First of the Month Book Review - July

This month's review is called the Daughters of Gaia: Women in the Ancient Mediterranean World by Bella Vivante.

I stumbled across this book while researching a story set in Ancient Greece. It's a good, interesting read that provides an overview on women's lives in the Ancient Mediterranean worlds.

While it does delve a little bit into the daily lives of the women, the primary focus of the book is how the women related to the world around them. Many of the cultures, especially Greek and Roman were fairly patriarchal in their outlook. Rome was a little more relaxed than the Greeks, but not nearly as relaxed as the Egyptians.

When I started my research, I disliked Ancient Greece because it was male oriented. To be a woman in Ancient Greece was not an easy task. If I could travel back in time, I would rather visit Ancient Egypt than Ancient Greece, but through this book, I found both some interesting facts, and new found respect for Pythagoras.

Vivante's theory (and others, because this isn't the first time I've heard it) is that societies were more egalitarian earlier in their history. As societies drew towards a more centralized governments, patriarchal practices became normative. Not all of this is accurate, of course because some tribal cultures can be very patriarchal without a strong central government whereas other groups with strong central authorities can be egalitarian. Vivante points to the separation of fertility and fighting in various goddesses as an example. In the Mesopotamian culture, the goddess, Inanna was both a war goddess as well as a fertility/love goddess. In Greece, however, those areas had devolved into several goddesses including: Artemis, Athena, Aphrodite, Hera, Demeter and Persephone.

Yet, even in Ancient Greece there were those who both respected and supported women. Pythagoras (of the Pythagorean Theorem) believed women should be allowed to study philosophy, reading, writing and science. His wife and daughters were leaders in their own day.

All of this in a world that regularly forced good wives to remain behind closed doors.

It's an interesting read, and one I suggest anyone who is interested in Ancient Cultures to read. I suggest Christians should read the book regardless if they're interested in ancient cultures because this book gives a good overview of life, culture and politics as it relates to the first century church. This is, to put it mildly, the word that Jesus both lived in, and knew. This is the world that Paul both praised and condemned. When we look at Ancient Israel of the Old Testament, we must understand the Egyptian and the Mesopotamian cultures surrounding the people of Israel.

Find the book at a local library, and read it.


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