The private letters of ancient women in Egypt from Alexander the Great to the Arab conquest

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Copyright © 2006, University of Michigan. All rights reserved.


More than three hundred letters written in Greek and Egyptian by women in Egypt in the millennium from Alexander the Great to the Arab conquest survive on papyrus and pottery. Written by women from various walks of life, they shed light on critical social aspects of life in Egypt after the pharaohs. Roger S. Bagnall and Raffaella Cribiore collect the best preserved letters in translation and set them in their paleographic, linguistic, social, and economic contexts. The authors' analysis suggests that women's habits, interests, and means of expression were a product more of their social and economic standing than of specifically gender-related concerns or behavior. They present theoretical discussions about the handwriting and language of the letters, the education and culture of the writers' everyday concerns and occupations. Numerous illustrations display the varieties of handwriting. 

Roger S. Bagnall is Professor of Ancient History and Leon Levy Director of the Institute for the Study of the Ancient World, New York University.
Raffaella Cribiore is Professor of Classics at New York University.

"This important collection makes available to students and scholars a vast trove of letters attributed to women that is unparalleled in the ancient world."
Bryn Mawr Classical Review

"Bagnall and Cribiore combine an elegant presentation of translations of women's letters from Greek and Roman Egypt with thoughtful and penetrating analyses. . . .This book will revolutionize our understanding of women and literacy in Greek and Roman Egypt."
—T.G. Wilfong, University of Michigan

"This comprehensive collection of papyrus letters by women makes an outstanding contribution to women's history, exemplary in the combination of scholarly rigor with accessible presentation."
—Jane Rowlandson, King's College London