This book takes a fresh look at visual representations of women in the ancient Near East, Egypt, Greece, and Rome and analyzes them for indications of women's roles in these societies. After examining their traditional functions as wives and mothers, the author presents evidence of women's participation in the public and religious spheres. Juxtapositions comparing images and attitudes of each society reveal whether the women portrayed are meant to be examples of perfect femininity or the object of scorn, faithful wives or untouchable priestesses or high-living prostitutes. Depictions of goddesses and the dress and adornments of women are analyzed for what they divulge about ideals of feminine beauty and attitudes toward female nudity.
The text is packed with quotations from contemporary sources that reveal details about women in the ancient world, often with surprising resonance for our own time. The illustrations, many specially commissioned, include public art and domestic artifacts: sculptures, wall and mummy case paintings, engravings, silver objects, and jewelry.
Jenifer Neils is Ruth Coulter Heede Professor of Art History at Case Western Reserve University. She is the author of The British Museum Concise Introduction to Ancient Greece (British Museum, 2008) and The Parthenon Frieze (Cambridge University Press, 2006).
“There is much in this book to admire, not least the splendid selection of well-sized, quality-rich photographs that illustrate every page of the text. . . . Jenifer Neils’s work is highly recommended.”
—Bryn Mawr Classical Review
“A comprehensive, engaging, and informative approach to the examination of the lives, roles, and perceptions of women as reflected in material culture, literature, law, myth, and history. . . . Well-written, entertaining, and beautifully illustrated, this book provides a fascinating synthesis of wide-ranging material.”
—New England Classical Journal
“Lavishly illustrated. . . . Readers looking for an introduction to the subject of women in antiquity are certain to find much that is of interest in this book.”
8 1/2 x 8 1/2 inches
200 color illustrations
Imprint: J. Paul Getty Museum