Women's Lives, Women's Voices: Roman Material Culture and Female Agency in the Bay of Naples (Hardcover)

Women's Lives, Women's Voices: Roman Material Culture and Female Agency in the Bay of Naples By Brenda Longfellow (Editor), Molly Swetnam-Burland (Editor) Cover Image

Women's Lives, Women's Voices: Roman Material Culture and Female Agency in the Bay of Naples (Hardcover)


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Literary evidence is often silent about the lives of women in antiquity, particularly those from the buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Even when women are considered, they are often seen through the lens of their male counterparts. In this collection, Brenda Longfellow and Molly Swetnam-Burland have gathered an outstanding group of scholars to give voice to both the elite and ordinary women living on the Bay of Naples before the eruption of Vesuvius.

Using visual, architectural, archaeological, and epigraphic evidence, the authors consider how women in the region interacted with their communities through family relationships, businesses, and religious practices, in ways that could complement or complicate their primary social roles as mothers, daughters, and wives. They explore women-run businesses from weaving and innkeeping to prostitution, consider representations of women in portraits and graffiti, and examine how women expressed their identities in the funerary realm. Providing a new model for studying women in the ancient world, Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices brings to light the day-to-day activities of women of all classes in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Brenda Longfellow is an associate professor of art history at the University of Iowa. She is the author of Roman Imperialism and Civic Patronage: Form, Meaning, and Ideology in Monumental Fountain Complexes. Molly Swetnam-Burland is an associate professor of classical studies at the College of William and Mary. She is the author of Egypt in Italy: Visions of Egypt in Roman Imperial Culture.
Product Details ISBN: 9781477323588
ISBN-10: 1477323589
Publisher: University of Texas Press
Publication Date: November 23rd, 2021
Pages: 408
Language: English
This volume challenges the reader to look for women in the archaeological record—even where they are not immediately visible—and to hear them in the silences. Giving voice to a wider cross-section of Pompeiian women, this volume makes an excellent contribution not only to Roman material culture studies of Pompeii, but also to female agency in the Roman world more broadly.
— Antiquity

These essays do much to make the fascinating archaeological material accessible.
— Shepherd

A pathbreaking collection of essays that challenge us to rethink gender-based occupational stereotypes, Roman women’s identities and public participation in spheres exclusively associated with Roman elite men...Challenging familiar elitist-classicist standards  dominating past scholarship, this book pushes women’s and gender studies, feminist art history, urban materiality, women’s local involvement and daily lives into a new era of research...this book is very useful for researchers as well as students, with enormous potential to shape future research on Roman women.

Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices is an incredibly important and enlightening volume for which its editors and contributors should be commended...Each chapter returns agency to one or another group of women in the Bay of Naples, and these re-centering efforts involve women of many more classes, statuses, and communities than is typical...The volume’s extensive bibliography, high production quality (including seventy-six figures and sixteen full-color plates), and relatively affordable price only enhance its utility and accessibility.
— Woman's Art Journal

The contributors bring novel approaches and interpretations to well-studied evidence...This volume offers innovative ways of looking at evidence, helps to correct the scholarly blindness of the past and unveils the diverse lives of the women who dwelt in Pompeii and Herculaneum.
— Journal of Roman Culture