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Women and Warfare in the Ancient World (Hardback)

Myth, Legend and Reality

Ancient History P&S History > Social History Women of History

By Karlene Jones-Bley
Imprint: Pen & Sword History
Pages: 288
Illustrations: 16 mono illustrations
ISBN: 9781399068918
Published: 16th April 2024



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Women and Warfare in the Ancient World presents a broad view of women and female figures involved in war in the ancient world, incorporating mythological, legendary, archaeological, and historical evidence for women in a military setting. Within this context are found not only fighters but also strategists, trainers, and leaders who may not have been on the actual battlefield. Exploring women and war within the Indo-European and Near Eastern worlds, this title seeks to challenge the view that women do not fight and that war is completely a male occupation – a view expressed as early as Xenophon and as late as the end of the 20th century.

Karlene Jones-Bley begins her study by defining Virgins, Viragos, and Amazons, going on to explore war goddesses, legendary, and historical women giving insights into different cultures, their attitudes towards women and how these have developed over time. Recent archaeological evidence supports her conclusions that women have always been a part of warfare.

The book is a wonderful resource with an incredible number of citations and footnotes to guide the reader to more information.

NetGalley, Abigail Mason

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I really enjoyed this historical nonfiction book, it was a unique concept for women in war and I was hooked from the first page. I thought Karlene Jones-Bley wrote this perfectly and was glad it was informative and glad I read this.

NetGalley, Kathryn McLeer

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What a fun and educational read!

Using ancient poetry, archaeological evidence, and folktales, dozens of Indo-European war goddesses are explained to the best of factual evidence.
My initial takeaway:
No wonder female gods were replaced by male deities; if women were instilled with their Ancient World skills and powers today, earth would be a radically different place. And some of these women were arguably historical figures.
The similarities and differences of each cultural goddess is examined.
The ancient goddesses generally were “virginal” by the old definition of virgin—-quite the surprising definition in many cultures. Depicted in art and literature wearing armor, carrying battle axes, and aggressive demeanor, it was good to have a goddess on your side.
The Near East goddesses were particularly aggressive, and European goddesses had some quirky battle skills. Using trickery, gruesome war mutilations and politically motivated sex, the goddesses myths make for fun historical reading.
No wonder warrior women, human or mythical, have been consigned to oblivion (except possibly for Helen of Troy, Amazons, Hatshepsut, Elizabeth I, to name but a few). This nonfiction book also dispels some myths and supports others.
Though useful for that age, their stories are awesome to me today. Highly recommended!

NetGalley, Donna Talbott

Women and Warfare in the Ancient World is a vast expanse of knowledge put together in a well researched and chronologically catergorised book which was incredibly fascinating.

As a general reader it took me a little while to get through this piece of work but as I have a love of history and Greek Mythology this was a no brainer to request.

The author Karlene Jones-Bley has crafted an extraordinary insight into the cultural aspects of women and their participation in Warfare. From well known Greeks and Romans to lesser known Celts and Indo-European Goddesses this book was full of inciteful information, loads of historical references and contributions from scholars.

I loved this book and will definitely be putting it on my bookshelf.

NetGalley, Tara Brown

The extensive research that went into this collection is very evident. Learning about the various cultures, myths, and historical details of women and war was extremely informative. There were several that I was previously unfamiliar with and greatly enjoyed learning more. I may even do some more digging to learn more about some of these women. Great reference book!

NetGalley, Jessica Hembree

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

What a wonderful book, it was interesting and immediately engaging. I loved reading it and learning about theses women and their storys.

NetGalley, Heather Bennett

I really enjoyed reading Women and Warfare in the Ancient World and think it is a great starting point for any young historians, particularly those with interest in feminine figures and experiences in the scope of warfare, which feminine experiences are often left out of.

NetGalley, Emily Walker

Another gap in traditional history has been ably filled by this carefully researched and wide ranging book. It shines a light on the role and contribution of women and expands the scope to include behind the scenes perspectives and functions. Really, really interesting and written in such a way as to invite more interest. I hope we will see more.

NetGalley, Louise Gray

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

I devoured this book. I love reading history, especially about women. This was a gem to read about forgotten women and how they dealt with war in the past. It's a lot of information, but if you loved books like Women Warriors by Pamela D Toler, you'll love this as well.

NetGalley, Katherine McCrea

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars

Women and Warfare in the Ancient World - Myth, Legend and Reality by Karlene Jones-Bley is a deeply immersive exploration of Women through all aspects of warfare since recording began and beyond

Throughout history, the recording of women's involvement in matters outside of the home went largely unrecorded, but more and more contemporary research is showing just how misleading this was

Women and Warfare in the Ancient World exceeded my expectations, because not only did the author explore the mythical representation of women in battle as Goddesses and Valkyries for example, but on to strategy, generals and the polarity between the effects of war on men and on women (ie, women being perceived as objects and pizes, open to brutality, ownership and SA for example, whereas men are more likely to be brutalised as prisoners, however, there are always exceptions to the rule and this is not a definitive interpretation)

Jones-Bley writes in a thoughtful, insightful way whilst being directly focussed on the evidence at hand. Women and Warfare in the Ancient World is a fascinating record of representation and misrepresentation throughout time, geography and culture. As research and archaeological methods become more refined, more and more is being discovered about the true role of women throughout historical warfare

An absolutely fascinating book and highly recommended

NetGalley, Ink Reads

About Karlene Jones-Bley

As an undergraduate, Karlene Jones-Bley studied European history at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA), concentrating on Europe and Russia. She returned to UCLA to receive her Ph. D in the interdisciplinary Indo-European Studies Program, which integrated courses in Indo-European languages and linguistics as well as mythology with those in her specialty of Iron and Bronze Age archaeology. Since obtaining her Ph.D., she has held the position of research associate at UCLA and has taught archaeology and an introduction to Indo-European Studies at UCLA, history at Marlbough School for Girls, and linguistics at California State University Los Angeles. She has also written a number of articles regarding women and war as well as queenship, mythology, and burial ritual that have appeared in peer-reviewed journals and anthologies. She has also participated in excavations in England, Northern Ireland, Germany, and the Russian Steppe. From 1997 to 2007, she served as co-editor of the Proceedings of the of the Annual UCLA Indo-European Conference. As a result of her excavations and research in Russia, she produced the monograph, Early and Middle Bronze Age Pottery from the Volga-Don Steppe, which was published by the British Archeological Reports International Series.

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