Where: The Hampton Inn

Cost: $165.00 for 6 session(s)

Type: In Person


Instructor: Bella Vivante, Professor Emerita of Classics, University of Arizona, especially enjoys teaching adult education courses for the high level of interest and experience participants bring to the classroom.

The spectacular Helen of Troy—was she real? Cleopatra VII—ancient sex vamp or powerful Queen of Egypt? Whether mythological or historical, at least some women in ancient cultures held valued positions of power in their societies. Through art and literary selections we will examine select notable—and notorious—ancient women of power.

Week 1: Ancient Greek Helen, most familiar as Helen of Troy, was actually far more complex. This class will explore the range of aspects Helen represented and the meanings underlying each: as goddess associated with vegetation and girls’ rites of transition; as queen of Sparta; as cultural icon of beauty, eroticism, femininity and poetic creation; and as mythological sex goddess whose elopement sparked a 10-year war.

Week 2: The Self-Actuated Spartan Woman class will explore why Spartan women had such a strong image. Why did Aristotle hate them and Plutarch admire them? In contrast to other Greek communities, in Sparta women held roles as queens from Sparta’s founding, matriarchs, judges and community leaders. Ancient Sparta may have been a rare case of polyandry, women having more than one husband. Truly distinctive women’s roles!

Week 3: Aspasia, Salon Maven of Ancient Athens, has come down through the ages as lampooned by contemporary satirists—as an exotic prostitute who controlled the leading Athenian politician, Pericles. Whether she lived with him as lover or wife, she enjoyed an amazingly powerful position holding salons on a range of contemporary topics attended by notables: philosophy, Socrates; politics, Pericles and other political leaders; and the unique role as marriage counselor for elite couples.

Week 4: The Notable Queens of Egypt: Hatshepsut and Cleopatra VII distinguished themselves as outstanding ruling queens in Egypt’s long ancient dynasties. Separated by 1500 years, one fully Egyptian the other probably Greek, each took extraordinary measures to rule in her time, and each was maligned by contemporary and later detractors. Do they merit their notorious infamy, or should they be admired for their accomplishments?

Week 5: Warrior Queens—Did Xena Exist? Were the Amazons real or only a male fantasy? How did war goddesses inspire male armies? We’ll explore real warrior queens: the Celtic Boudicca who led her people to military victory over the Romans; Artemisia who outfoxed her Persian overlord King Xerxes; or the bloodthirsty Tomyris who drained the blood of her defeated foe, the Persian king Cyrus.

Week 6: Women Philosophers. Did you know that: the earliest extant writing by ancient Greek philosophers are by women? Socrates claims to have learned his philosophic ideas from a woman. Major Greek philosophers, including Plato, were said to be metrodidaktos, “mother-taught”. Women were welcome at, and even headed, many ancient philosophical schools. Let’s see just what these ancient philosophic women had to say.

Loading Map....

Register for Women of Power in Antiquity

Online registration has been closed for this class. Please call (520) 777-5817 for information.