Cover image for From Good Goddess to vestal virgins : sex and category in Roman religion
From Good Goddess to vestal virgins : sex and category in Roman religion
Staples, Ariadne, 1963-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
London ; New York : Routledge, 1998.
Physical Description:
x, 207 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm
Format :


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BL815.W6 S73 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks-Non circulating

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The role of women in Roman culture and society was a paradoxical one. On the one hand they enjoyed social, material and financial independence and on the other hand they were denied basic constitutional rights. Roman history is not short of powerful female figures, such as Agrippina and Livia, yet their power stemmed from their associations with great men and was not officially recognised.
Ariadne Staples' book examines how women in Rome were perceived both by themselves and by men through women's participation in Roman religion, as Roman religious ritual provided the single public arena where women played a significant formal role. From Good Goddess to Vestal Virginsargues that the ritual roles played out by women were vital in defining them sexually and that these sexually defined categories spilled over into other aspects of Roman culture, including political activity.
Ariadne Staples provides an arresting and original analysis of the role of women in Roman society, which challenges traditionally held views and provokes further questions.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

From striking gains in social, financial, and juridical areas to the lack of status in constitutional rights, the Roman woman presents a spectrum of accomplishments and deficiencies. Staples asserts that all power of these women stemmed from their association with powerful men, and that they had no inherent legitimate political authority in their own right. This scenario was contrasted, however, with a woman's role in religion. Civic religion provided the single public arena where a significant formal role was played out. Ritual roles defined women sexually, and these categories spilled over into the whole of Roman culture. The theoretical method used to examine the categories implies a structure to this polytheistic religious data rather than mere isolated cults. This system is further analyzed in terms of the wider cultural pattern. Female figures such as Bona Dea, Ceres, Flora, Venus, and the vestal virgins are explored in order to make the case. Staples' contention that women play a large part in religion is well argued and provocative. The book is a rare combination of solid theory and enjoyable presentation. General readers, upper-division undergraduate and graduate students, and faculty and researchers. L. L. Lam-Easton; California State University, Northridge

Table of Contents

The Cult of Bona Dea: Introduction to Chapter 1
Chapter 1 The Cult of Bona Dea
1 Hercules and Cacus
2 Hercules and Bona Dea
3 The Women's Goddess
4 'A Rite So Ancient...'
5 Bona Dea and the Mysteries of Mithras
6 Opertanea Sacra
7 Wine, Milk and Honey
The Cults of Ceres and Flora: Introduction to Chapter 2
Chapter 2 Ceres and Flora
1 Uneasy Misogyny
2 Wife and Prostitute in Myth
3 Wife and Prostitute in Ritual
Venus' Role in Roman Religion: Introduction to Chapter 3
Chapter 3 Venus
1 Venus Verticordia
2 Venus Obsequens and Venus Erycina
3 Venus and Bona Dea
The Vestals and Rome: Introduction to Chapter 4
Chapter 4 The Uses of Virginity: The Vestals and Rome
1 The Transvaluation of Virginity
2 Virginity and the Ritual Representation of Roman Integrity