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Anna KomneneThe Life and Work of a Medieval Historian$
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Leonora Neville

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780190498177

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190498177.001.0001

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Why Didn’t Greek Women Write History?

Why Didn’t Greek Women Write History?

Chapter:
(p.15) 1 Why Didn’t Greek Women Write History?
Source:
Anna Komnene
Author(s):

Leonora Neville

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780190498177.003.0002

This chapter explains the conflict between the female submissiveness expected in Anna Komnene’s culture and the authoritative masculine behaviors required for history writing. It describes Byzantine conceptions of gender that prized modesty, reticence, seclusion within the home, and deference to masculine authority for women, and notes some techniques women used to act with self-determination while upholding this dominant ideology. The tradition of Greek historiography, which involved participation in the public arena of politics and warfare, active research including the interrogation of witnesses, judgment of men’s deeds, and rhetorical education, is shown to be a masculine endeavor. The self-aggrandizement of historical authorship sparked discourses of humility for male authors. The investigation of these fundamental tensions shows us what difficulties Anna faced in writing history. Pamphile of Epidaurus is discussed as an example.

Keywords:   Anna Komnene, Byzantine gender, Greek historiography, Pamphile of Epidaurus, self-determination, seclusion, self-aggrandizement, humility

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