Cover image for The woman and the lyre : women writers in classical Greece and Rome
The woman and the lyre : women writers in classical Greece and Rome
Snyder, Jane McIntosh.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Carbondale ; Edwardsville : Southern Illinois University Press, [1989]

Physical Description:
xii, 199 pages, 2 unnumbered pages of plates : map ; 23 cm.
General Note:
Includes index.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
PA3067 .S69 1989 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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"Faint though the voices of the women of Greek and Roman antiquity may be in some cases, their sound, if we listen carefully enough, can fill many of the gaps and silences of women's past."--from the Conclusion

Beginning with Sappho in the seventh century B.C. and ending with Hypatia and Egeria in the fifth century A.D., Jane McIntosh Snyder listens carefully to the major women writers of classical Greece and Rome, piecing together the surviving fragments of their works into a coherent analysis that places them in their literary, historical, and intellectual contexts.

While relying heavily on modern classical scholarship, Snyder refutes some of the arguments that implicitly deny the power of women's written words--the idea that women's experience is narrow or trivial and therefore automatically inferior as subject matter for literature, the notion that intensity in a woman is a sign of neurotic imbalance, and the assumption that women's work should be judged according to some externally imposed standard.

The author studies the available fragments of Sappho, ranging from poems on mythological themes to traditional wedding songs and love poems, and demonstrates her considerable influence on Western thought and literature.

An overview of all of the authors Snyder discusses shows that ancient women writers focused on such things as emotions, lovers, friendship, folk motifs, various aspects of daily living, children, and pets, in distinct contrast to their male contemporaries' concern with wars and politics.

Straightforwardness and simplicity are common characteristics of the writers Snyder examines. These women did not display allusion, indirection, punning and elaborate rhetorical figures to the extent that many male writers of the ancient world did.

Working with the sparse records available, Snyder strives to place these female writers in their proper place in our heritage.

Author Notes

Jane McIntosh Snyder , professor of classics at The Ohio State University, is the author of Puns and Poetry in Lucretius' " De Rerum Natura " and (with Martha Maas) of Stringed Instruments of Ancient Greece.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

A survey and discussion of writers from the seventh century BCE to the fourth century CE. Probably Sappho alone will be known to most readers, and her literary remains include only one complete poem. The rest is fragmentary, like that of all the other wirters represented in this volume. Thus, the discussion of this tradition not only encompasses a vast historical span, but requires a significant degree of both historical and literary reconstruction. Snyder is more than equal to the task, and the result is a volume that is informative, entertaining, and impressive for its command of the scholarly literature. The author succeeds in making available in a pleasing and accessible style a group of writers otherwise "hidden from history." Not all scholars will be convinced that the state of the evidence permits such a coherent reconstruction of a female tradition as Snyder maintains, but her argument is certainly plausible. Specialists in the field will want to take this work seriously. General readers will be much enriched by it. Recommended for all reader levels. -M. B. Arthur, Wesleyan University