Women of Byzantium


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Women played key roles in Byzantine society: some ruled or co-ruled the empire, and others commissioned art and buildings, went on pilgrimages, and wrote. This engrossing book draws on evidence ranging from pictorial mosaics and inscriptions on the walls of churches to women’s poetry and histories, examining for the first time the lives, occupations, beliefs, and social roles of Byzantine women.

In each chapter Carolyn L. Connor introduces us to a single woman—from the elite to the ordinary—and uses her as a springboard to discuss Byzantine society. Frequently quoting from contemporary accounts, Connor reveals what these women thought of themselves and their lives and how they remembered the lives of women who had lived earlier.

Informative, sympathetic, and engagingly written, this book is a window into Byzantine culture and women’s history that has never before been opened.

Carolyn L. Connor is professor of classics at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

A selection of Readers' Subscription 

"Carolyn Connor has written an attractive and accessible book. Drawing on contemporary writing and visual art she introduces us to the whole range of medieval Byzantine women from empresses to nuns and saints. The book reveals some fascinating individual women, and the lively and dynamic society to which they belonged."—Averil Cameron, University of Oxford    

"A splendid achievement. A fascinating exploration of the role and activities of women over centuries of Byzantine history."—John Matthews, Yale University

"The strength of the book lies in its lucid and succinct description of the history of the various stages of America's nineteenth-century territorial expansion, its vivid exploration of the constitutional problems posed by Congress's failure to create a government for California for more than a year after the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, and its insistence on reinvigorating examination of constitutional questions that, while largely neglected by twentieth-century scholars, were frontburner issues in the nineteenth century and continue to exert significant influence over large areas of constitutional doctrine."—Sarah H. Cleveland, American Historical Review


"This study shows how well art history can illuminate aspects of Byzantine society about which narratives, including hagiographies, are reticent or narrow in scope. The lucid style and clear signposting—for example, select lists of further reading at the end of each chapter—should make this fine work readily acessible to students and the general reader."—Jonathan Shepard, Journal of Ecclesiastical History


"It is Carolyn Connor's achievement in this very clearly written volume to extend the coverage of Byzantine women beyond the Great Palace, and to show how immensely the roles of all sorts of women changed during the Byzantine era. . . . [This] is a very accessible volume, which should ensure that Byzantine women gain a wide audience, above all among specialists in enthusiasts for women's studies."—Catherine Holmes, The Anglo-Hellenic Review

"A valuable addition to the literature about Byzantium designed for nonspecialists, particularly so for its emphasis on images and artistic monuments."—Dorothy Abrahamse, Church History
ISBN: 9780300251227
Publication Date: October 7, 2008
127 pages, x