The Limits of Participation

Women and Civic Life in the Greek East in the Hellenistic and Roman Periods

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In the cities of the Greek East, during the late Hellenistic and Roman periods, female members of local ruling elites played a prominent and visible role in public life. In the large body of inscriptions documenting public life in the cities of Asia Minor (and to a lesser extent mainland Greece and the islands) they appear as civic benefactors, or undertaking civic offices and liturgies. In previous studies of this subject, attention has focussed almost entirely on the nature of women’s ‘political’ prominence, which is usually interpreted as a result of increased female in-dependence and power in the legal and economic sphere. This study argues that notions of ‘emancipation’ or ’increased freedom and power’ rest on a misinterpretation of women’s social, legal and economic position, and are unhelpful in understanding the general developments that affected women’s civic roles.

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