Book Review: Women at War in the Classical World


by Paul Chrystal

Barnsley, Eng.: Pen & Sword / Philadelphia: Casemate, 2020. Pp. xxix, 250+. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $626.95 paper. ISBN: 1526781468

Women in War in Antiquity

Chrystal, author of numerous works in ancient history, women’s history, and military history, gives us an overview of the role of women in war in the Graeco-Roman world. It’s a bit hard to categorize. Chrystal’s primary interest is on historical instances of “woman as agents of military activity and war” (p. xiv) in cultures in which, despite Plato’s call to train women in arms, “war is man’s work” (p. 7), that is as political leaders, commanders, and warriors. But he also gives us looks at war goddesses and their importance to the military culture of the times, legendary women warriors such Semiramis and the Amazons, and the not at all legendary women of Tegea. He also gives us a look at the depiction of women and war as found in theatre, the arts, and even the gladiatorial arena, and women as victims of war.

Chrystal includes annotated “catalogues” of woman in these various roles, which not only helps illustrate how common the idea of women as warriors was, despite the cultural biases against them. One matter Chrystal fails to address, is the almost literally absence of actual historic women as warriors among were Roman, barring gladiatrices, in contrast to the Greeks and other cultures of the period.

Women at War in the Classical World is good read not only for students of Classical military history, but also for those interested in women and warfare, and for anyone seeking to understand the intersection of myth, legend, and history.




Note: Women at War in the Classical World is also available in several e-editions.


StrategyPage reviews are published in cooperation with The New York Military Affairs Symposium

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi, Review Editor   

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