Thursday, March 22, 2012

Book Review: Egypte, Grèce, Rome: les différents visages des femmes antiques

Bryn Mawr Classical Review (Review by Carlos Sánchez-Moreno Ellart)

Florence Bertholet, Anne Bielman Sanchez, Regula Frei-Stolba (ed.), Egypte, Grèce, Rome: les différents visages des femmes antiques: travaux et colloques du séminaire d'épigraphie grecque et latine de l'IASA 2002-2006. Echo. Collection de l'Institut d'Archéologie et d'Histoire Ancienne de l'Université de Lausanne; 7.   Berne:  Peter Lang, 2008.

This volume comprises lectures held at the University of Lausanne (2002-2006) on the subject of women and their relationship with political power in pharaonic Egypt, Greece, the Hellenistic kingdoms and Rome. Understandably, the book focuses on women from the upper classes.

Mireille Corbier outlines in her foreword (XIII-XX) that the approach taken by all the authors mixes both text and image and, to illustrate the tone of the volume under review, makes reference to Fanny Cosandey’s book about the symbolic value of the queen of France, who participated in power via her regency but did not have any formal political powers.1 The foreword insists on this main idea: men exercised political power and women had power only “par défaut ou par delegation” (XI).

In “Les reines dans l´Égypte pharaonique. Statut et representations” (3-24), Annie Forgeau tackles the part played by queens in pharaonic Egypt. Avoiding generalization due to the long period under analysis, she points out that iconography shows how the archetype of Egyptian monarchy is clearly linked to masculinity. The iconography of Hatshepsut is a significant example, for the presence of a female monarch is integrated into the traditional idea through the male iconography of royal attributes plus the traditional false beard. Forgeau refers also to some peculiar cases such as that of Nefertiti represented on stelae with ambassadors, even though this queen is never mentioned in the diplomatic letters preserved both in Egypt and the Near East.

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