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Women at War in the Classical World (Hardback)

Rome Women of History Military

By Paul Chrystal
Imprint: Pen & Sword Military
Pages: 249
Illustrations: 20
ISBN: 9781473856608
Published: 20th March 2017



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Paul Chrystal has written the first full length study of women and warfare in the Graeco Roman world. Although the conduct of war was generally monopolized by men, there were plenty of exceptions with women directly involved in its direction and even as combatants, Artemisia, Olympias, Cleopatra and Agrippina the Elder being famous examples. And both Greeks and Romans encountered women among their ‘barbarian’ enemies, such as Tomyris, Boudicca and Zenobia.

More commonly, of course, women were directly affected by war as non-combatant victims, of rape and enslavement as spoils of war and this makes up an important strand of the author’s discussion. The portrayal of female warriors and goddesses in classical mythology and literature, and the use of war to justify gender roles and hierarchies, are also considered. Overall it is a landmark survey of how war in the Classical world affected and was affected by women.

As featured on Lil's Vintage World Youtube Blog!

Lil's Vintage World

As featured in

The Press

As featured in MHM's round up of the best military history titles

Military History Monthly, September 2017

A book that is decidedly interesting and well-worth a read for all people.

Wargames Illustrated Facebook feed - reviewed by Dom Sore

Who has not heard of the Amazons or Helen of Troy, of Cleopatra or Dido? But who has heard of Youtab Queen of Egypt, gory Erictho or the supportive Turia? If you want to know about any woman involved in warfare in the ancient world, this is the book for you. This is also the only full-length study of the topic. The historical spread extends from Homer, with a look back at prehistoric times, to the end of the Roman empire, with references forward to women’s contemporary experiences of war. Geographically this study extends from Britain in the northwest to as far east as the Greeks and Romans had any contact with or knowledge of. In general women on the edge of the Roman empire or outside it seem to have been more martial than the dutiful Greek and Roman wives within it: the chapter on Foreign Women Fighters is the longest in the book. The author has based his account on both plentiful primary and secondary written souces and visual evidence from art or archaeology.
Rather that overwhelming the reader with abstruse theorising or academic debate, Paul Chrystal presents a straightforward and informative survey of women both well-known and lesser-known involved in war in all its aspects, as warlike goddesses, martial literary figures, leaders of armies, advisers, supporters or victims. His account is enlivened with interesting anecdotes and helpful illustrations. Central to the book is Part 2: Women as Victims of War, which describes the all too familiar story of rape, enslavement and loss of homeland, then as now. All in all then this study serves to examine women and war in all their aspects and helps to rectify the bias towards the part men played in war in classical times.

Dr Inga Mantle - Department of Classical Studies, Open University of Scotland

Author article as featured in, on the roles played by women in war across the ancient Greek and Roman worlds - some wielded weapons and led armies; others were a catalyst for conflict

Minerva, September/October 2016

As featured in

The York Press

As featured on...

Classics For All

Many readers may only see women at war as those who played a critical role in two World Wars. This view may be coloured by the Christian and Norman attitude to women as second class citizens but, even then, women were at least victims of war and a very small number were more actively involved as monarchs and,
occasionally, as fighters. In the ancient world, women were more closely involved, but not on the scale of those who served during
two world wars. – Highly Recommended.

Read the full review here.


Who is this book ideal for? Well, first of all, those interested in the history of women in antiquity and/or warfare. Secondly, I would argue this is also perfect for those who have a general interest in the ancient world; the book looks at the subject through the lenses of women in theatre, mythology and factual history; providing the reader with access to several aspects of female Roman history.

Read the full review here.

Know the Romans

Chrystal’s book demonstrates clearly the true extent of that involvement in a work remarkable for both its comprehensive treatment and depth of scholarship. The fact that the study extends to nineteen chapters, and the range of his bibliography in terms of both ancient testimonies and modern studies are immediate testimony to this.

A work of considerable scholarship and insight, one that anyone with an interest in ancient warfare will not be able to ignore.

Stanley Ireland, Department of Classics & Ancient History, University of Warwick
 Paul Chrystal

About Paul Chrystal

Paul Chrystal studied Latin and Greek at the University of Hull and then specialized in Latin love poetry for his MPhil at the University of Southampton. He is the author of numerous classical books , including Rome: Republic to EmpireRoman Military Disasters and Women at War in the Classical World. He has contributed as a feature writer to the Daily ExpressBBC History MagazineAd FamiliaresMinerva and All About History, and is frequently on BBC Radio York, BBC Radio Tees, BBC Radio Manchester and BBC World Service. He is a reviewer for and contributor to Classics for All. He lives in York where he is editor of York Historian.

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