Women At War in the Classical World

This unique study looks at the roles of women in war in ancient history, producing information and conclusions that may surprise many readers. The perception of the role of women in war is shaped by the French heritage and the Abrahamic religions where women are rated as chattel, a narrow and highly biased view of history – Most Recommended.

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NAME:   Women At War in the Classical World
FILE: R3203
AUTHOR: Paul Chrystal
PUBLISHER: Pen & Sword
BINDING: hard back
PRICE: £25.00                                                               
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT:   Graeco-Roman world, Ancient Greece, Republic of Rome, Roman 
Empire, barbarians, non-combatant women, victims, rape, mutilation, slavery, 
weapons, battles, wars, border war, city states, Artemisia, Olympias, Fulvia, 
Agrippina the Elder, Tomyris, Cleopatra, Boudica, Zenobia

ISBN: 1-47385-660-4

PAGES: 249
IMAGE: B3203.jpg
BUYNOW: tinyurl.com/y69hc9qy
LINKS:
DESCRIPTION: This unique study looks at the roles of women in war in ancient 
history, producing information and conclusions that may surprise many readers. The 
perception of the role of women in war is shaped by the French heritage and 
the Abrahamic religions where women are rated as chattel, a narrow and 
highly biased view of history – Most Recommended.


The author has reviewed the role of women in ancient history against the period of the Graeco-Roman world, or classical ancient history. As such, this shows that women were most commonly victims and civilians. During war and cross border incursions, women were killed, raped, or taken into slavery. They were regarded as spoils of war. Those women who became warriors were in the minority, but often a much larger minority than accepted history has come to assume.

The famous women warriors of Greece and Rome are included in the review, but also the unknown women who fought as gladiators or in the battle line without recognition from history until, as in so many other areas, they were uncovered by archaeology. They appear more numerous in the ranks of the ‘barbarians’ that Rome sought to conquer, although that may simply be a result of the way Roman historians recorded their most difficult enemies.

History, as we know it, has largely been recorded by historians who regard women as second class citizens. That has made many assumptions that are being proven false. Germanic and Scandinavian societies had a very different set of values and women were treated often with complete equality. There was no concept of illegitimacy or automatic superiority of the first-born male in succession, or the requirement of a female heir to be married and take second place to her husband. The two forms of saga, common in the Germano-Scandinavian world both show that women were not uncommon as warriors and highly respected by the warriors with whom they served. The public sagas have not survived well to provide a complete contemporaneous history to measure against the Classical histories of Greece and Rome. Those that have survived include women in the role call of important warriors, showing that they were no novelty. There are also accounts that suggest at least one fortress, built by Rus Vikings in what is now Lithuania, was defended entirely by women warriors.

The family sagas have probably survived but they are almost all private sagas intended to provide future generations with unvarnished accounts of those who went before, serving the same purpose as “The Prince”, a guide to the responsibilities of power and the challenges to face down. More than a few family sagas were acquired by Sir Walter Scott and used as inspiration for his border tales and other novels.

The result is that the author has drawn material as seen through the prism of Graeco-Roman histories and it makes absorbing reading. That inevitably avoids the detail of Germano-Scandinavian Sagas which paint a picture of domestic and combatant life. It was common in those families for the father, or a single parent mother, to present a birth sword to a new-born child with the words, “This I give you and all I give you”, meaning that a father, or mother, might decide to be generous with their children but they had to grow to fend for themselves and prosper with the strength of their sword arm, their guile and wit. The only difference might be that a daughter of wealthy parents was presented with a dirk, or short sword and a son would be given a full sword. However, daughters were often given the same type of weapon as their sibling of both sexes. This applied through wealthy families but the basic practice appears to have been more widely observed.