Read e-book online From Good Goddess to Vestal Virgins: Sex and Category in PDF

By Ariadne Staples

ISBN-10: 0415132339

ISBN-13: 9780415132336

The function of girls in Roman tradition and society was once a paradoxical one. They loved social, fabric and fiscal independence but they have been denied easy constitutional rights. even if Roman historical past isn't really wanting strong woman figures, equivalent to Agrippina and Livia, their strength stemmed from their institutions with nice males and used to be no longer formally well-known. Ariadne Staples' publication examines how ladies in Rome have been perceived either by means of themselves and by way of males via women's participation in Roman faith, as Roman spiritual ritual supplied the only public area the place ladies performed an important formal position. From strong Goddess to Vestal Virgins argues that the ritual roles performed out by means of ladies have been important in defining them sexually and that those sexually outlined different types spilled over into different points of Roman tradition, together with political job. Staples offers an arresting and unique research of the function of ladies in Roman society, which demanding situations normally held perspectives and provokes additional questions.

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The point that the priestess makes then, is that the ritual divide between male and female is such that not even a biological sexual inversion can bridge the gap. The essential difference between the sexes, as manifested in cult and ritual, appears to have gone beyond social conventions, and also beyond biological differences. The boundary between life and death may be crossed on occasion with impunity, as Hercules had done, but nothing can lawfully cross this boundary. Male and female must remain polar opposites.

A conflict implies antagonism and the points of antagonism between Hercules and Cacus are seen by Virgil, at least, as points of opposition. Virgil tells the tale in a way that invests this opposition with the significance of a cultic feature. The physical focus of the conflict is Cacus’ cave. This is where he hides the cattle and himself when Hercules seeks to destroy him. He shuts himself in by barricading the entrance with rock. The cave however is not merely a place of refuge for Cacus, nor is it simply the setting for the scene of the fight.

He begs the women for water, but is refused because, as it is politely explained to him, it is unlawful for a man to taste of that water. Enraged by the refusal he takes the water by force—note here too the notion of violence, to which I shall return later in the discussion—but in order to punish the women for their inhospitable behaviour he banishes them from his newly established rites for all eternity. A frivolous little story perhaps, but it holds out an opportunity to make some sense of a ritual restriction that might otherwise be cast on the heap of historical imponderables.

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From Good Goddess to Vestal Virgins: Sex and Category in Roman Religion by Ariadne Staples


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