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Soranus, of Ephesus, physician  

Helen King

Under *Trajan and *Hadrian (ce 98–138), studied at *Alexandria (1) and practised at Rome.

He wrote around twenty books, their subjects including a wide range of medical topics (e.g. On Hygiene, On Acute and Chronic Diseases), medical biography, commentaries and discussions of grammar and etymology. Those surviving in Greek are sections and fragments of On Signs of Fractures and On Bandages—these may both belong to the same lost work, On the Art of Surgery—and Gynaecology. The latter gives valuable information on *gynaecology and obstetrics in the Roman empire, and is divided into

(1) the midwife, female anatomy and conception;

(2)*childbirth and the care of the newborn;

(3)*pathology and diet;

(4)*surgery and drugs (see pharmacology ).

Soranus shared the theoretical standpoint of the Methodists (see medicine , § 5.3), but his version of Methodism was less schematic in its classification of diseases, giving more space for individual variation between patients.



Patricia Watson

Stepmothers in the ancient world had a bad reputation, especially in Rome, where the stereotype of the cruel stepmother (saeva noverca) was so prevalent that the historian Tacitus could employ it to cast aspersions on historical figures such as Livia and Agrippina the Younger. In contrast to stepfathers and the younger generation of step-relatives, stepmothers bore the blame for all stepfamily conflicts, a phenomenon that continues to this day. The image of the stepmother—jealous, scheming, malevolent, lacking in self-control—is a notable example of a misogynistic tendency to view women in stereotypical terms, the stepmother encapsulating all the negative traits which were believed to be inherent in the female sex (cf. Arist. Hist. an. 9.1).Malignity was assumed to be an inevitable consequence of the stepmotherly role. This is seen, for example, in the common metaphorical use of the Greek and Latin terms for stepmother (μητρυιά and noverca respectively) in a metaphorical sense; for example, at Aesch.



Kelly Olson

The stola was a long, sleeveless overdress or slip-like garment suspended from shoulder straps that is claimed by literary sources to be the distinguishing garment of the Roman matrona. The stola was worn over the tunic and belted with a cord (see Figure 1). It was a sign that the wearer (perhaps freeborn) was married in a iustum matrimonium. The term is not mentioned by Terence, Cato, or Plautus, and so the garment may not have been commonplace before about 50 bce. It is by no means referred to by all authors even after this date: often the garment of the married woman is referred to in general terms as longa vestis (e.g., Ov. Fast. 4.134), which may refer to her long enveloping tunic, and not the stola at all. It is uncertain whether or not freedwomen wore the stola (see ILLRP 977; = CLE 56; Macr. Sat.


Sulpicia (1), elegiac poet  

Laurel Fulkerson

Sulpicia (1), daughter or perhaps granddaughter of Servius Sulpicius Rufus, niece and ward of M. Valerius Messalla Corvinus. Her six short elegies, 3.13–18 (= 4.7–12) in the Tibullan collection (see tibullus, albius), are probably the only extant poems by a Roman woman in the Classical era (see Sulpicia II for another potential example). They record her love affair with a young man whom she calls by the Greek pseudonym Cerinthus. Her poems are fairly explicit about her desires—more explicit than most other elegiac poems—and she firmly assumes the “male” subject position, implicitly feminizing Cerinthus. Even if the affair was a prelude to marriage, as some think (connecting Cerinthus, via a bilingual pun, to the Cornutus of Tib. 2.2 and 2.3), the public display of sexual independence on the part of an unmarried female aristocrat runs counter to conventional morality. The disjunction between author and material is so unusual, in fact, that some believe “Sulpicia” to be a pseudonym for one or more male authors of the Augustan period exploring a female viewpoint along the lines of Catullus or Ovid in the Heroides, or they even posit that she is a much later invention.


Volumnia Cytherisa  

Marilyn B. Skinner

Volumnia Cytheris, a freedwoman of P. Volumnius Eutrapelus, was a celebrated mime actress (see mime, roman), notorious during the 40s bce for her affairs with prominent political figures. Her lovers included Mark Antony and C. Cornelius Gallus, the inventor of Roman love elegy, who celebrated her under the pseudonym “Lycoris” in four books of amatory verse (Serv. ad Verg. Ecl. 10.1 and 6). According to a late source (De vir. ill. 82.2) she was also the paramour of the tyrannicide M. Iunius Brutus (2). All three men were, like Eutrapelus, at one time adherents of C. Iulius Caesar (2), and her association with them may have furthered her former owner’s ambitions.1 While the name “Cytheris,” alluding to Venus’s birthplace, sexualizes its possessor and is thus a suitable appellation for a stage performer, “Lycoris,” reminiscent of a cult title of Apollo, transports her into the realm of literature.



Thomas A.J. McGinn

While the task of defining the term “widow” is straightforward, the phenomenon of widowhood is more complex. Qualified above all by demographic and socio-economic factors, as well as conditioned by legal rules, the status of widow in classical antiquity was far from monolithic. The evidence for Greece, that is, above all Athens in the late 5th and 4th centuries bce, and Rome, with the main focus on the period from c. 200 bce to c. 250 ce, shows that neither society developed an independent legal category for such women. This means that they typically enjoyed or were denied the same basket of rights that held for most adult female citizens. It is even disputable whether widowhood was understood in either society as a distinct social category. Largely because men tended to be older than women at first marriage, husbands typically predeceased their wives, so that widows outnumbered widowers by a wide margin. Widows were often a source of tension and suspicion, functioning as lightning rods for the praise and blame of women in general. Losing a husband to death often entailed a reduction in available economic resources, though this was not inevitably true, and, where it was true, its implications could vary from culture to culture or even within a culture. Remarriage was an option much more available to upper-class widows than to the sub-elite.



Helen King

Almost all information about women in antiquity comes to us from male sources. Some women could read and write (see literacy), at least to the level needed for their role as guardians of the *household stores (e.g. Xen.Oec. 7.5 and 9.10; see housework), but, although there are many references to literary works by women, very few texts survive. The known exceptions to male authorship include women poets (e.g. *Sappho, *Corinna, *Erinna, *Nossis, Sulpicia (1 and 2)), early philosophers (e.g. *Hypatia; some Hellenistic pamphlets are attributed to Pythagorean women; see women in philosophy), personal letters from women, and the 5th-century ce travel diary of Egeria (*Itinerarium Egeriae). Many attributions to women are problematic. Were women's letters written by scribes? Is a text ascribed to a woman simply in order to attack a man (e.g. Aspasia's alleged authorship of *Pericles(1)'s speeches)?The central source problems, and the strategies developed to overcome them, underpin the large amount of work on ancient women produced since the 1980s.


women in philosophy  

Sophia Connell

Many philosophical schools included female followers, such as Pythagoreans, Cynics, Cyrenaics, Platonists, Epicureans, and Stoics. The most extensive fragmentary writings by female philosophers are those of Neopythagorean women, particularly Theano, Perictione, Phintys, and Ptolemaïs. The most well-attested women philosophers in antiquity include Aspasia, Diotima, Arete, Hipparchia, Sosipatra, and Hypatia. These women appear to have held many different positions and views. There is no distinct feminine philosophy in antiquity, although some fragments from Pythagorean women are an attempt to apply philosophical principles to the everyday lives of women.Women who learnt, practised, and taught philosophy were numerous throughout antiquity. Our knowledge about women philosophers in this period has been hampered by a lack of direct source material. However, given that the same holds for other philosophers in antiquity, for example Pythagoras and Socrates, there is no good reason not to explore their probable activities and views. The main evidence comes from second-hand accounts and .


women in science  

Sophia Connell

Women were involved in both practical and theoretical aspects of scientific endeavour in the ancient world. Although the evidence is scant, it is clear that women innovated techniques in textile manufacture, metallurgy, and medical sciences. The most extensive engagement of women in science was in medicine, including obstetrics, gynaecology, pharmacology, and dermatology. The evidence for this often comes from male medical writers. Women were also involved in the manufacture of gold alloys, which interested later alchemists. Maria of Alexandria innovated equipment and techniques while also theorizing about chemical change. Many of the works ascribed to women in antiquity were not written by women. However, they do indicate what sorts of sciences were taken to be the province of women.

Scientific achievements are not the result of individual genius. Science has been a collective endeavour, involving the whole structure of society. The ancient world is no exception to this. Indeed, what is known about the desire for knowledge and control of the physical world indicates that the ways in which Greeks and Romans pursued it were various and diverse, and included the thoughts and activities of many women.



John Frederick Drinkwater

Zenobia (Septimia), or in *AramaicBath Zabbai, one of the great women of classical antiquity (PLRE 1. 990 f.). The second wife of *Septimius Odaenathus of *Palmyra, on his death in ce 267, in suspicious circumstances, she secured power for herself in the name of her young son, *Septimius Vaballathus. As long as Zenobia kept the east secure, *Gallienus and *Claudius (II) Gothicus were prepared to accept her regime, including its bestowal upon Vaballathus of his father's Roman titles, and hence of the claim to be more than just king of Palmyra. However, in 270 Zenobia exploited the political instability that followed the death of Claudius to expand beyond Syria by taking over Egypt and much of Asia Minor, and further to enhance Vaballathus' Roman titles, while continuing to recognize *Aurelian as emperor. When Aurelian finally moved against her in 272, her forces failed to stop him at *Antioch (1) and *Emesa, and—now calling her son Augustus and herself Augusta—she was cornered in Palmyra.