Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: A Book Review
This paper will review Sarah B. Pomeroy's scholarly work, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves. Pomeroy's book is a social history of Greek and Roman women, beginning with the role women played in ancient Greek mythology in the Bronze Age as well as at the time when the ancient city of Troy fell. The book ends after examining the role that women played in both the Roman Republic and the Roman Empire, and ends during the time of the early Empire, in approximately 565 A.D. According to the author, her book is unique because it is the only comprehensive comparison of women in classical antiquity which has been written in the English language (x). This paper will show that Romen women had more opportunities to participate in the cultural, political, and economic life than their Athenian counterparts.
The first chapter of the book focuses on the Athenian woman, as she existed in the Bronze Age. Most of the information is extrapolated from ancient Greek mythology and is culled from the lore about Zeus, Dionysus, Aphrodite, and, more importantly, Athena. The ancient Greek Goddess, Athena, is significant because she presides over crafts, which at that time, for women, were mainly spinning and weaving. According to this mythology, a woman's skill in the areas of fabric-making is attributable to the Goddess Athena (5).
While women were perceived, during the Bronze Age, to have some manual, working skills which were of value to society, they were not perceived as being capable of having intellectual love with a man (i.e., women could only have vulgar heterosexual relationships with men; intellectual love was thought to exist only in homosexual male relationships) (7). Moreover, the author points out, there is an "endless catalogue of rape in Greek myth," and explains two contradicting views on this issue. One view, held by Helen Duetsch, suggests that the rape images mere...