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Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices

Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices
Roman Material Culture and Female Agency in the Bay of Naples

The first book to focus exclusively on material evidence such as frescos, graffiti, and inscriptions in exploring the lives of Roman women from all social classes in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

Series: Classics and the Ancient World Endowment

November 2021
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360 pages | 7 x 10 |

Literary evidence is often silent about the lives of women in antiquity, particularly those from the buried cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum. Even when women are considered, they are often seen through the lens of their male counterparts. In this collection, Brenda Longfellow and Molly Swetnam-Burland have gathered an outstanding group of scholars to give voice to both the elite and ordinary women living on the Bay of Naples before the eruption of Vesuvius.

Using visual, architectural, archaeological, and epigraphic evidence, the authors consider how women in the region interacted with their communities through family relationships, businesses, and religious practices, in ways that could complement or complicate their primary social roles as mothers, daughters, and wives. They explore women-run businesses from weaving and innkeeping to prostitution, consider representations of women in portraits and graffiti, and examine how women expressed their identities in the funerary realm. Providing a new model for studying women in the ancient world, Women’s Lives, Women’s Voices brings to light the day-to-day activities of women of all classes in Pompeii and Herculaneum.

  • List of Illustrations
  • Introduction. Negotiating Silence, Finding Voices, and Articulating Agency (Brenda Longfellow and Molly Swetnam-Burland)
  • Part I. Public and Commercial Identities
    • Chapter 1. Pompeian Women and the Making of a Material History (Lauren Hackworth Petersen)
    • Chapter 2. Women’s Work? Investors, Money-Handlers, and Dealers (Molly Swetnam-Burland)
    • Chapter 3. From Household to Workshop: Women, Weaving, and the Peculium (Lauren Caldwell)
    • Chapter 4. Buying Power: The Public Priestesses of Pompeii (Barbara Kellum)
    • Chapter 5. Real Estate for Profit: Julia Felix’s Property and the Forum Frieze (Eve D’Ambra)
  • Part II. Women on Display
    • Chapter 6. Contextualizing the Funerary and Honorific Portrait Statues of Women in Pompeii (Brenda Longfellow)
    • Chapter 7. Portraits and Patrons: The Women of the Villa of the Mysteries in Their Social Context (Elaine K. Gazda)
    • Chapter 8. “What’s in a Name?” Mapping Women’s Names from the Graffiti of Pompeii and Herculaneum (Erika Zimmermann Damer)
    • Chapter 9. The Public and Private Lives of Pompeian Prostitutes (Sarah Levin-Richardson)
  • Part III. Representing Women
    • Chapter 10. Women, Art, Power, and Work in the House of the Chaste Lovers at Pompeii (Jennifer Trimble)
    • Chapter 11. The House of the Triclinium (V.2.4) at Pompeii: The House of a “Courtesan”? (Luciana Jacobelli)
    • Chapter 12. Sex on Display in Pompeii’s Tavern VII.7.18 (Jessica Powers)
    • Chapter 13. Drawings of Women at Pompeii (Margaret L. Laird)
  • Epilogue. The Complexity of Silence (Allison L. C. Emmerson)
  • List of Contributors
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Brenda Longfellow is an associate professor of art history at the University of Iowa. She is the author of Roman Imperialism and Civic Patronage: Form, Meaning, and Ideology in Monumental Fountain Complexes.

Molly Swetnam-Burland is an associate professor of classical studies at the College of William and Mary. She is the author of Egypt in Italy: Visions of Egypt in Roman Imperial Culture.


“The editors have assembled a group of talented researchers who span a couple of scholarly generations, from established names to newcomers who grant novel insights. The result is an impressive collection of essays that can and should take its place on the bookshelves of Roman social historians, Pompeianists, and scholars of women’s lives across other times and places. ”
Jeremy Hartnett, author of The Roman Street: Urban Life and Society in Pompeii, Herculaneum, and Rome