Scholar to Discuss Women on the Move in the Ancient Mediterranean

April 05, 2019

Event Information

Time: 4:15 p.m.
Date: Thursday, April 25, 2019
Location: Rosenfield Center, Room 101

Sheila Dillon

​Professor Sheila Dillon of Duke University will deliver the 14th McKibben Lecture in Classical Studies, titled “Crossing the Corrupting Sea: Women on the move in the ancient Mediterranean.”

Dillon writes: “While there has been a great deal of scholarly interest in migration and mobility in the ancient Mediterranean in the past few decades, this movement is still seen as primarily male. This is, for example, the conclusion of Peregrine Horden and Nicholas Purcell in The Corrupting Sea (2000), a book that is all about movement across and around the Mediterranean. Even the more recent book by Robert Garland, entitled Wandering Greeks (2014), which argues that the Greeks were not only highly mobile but that ancient Greece might be termed a culture of the displaced, downplays the extent to which women were part of this human diaspora. Indeed, war captives, slaves, prostitutes, and religious pilgrims are the only women who have been written into the history of mobility in the ancient Mediterranean. And while it is probably true that these categories would have made up the lion’s share of this traffic in women, they are clearly only part of the story.

My research into the material evidence of funerary monuments shows that many women who were citizens traveled away from their home cities, sometimes across great distances, to live out their lives elsewhere. For example, of the foreign residents in Athens commemorated in grave monuments whose city of origin we know, almost 20% are female. Some of these female migrants may have set out with the idea or hope of returning, while others perhaps knew they were leaving their home cities for good. Whatever their original intention, they ended up dying and being buried on foreign shores, leaving behind the tombstones that are the only evidence we have of their decision to migrate in the first place. This paper is the first attempt to write these women into history.​”

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