introduction provides essential background for students and a brief history of Roman Comedy. He then proceeds to explain what made Terence's plays unique, original and thought-provoking. Selections in this volume include excerpts from Andria, Heauton, Phormia, Hecyra, Eunuchus, and Adelphoe, followed by commentary to put the passages in context and provide grammatical assistance. There is also a helpful appendix, with information regarding comic meters. Fans of comedy will be happy to know that the next volume in the series, to be released later this year, will be A Plautus Reader: Selections from Eleven Plays (ISBN 978- 0-86516-694-2) by John Henderson. Given the size of these short readers, teachers and professors should find them useful when customizing a course. Professor Ancona notes that they are ideal for use in combination. I observe that they are inexpensive ($19.95) compared to many college textbooks. Instructors can feel free to mix and match authors and themes to suit their curriculum without causing too much damage to their students' bank accounts. Motivated readers of Latin can sample new authors and themes with expert guidance. Secondary school teachers may even wish to challenge their skilled Advanced Placement students after completing the exam, using some of these selections as a follow-up to the anticipated Caesar/Vergil syllabus. To discover more about this intriguing new collection, visit the BC Latin Readers website at http://www.bolchazy. com/readers/ where you can find out more about what will be included in each volume as well as read a short biography of each series author. To see Bolchazy's complete catalog, visit the main website at http://www.bolchazy.com. Questions may be directed to their customer service at info@bolchazy.com. You may also write their headquarters at Bolchazy-Carducci Publishers, Inc., 1570 Baskin Road, Mundelein, Illinois 60060, Tel, (800) 392- 6453, Fax: (847) 526-2867. -Sharon Kazmierski The Clearing House, Classical Outlook Fall 2009
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