Encyclopedia of Women in the Ancient World

by Joyce Salisbury


Why did Cleopatra seduce Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, engulfing the Roman Empire in bloody civil war? Why have the Amazons fascinated ancient and modern societies? From Nefertiti to Aphrodite, from Cleopatra to the Vestal Virgins, the women of the ancient world played a powerful role in its development and its demise.

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Cover image for Encyclopedia of Women in the Ancient World

May 2001


Pages 385
Volumes 1
Size 7x10
Topics World History/Gender
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An extensive and fascinating collection of stories featuring both famous and everyday women, giving a well-rounded view of the lives of women in the ancient world.

When did women first become rulers, athletes, soldiers, heroines, and villains? They always were, observes historian Judith Salisbury. From Mesopotamian priestesses and poets to Egyptian queens and consorts, "there was never a time when women did not participate in all aspects of society."

Salisbury tells the stories of 150 women from the ancient world, ranging from the very famous, such as Cleopatra VII, immortalized by Hollywood, to the barely remembered, such as the Roman poet Nossis. Writing for a general audience, Salisbury begins by painting each woman into her historical context, then recounts each woman's story, describing the choices she made as she looked for happiness, wealth, power, or well-being for herself and her family—stories much like our own. In entries on general themes—clothing, cosmetics, work, sexuality, prostitution, gynecology—Salisbury analyzes the commonalties in the lives of these women of antiquity from a cross-cultural perspective.


  • Entries including women from myth, religion, and legend including Eve, Aphrodite, the earth goddess Gaea, Helen of Troy, and Isis
  • Entries arranged by categories such as Greece, Rome, Christian, and Northern Europe for ease of research
  • Many rare and revealing images including a procession of virgin martyrs, ca. A.D. 560
  • Photographs of ancient sculptures including a Minoan snake goddess, ca. 1600 B.C.; numerous maps of ancient Greece and Mesopotamia; and a depiction of the Hellenistic monarchies
  • Genealogical charts of the Herodian family, the family of Augustus, and the Julio-Claudian house


  • Provides a window to the ancient world through the lives of women who were involved in historical events
  • Covers diverse subjects such as Greek heroine cults and the daily life of German warrior women
  • Includes forceful and politically empowered Egyptians such as Nefertiti and Cleopatra, the Celtic Boudicca, the Syrian Zenobia, and the Roman empress Julia Domna
Author Info

Joyce Salisbury is Frankenthal professor of history at the University of Wisconsin, Green Bay, WI.



"Encyclopedia of Women in the Ancient World is very highly recommended as a core addition to any academic world history or women's studies reference collection."Wisconsin Bookwatch

"This volume should be helpful to high school students, undergraduates, and general readers."Booklist

"Excellent maps, geneaological charts, and indexing make the work easy to use, while the prose style entices readers to delve into the content."Choice

"[N]one can match the breadth and depth of coverage . . . No other work covers the general articles as well."Association of College and Research Libraries

"What a wonderful book. . . . The clever thing with this encyclopedia is that the cover suggests accessibility and a gentle read, and indeed you do get that. The text is meticulously indexed . . . The foreword is enticing and the preface is extremely helpful."The School Librarian

"An interested general reader can drive a lot of pleasure from dipping into the Encyclopedia. The ancient accounts themselves take center stage; scholarly interpretations are deftly handled. Salisbury does not bog down the reader with multiple interepretations or a catalog of academic disputes."Feminist Collections


Editors' Choice 2001 Reference — Booklist

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