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Women of Byzantium

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Women of Byzantium
By Carolyn L. Connor. (New Haven and London, Yale University Press: 2004. Pg. xii, 416. 46 B & W and 20 Color Illustrations.) ISBN: 0-300-09957-6.

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - February 8, 2005

Women of Byzantium, by Carolyn L. Connor offers an fascinating glimpse into the lives and history of the Byzantine women from all walks of life, including empresses, monastic women, commoners, and artisans. The text is organized into four chronological parts, namely:
  1. Late Antiquity (250-500 CE)
  2. Early Byzantium (500-843)
  3. The Middle Byzantine Period (843-1204)
  4. Late Byzantium (1204-1453)
Each chronological section is further divided into thematic chapters that focus on a single woman including, Thekla, Macrinia, Egeria, Galla Placidia, Mary of Egypt, Anicia Juliana, Empress Theodora, Theodore of Sykeon, Irene of Chrysobalanton, Helena, Zoe, Anna Komnene, and Theodora Synadene. Connor uses these biographical sketches to initiate a more in-depth discussion of the role that women played in Byzantine society, what life was like for Byzantine women, and to examine our current understanding of these women based upon the literary, artistic, and historical record they left behind.

Women of Byzantium is a fascinating book that provides a window into Byzantine life and society and the influential role played by women in Byzantine society. Throughout, Conner makes use of primary sources, literature, and artwork to illustrate the live led by the women of Byzantium. Written in a lively and engaging style, this book is accessible to both historians and general readers.

The text is well illustrated and enhanced by inclusion of several colored plates and by a collection of 'associated readings' that follow each chapter. The text is also enhanced by the inclusion of extensive endnotes, genealogy charts, a glossary, and an up-to-date and comprehensive bibliography. Connor is a professor of Classics at the University of North Carolina in Chapel hill, and she has written a dynamic and authoritative book. Women of Byzantium is a 'must read' for anyone with an interest in Women's History or Byzantine History.

Related Reviews:

The Empress Theodora - Partner of Justinian, by James Allan Evans.
A fascinating biography of a woman who rose from the lowest ranks of Byzantine society to become an immensely powerful empress.

Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World, Edited by G.W. Bowersock, Peter Brown, and Oleg Grabar.
Late Antiquity is both an encyclopedia and a book of essays. The text will act as a guide, opening new vistas and encouraging you to pursue further study into a unique period of time. It is also an unparalleled and valuable reference work.

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