Strained relations, gender differences, and domestic ideals

The significance of two Roman family festivals

Authored by: Fanny Dolansky

Women in Antiquity

Print publication date:  August  2016
Online publication date:  August  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138808362
eBook ISBN: 9781315621425
Adobe ISBN: 9781317219910


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As a recent survey of scholarship on women and Roman religion shows, interest in the subject since the 1990s has been steady with important studies appearing on topics such as women’s participation in the cults of Vesta and Bona Dea (the “Good Goddess”) and their religious activities during the archaic and republican periods. 1 In histories and sourcebooks on Roman religion that have become standard introductions, the many entries for “women” in the indices suggest they are in no way marginal to the study of Roman religion. 2 Valuable as these contributions are, they tend to concentrate on women’s involvement in the civic sphere through public cults and special ceremonies. Women’s participation in the so-called Bacchanalia of 186 bce in which unsanctioned rites for the god Bacchus were suppressed by the Senate remains a perennial scholarly interest, and likewise the six Vestal Virgins, civic priestesses of Vesta. Yet an unusual event or a unique priesthood open to a very small segment of the female population offers little insight into the religious roles and practices that defined most women’s lives.

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