Women at War in the Classical World, Paul Chrystal

Women at War in the Classical World, Paul Chrystal

This book is a survey of the experiences and representation of women in warfare in the Classical World, defined here as the worlds of Ancient Greece and Rome, starting roughly around the time of Homer and ended in late antiquity, after the fall of the Western Empire.

The book covers a very wide range of topics – basically any mention of women in any military context from Ancient Greece or Rome, from the myths of the Amazons to examples of women fighters, from Greek Comedy and Tragedy to women as gladiators. As a result it can be a bit scatter-gun, bouncing around between time periods and locations within a few pages. Not all of the women featured were actually involved in warfare either – some were more political figures.

Greek and Rome had one thing in common – their own women almost never served as military commanders. However they did often face opponents where that wasn’t the case – in particular the Romans, whose most famous opponents include Cleopatra, Boudica and Zenobia. Even Roman legends included powerful female opponents, in particular Dido of Carthage. The two main Greek exceptions were Sparta and Macedonia – in the first case the Spartan women were seen as an important part of the military machine, while in the second Macedonian politics often featured powerful women, starting with Alexander the Great’s mother Oympias, and these cases each get a chapter to themselves.

Many of the ancient dramatists and writers understood the terrible impact warfare could have on women, starting with Homer and the fate of the Trojan women after the fall of their city. The author does a good job of keeping that aspect in the forefront, making a point of placing the section on woman as victims of war in the centre of the book.

This is a very useful survey work, giving us a clear idea of how devastating warfare often was for the women caught up in it, as well as making it clear how often women played an important role in warfare.

Part One: Greece
1 – Goddesses and war in Greek Mythology
2 – Warlike Women in Home
3 – Teichoskopeia: A Woman’s War from the Walls
4 – The Amazons
5 – Women and War in Greek Tragedy
6 – Women and War in Greek Comedy
7 – Women and War in Greek History and Philosophy
8 – Woman Warriors Catalogued
9 – Spartan Women: Vital Cogs in a Well-Oiled War Machine
10 – Macedonian Women at War: Pawns and Power-Players

Part Two: Women and Victims of War
11 – War Rape and Other Atrocities in the Classical World

Part Three: Rome
12 – Military Women in Roman Legend
13 – Military Women in Roman History
14 – Foreign Women Fighters
15 – Woman and War in Roman Epic
16 – Woman and war and Militia Amoris
17 – Military Tendencies in Women in Seneca’s Troades

Part Four: Warrior Women in the Arts and Entertainment
18 – Military Women in the Visual Arts
19 – Women as Gladiators

Author: Paul Chrystal
Edition: Hardcover
Pages: 249
Publisher: Pen & Sword Military
Year: 2017

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