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Brides, Mourners, Bacchae: Women's Rituals in Roman Literature

by Vassiliki Panoussi Johns Hopkins University Press
Pub Date:
Hbk 320 pages
AU$117.00 NZ$120.87
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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 problem 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 in literature.

Texts Used
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

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.