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Female Friendship in Greco-Roman Antiquity

By Jessica M. Sisk


Despite a recent elevation in scholarly and mainstream studies on friendship, female friendship is a topic that has been obstructed on account of multiple difficulties. This dissertation is an interdisciplinary attempt to surmount some of these obstacles by compiling literary, visuaL and epigraphic testimony first to consider the ancients\u27 own ideas about the nature of friendship in the abstract, then to compile and evaluate the corpus of male perspectives on women\u27s non-kin relationships and finally to compare this material to the body of what may be women\u27s own words about friendship. Part One is comprised of Chapters One and Two, which respectively examine Greek male and female perspectives on female fiiendship. Plutarch\u27s remarks in his Coniugalia Praecepla establish a categorization of male perspectives that help us not only to understand five significant attitudes towards female friendship, but also to grasp how the bond is repeatedly and fundamentally viewed as being tied to issues of speech and self-disclosure. Women\u27s own words in the forms of lyric poetry and magical texts reveal an overlooked mythological tradition featuring a pair offemale friends as well as concerns with enmity and identity. Part Two contains Chapters Three and Four, which examine the Roman male and female perspectives. The male sources reveal a peculiarly Roman concern with power and hierarchy, while the theme of female speech continues in a way that is by turns suspicious, trivializing, and empowering The epigraphic evidence in particular sheds light on the social complexity offemale friendship and the eroticized use of arnica in comparison with literary sources. A rich philosophical discussion of friendship - its origins, meanings, and practice - does not exist for the aneient female experience as it does for the male, but some indication of the valuation women placed on certain characteristics of friendship emerge from the fragmented evidence. This evidence enlarges our understanding of women in the ancient world and may also inform modern friendship studies, which have been unable to pinpoint how historical views on female friendship may be specifically traced back to a Greco-Roman past

Publisher: Scholarship, Research, and Creative Work at Bryn Mawr College
Year: 2013
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