Fellow 1993-94

Maryline Gisele Parca


The Lives of Women in Graeco-Roman Egypt: the Papyrological Evidence

Relatively little direct female experience is preserved in our textual relics from antiquity, largely because much of what literature offers distorts or fictionalizes, and real women, especially those who were not of the élite, are generally to be found in the less-explored fields of non-literary material. Professor Parca's program of research aims at documenting women's lives in Greek Ptolemaic (third century B.C.E. to the late first century B.C.E.) and Roman Egypt (first century B.C.E. until the Byzantine period) using the documents written in Greek on papyrus as primary evidence.

The lives of women in the papyrological documentation have already prompted a significant amount of scholarly interest. While at first the focus has been principally placed on the legal status of women, the marital condition of women, and the correspondence of women under Greek rule in Egypt, more recent studies have extended the chronological range to Roman Egypt and shed light on broader socio-economic aspects by investigating topics such as child labor, male and female, women's ability to own property, or the illiteracy rate among women.

It is Professor Parca's intention to trace the lives of women who appear in papyrological documents from Greco-Roman Egypt by bringing together an extensive and representative corpus of texts. The volume will gather the results of the scattered modern scholarship based on those documents and attempt a broad assessment of the actual roles of women in all spheres of life. Above all, the monograph will present and examine a selection of texts, in the original Greek, of a widely varied nature. Each text will be accompanied by an English translation and explanatory notes on points of language, history, religion, custom and law, and synthetic essays on the various themes will conclude each chapter. For the first time, a sample of this diverse body of evidence will be presented in a single volume and made available to the professional and student alike.