Monday, March 10, 2003

Women, Ethnicity and Power in the Roman Empire by David Konstan

Plutarch in his Virtues of Women is among those who flatly reject the Aristotelian view, affirming instead that "the virtue of a man and a woman is one and the same." Nevertheless, Plutarchs examples are chiefly instances of courage, almost invariably characterize women as passively enduring oppression and torture, for example by taking their husbands'place in prison (247 A-C, of Etruscan women; cf. Valerius Maximus 4.6.ext.3), or else by such stratagems as concealing weapons under their garments so as to enable men to mount a resistance. If women are as brave as men, and brave in the same sense of the term, they still manifest their valor in actions conformable to a weaker and less aggressive nature. The one case in which women actually take up arms, under the leadership of the Argive poetess Telesilla, proves the rule. Just as certain festivals permit reversals of socially sanctioned roles for limited periods of time and in ritually controlled circumstances, so too, it is implied, the spectacle of women actively engaged in battle and defeating male enemies is a temporary inversion of the natural order.

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