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Brides, Mourners, Bacchae

Women's Rituals in Roman Literature

Vassiliki Panoussi

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How does the treatment of women's rituals in Latin poetry and prose reveal Roman ideas of female agency?

Powerful female characters pervade both Greek and Latin literature, even if their presence is largely dictated by the narratives of men. Feminist approaches to the study of women in Greek literature have helped illustrate the importance of their religious and ritual roles in public life—Latin literature, however, has not been subject to similar scrutiny.

In Brides, Mourners, Bacchae, Vassiliki Panoussi takes up the challenge, exploring women's place in weddings, funerals, Bacchic rites, and...

How does the treatment of women's rituals in Latin poetry and prose reveal Roman ideas of female agency?

Powerful female characters pervade both Greek and Latin literature, even if their presence is largely dictated by the narratives of men. Feminist approaches to the study of women in Greek literature have helped illustrate the importance of their religious and ritual roles in public life—Latin literature, however, has not been subject to similar scrutiny.

In Brides, Mourners, Bacchae, Vassiliki Panoussi takes up the challenge, exploring women's place in weddings, funerals, Bacchic rites, and women-only rituals. Panoussi probes the multifaceted ways women were able to exercise influence, even power, in ancient Rome from the days of the late Republic to Flavian times. Systematically investigating both poetry and prose, Panoussi covers a wide variety of genres, from lyric poetry (Catullus), epic (Ovid, Lucan, Valerius, Statius), elegy (Propertius, Ovid), and tragedy (Seneca) to historiography (Livy) and the novel (Petronius).

The first large-scale analysis of this body of evidence from a feminist perspective, the book makes a compelling case that female ritual was an important lens through which Roman authors explored the problems of women's agency, subjectivity, civic identity, and self-expression. By focusing on the fruitful intersection of gender and religion, the book elucidates not only the importance of female religious experience in Rome but also the complexity of ideological processes affecting Roman ideas about gender, sexuality, family, and society. Brides, Mourners, Bacchae will be of value to scholars of classics and ancient religions, as well as anyone interested in the study of gender in antiquity or the connection between religion and ideology.

Reviews

Reviews

A stimulating, well-researched, and insightful book that offers extensive investigation of an area of Roman literature that has not received sufficient attention. Panoussi offers nuanced readings of a wide variety of texts. There is no piece of scholarship currently available that provides such a comprehensive examination of women's ritual in Roman literature.

Brides, Mourners, and Bacchae is a marvelous achievement. Through brilliant readings of poetry and prose, Panoussi reveals how Roman writers deployed women's ritual actions to question social hierarchies. Her book demands attention from scholars of literature and ritual across eras.

Panoussi offers a very appealing analysis of how religious rituals traditionally associated with women in antiquity—marriage, mourning, and Bacchic ecstasy—are represented in Latin literature. Scholars and students alike will appreciate the range of texts and authors she discusses, combining familiar with less familiar and offering at times surprising juxtapositions.

Brides, Mourners, Bacchae offers new, insightful readings of a broad range of late Republican and early imperial texts through the lens of women's religious rituals. Panoussi sheds exciting light on the importance of female experience in ancient Rome and invites our fresh evaluation of the Roman literary canon.

This wide-ranging and stimulating book looks at women's agency and empowerment through ritual and its representations in Roman literature, from Livy and Petronius to Catullus and Statius. It is an important intervention in the study of Latin literature and Roman religion, which goes beyond describing patriarchal norms to explore possibilities for resistance and change.

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About

Book Details

Publication Date
Status
Available
Trim Size
6
x
9
Pages
320
ISBN
9781421428918
Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
Texts Used
Abbreviations
Introduction
Part I. Brides
1. The Roman Wedding
2. Sexuality and Ritual: Catullus' Wedding Poems
3. Isis at a Wedding: Gender, Ethnicity, and Roman Identity in Ovid

Acknowledgments
Texts Used
Abbreviations
Introduction
Part I. Brides
1. The Roman Wedding
2. Sexuality and Ritual: Catullus' Wedding Poems
3. Isis at a Wedding: Gender, Ethnicity, and Roman Identity in Ovid's Metamorphoses
4. Wartime Weddings: Lucan's Civil War and Seneca's Trojan Women
5. Quartilla's Priapic Weddings in Petronius' Satyrica: Female Power and Male Impotence
Part II. Mourners
6. Roman Burial Rites
7. Mourning Orpheus: Poetry and Lament in Ovid's Metamorphoses 10 and 11
8. A New Hope: Burying the War Dead in Statius' Thebaid 12
Part III. Bacchae
9. Bacchic Rites in Greece and Rome
10. Roman Bacchae: Dionysiac Mysteries, Masculinity, and the State in Livy's Bacchanalian Narrative
11. Philomela's Bacchic Justice: Ritual Resistance and Abusive Authority in Ovid's Metamorphoses 6
12. Hypsipyle's Bacchic Pietas: Ritual, Exemplarity, and Gender in Valerius and Statius
Part IV. Women-Only Rituals
13. Women-Only Rituals in Rome
14. Spinning Hercules: Gender, Religion, and Geography in Propertius 4.9
15. Hercules and the Founding Mothers: Mater Matuta and the Matralia in Ovid's Fasti 6
16. Dancing in Scyros: Masculinity and Young Women's Rituals in Statius' Achilleid
Epilogue: Tacita's Rites and the Story of Lara in Ovid's Fasti 2
Notes
Bibliography
Index

Author Bio
Vassiliki Panoussi
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Vassiliki Panoussi

Vassiliki Panoussi is a professor of classical studies at William & Mary. She is the author of Vergil's "Aeneid" and Greek Tragedy: Ritual, Empire, and Intertext.