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Vestal Virgins, Sibyls, and Matrons

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Vestal Virgins, Sibyls, and Matrons: Women in Roman Religion
By Sarolta A. Takács. (University of Texas Press, Austin: 2008. Pg. 222. 9 B&W Photos.) ISBN: 978-0-292-71694-0.

Reviewed by Simone Bonim - April 21, 2008

The role of women in Roman religion, and Roman society in general, is often overlooked in favor of the patriarchal figures that dominated Roman history. In Vestal Virgins, Sibyls, and Matrons: Women in Roman Religion, Sarolta A. Takács focuses on this understudied, but integral component of Roman society - its women. An Associate Professor of Classics at Rutgers University, and author of numerous works on Roman history and culture, Takács brings her experience as a cultural historian and Roman scholar to the fore in writing this fascinating and informative volume that will find a ready audience in a variety of academic fields ranging from classical studies to religion.

Vestal Virgins, Sibyls, and Matrons: Women in Roman Religion begins with an overview of the Roman calendar and the role that women played in both public and private religious ceremonies and rituals. She then goes on to explore how the women's religious roles helped to shape Roman society and impacted the lives of Roman women. Within the course of this study, Takács not only provides a general overview of the development and function of Roman religious practices, but she also provides a detailed analysis of various female deities and cults such as Sibyls, Mater Magna (The Great Mother), the Cult of Isis, and the Vestal Virgins.

This book serves to illustrate how important an understanding of women's religious roles is in comprehending the true nature of the role that women played in Roman society. Takács also examines how these roles changed over time. This book is further enhanced by the inclusion of a list of brief biographical sketches of important ancient authors, a time line detailing the Roman history, maps, detailed endnotes, and a brief, up-to-date, and an informative bibliography. Vestal Virgins, Sibyls, and Matrons: Women in Roman Religion is well suited for use in a variety of academic settings, both as a primary as well as a supplemental text in courses ranging from Roman History and Women's Studies to Religion and Cultural History courses.

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