Great book series begins with women in ancient society

Ph.D. Allison Smith, an Art History Professor at JCCC, reviews the book Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity by Sarah B. Pomeroy. Photo by Kenna Swihart, The Campus Ledger

Kim Harms

News editor

The Great Book Series started off Wednesday afternoon with in-depth history and narrative visuals depicting the lives of women in ancient society.

Allison Smith, professor and chair of Art History, presented “Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves,” written by Sarah Pomeroy. The book covers an array of topics from marriage laws to women’s roles in a society dominated by men.

Smith began her presentation with a background story. Pomeroy’s book was the first scholarly book to be written on the lives of women in ancient society. The book focuses more on common, everyday women. Smith said the book had a great impact on her when she was studying Greek art.

The presentation continued with the topic of greek mythology. The roles of gods and goddesses significantly differed in Greek culture. Women’s roles in greek mythology specifically, were greatly represented by the Amazons, a group of female warriors, through conquest. Smith then discussed marriage and home life, and the depictions of the lives of married women. The visual symbol for marriage was often a man clasping a woman’s wrist.

Throughout her presentation, Smith included a variety of visuals. From paintings and pottery to personal examples of weaving from Turkey, Smith made sure to not exclude any visual literacy.

Towards the end of her presentation, Smith touched on the events women could partake in. The Thesmophoria, an ancient Greek festival held in honor of the goddess Demeter and her daughter Persephone, was meant for only athenian citizen women; men were not allowed to participate. The Dionysia, a festival held in honor of the god Dionysus, allowed women to rebel against society.

Smith ended her presentation with a brief summary of women athletes and discussion about Pompeii. Exercise and physical strength were encouraged for Roman and Spartan women. In Pompeii, it was very common for women to work.

Smith provided a more visual and detailed aspect to “Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves.” The audience left more knowledge and understanding of women in ancient society.

The next Great Book Series presentation will be Oct. 4 at 12 p.m. in the CoLab. Paul Restivo, English Adjunct Professor, will be discussing “The Great Gatsby.”


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