Women's Ritual Competence in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean: 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Women's Ritual Competence in the Greco-Roman Mediterranean

1st Edition

Edited by Matthew Dillon, Esther Eidinow, Lisa Maurizio


248 pages

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Hardback: 9781472478900
pub: 2016-10-24
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pub: 2016-10-14
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Contributions in this volume demonstrate how, across the ancient Mediterranean and over hundreds of years, women’s rituals intersected with the political, economic, cultural, or religious spheres of their communities in a way that has only recently started to gain sustained academic attention. The volume aims to tease out a number of different approaches and contexts, and to expand existing studies of women in the ancient world as well as scholarship on religious and social history.

The contributors face a famously difficult task: ancient authors rarely recorded aspects of women’s lives, including their songs, prophecies, and prayers. Many of the objects women made and used in ritual were perishable and have not survived; certain kinds of ritual objects (lowly undecorated pots, for example) tend not even to be recorded in archaeological reports. However, the broad range of contributions in this volume demonstrates the multiplicity of materials that can be used as evidence – including inscriptions, textiles, ceramics, figurative art, and written sources – and the range of methodologies that can be used, from analysis of texts, images, and material evidence to cognitive and comparative approaches.


"This book makes a significant contribution to both gender studies and studies on ancient Mediterranean religions … this is a much-needed volume which opens the field to viewing women’s agency in ancient religions in a variety of different ways. Both scholars and students will find much of value in this edited collection."

- Jennifer Martinez Morales, Monmouth College, USA, Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2018

Table of Contents



List of Figures

Notes on Contributors


Matthew P. Dillon, Esther Eidinow, and Lisa Maurizio


  1. The Forgotten Things: Women, Rituals and Community in Western Sicily (8th–6th Centuries BCE) - Meritxell Ferrer
  2. Materiality and Ritual Competence: Insights from Women’s Prayer Typology in Homer - Andromache Karanika
  3. Power through Textiles: Women as Ritual Performers in Ancient Greece - Cecilie Brøns
  4. Silent Mourners: Terracotta Statues and Death Rituals in Canosa - Tiziana D’Angelo and Maya Muratov

  6. Shared Meters and Meanings: Delphic Oracles and Women’s Lament - Lisa Maurizio
  7. Priestess and Polis in Euripides’ Iphigeneia in Tauris - Laura McClure
  8. Owners of Their Own Bodies: Women’s Magical Knowledge and Reproduction in Greek Inscriptions - Irene Salvo

  10. Bitter Constraint? Penelope’s Web, and "Season Due" - Laurie O’Higgins
  11. Women’s Ritual Competence and Domestic Dough: Celebrating the Thesmophoria, Haloa, and Dionysian Rites in Ancient Attika - Matthew P. Dillon
  12. Inhabiting/Subverting the Norms: Women's Ritual Agency in the Greek West - Bonnie MacLachlan

  14. Women’s Ritual Competence and a Self-Inscribing Prophet at Rome - J. Bert Lott
  15. "A Devotee and a Champion": Re-interpreting the Female "Victims" of Magic in Early Christian Texts - Esther Eidinow
  16. "What the Women Know": Plutarch and Pausanias on Female Ritual Competence - Deborah Lyons


About the Editors

Matt Dillon is an Associate Professor of Classics and Ancient History in the School of Humanities, University of New England, Armidale, Australia. He has written several articles and a book on women’s religion in ancient Greece, Girls and Women in Classical Greek Religion (2002). He is interested in all ancient religions, and in Greek society.

Esther Eidinow is an Associate Professor of Ancient Greek History at the University of Nottingham, UK. She has particular interest in ancient Greek religion and magic, and her publications include Oracles, Curses, and Risk among the Ancient Greeks (2007), Luck, Fate and Fortune: Antiquity and its Legacy (2010), and Envy, Poison and Death: Women on Trial in Classical Athens (2015).

Lisa Maurizio is an Associate Professor of Classical and Medieval Studies at Bates College, Maine, USA. She is interested in interplay between gender, oral poetry, and Greek religion, and has published articles on Delphic divination as well as Classical Mythology in Context (2015).

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Ancient / General