This story that is told about Rome’s founding, formulation, and populating, and has bothered me for a long time. The story is usually called The Rape of the Sabine Women. Current attempts to make the story title less horrific has it being called The Abduction of the Sabine Women. It seems that every painter from the Renaissance on into the Romantic era seems to have depicted the story in a painting; some artists painted multiple paintings of the story.
The crux of the story is that the two founders of Rome needed to solidify relations with neighboring cities and needed women for the predominantly male and military encampment if the area was to be developed according to their vision. The Sabine people were neighbors and not interested in joining forces with nascent Rome strategically or biologically via their daughters marrying the Romans. Rome had a party and invited everyone. Rome abducted the Sabine women and fought off their fathers and brothers.
The Romans promised much to the women, but less was given than promised. But families were started and the women were, so the story goes, some of the first mothers of Rome. But the Sabine fathers and brothers were still ticked off about the theft of their family members (without recompense) so they attacked Rome again. This time the women interceded as is shown in this 1799 painting where the woman in white is flanked by children. Basic translation, “Dad, Brother mine, Husband, do not harm each other for your progeny, sons, nephews, grandsons need you.” The women are then celebrated as peacemakers. The Sabines all join in with this new city of Rome and everyone lived happily ever after.
The initial reaction to this story is that the abduction is terrible. Well yes, but it is such an iconic patriarchal story. Suitors do not reach agreement with males for the women they want to have as wives and have probably begun seducing. Would it have really been any better if the trade of young women for goods, services, or alliances by the young women’s male relatives been successful? The women’s perspective on being traded or abducted does not really enter into the story. Their only message seems to be, “Think of the children.”
I am pretty sure this story has undergone conversion to mythic structure, but it still has the element of historical truth about the basic status of women as chattel in the early European States. Another implicit message is that women, once bred, will become good wives and mothers no matter how they were procured.
This is really not that big of a difference from what happened earlier and to the north in Europe. This dispersal of women at marriage is referred to as patrilocal household structure. Men stay where they are born and women travel to a husband’s village upon marriage. Evidence from Germanic settlements as culture shifted from the Neolithic to Bronze Age showed this patrilocality too. It probably was not abduction as such as artifacts and burial patterns suggest that women brought in trade goods from their home areas, and that burial customs from the women’s cultural tradition were observed. The distinction between positioning of bodies in graves according to sex seems to show that there was a great deal of differentiation between women and men’s cultural traditions.
The unique thing about the Sabine story is that there was mass movement of many women, perhaps an entire generation from their place of birth to their husband’s residence.
What I want to find out is whether there was matrilocal residence patterns in the groups in this area before this time. Such an explanatory tale might be created to justify a change from one major cultural behavior such as marriage patterns and residence.
In any case, I think the Sabine women did not have much self-determination. Of course we all know the Romans were obsessed with patriarchal behavior. We also know that women are naturally arbiters in families and communities.
A to Z - 2018 - Feminine Icons
I created this image last year to pay homage to the 50th anniversary of the recording of the song, Respect, by Aretha Franklin on Valentines Day.
Otis Redding wrote the song, but Respect as Aretha interpreted it, became an anthem for women and the downtrodden. Was it the song or the woman, or both that made this song version so iconic?
To this day Aretha is amazing! Jerry Wexler produced the album. This was her first recording with Atlantic her a great deal of artistic freedom. When she played the piano accompaniment for her own vocals, it was apparently magic that inspired all the musicians working with her. Family members can sometimes do things together vocally that only people with similar “pipes” can. Aretha’s sisters, Carolyn and Erma, provided backing vocals, and inserted their own touches such as repetitions of Aretha’s nickname, “Re, Re, Re, Re” and the “sock it to me” the performed lyrics. It was a perfect alignment of everything.
I grew up sleeping with a transistor radio under my pillow. At night I could get WLS and listen to music of the day that became the iconic songs for my generation of girls soon to be women. Most songs played on the air were rather piggish overtly or subliminally, it was the era of Mad Men after all. But when we heard a woman singing with the emotion and depth of Aretha, we listened, we imprinted. We emulated the ethos of the song that captured the essence of the civil rights movement and what women wanted and were beginning to demand interpersonally. It was what men and women of all backgrounds and ethnicities wanted and needed. Just a lil’ bit.
The arrangement nailed it. Aretha’s powerful, soulful, voice and inspired piano playing, along with her sister’s embellishments to the lyrics made the song hers. R and B? Pop? Gospel? It is all there. Otis Redding wrote the song originally, but it became hers. It was anthem, drawing together, and inspiration, drawing in.
The song topped the charts during 1967’s Summer of Love, but it had a timeless quality beyond much of the music of the day that simply reflected change and novelty rather than universal human desire that was at the core of Respect.
This was a moment of change, but it was also an embodiment of all the change that had happened up to that point. Music recognized, amplified, codified and distributed social change. Music is a powerful cultural communication tool. When the time is right, a single person’s message can travel around the world.
Quan Yin, Quality, Quilts, Queer… or perhaps Quakers, or Quest… such a quandary as to what to write about for this A to Z Challenge for the letter Q. The later portion of the English alphabet poses a special challenge as the words that start some of the letters in the last third of the set have almost no words starting with those letters that are in common use and in these challenges the coverage gets fairly thin and predictable.
I have examined Quilts in this challenge in 2016.
And I covered the Quixotic Q in 2012.
I love Quan Yin, the female Buddha of compassion, but I just wasn’t feeling it as an entry for this challenge. I am not sure we can say she is iconic as until 1200 AD, or so, she was most often depicted as a male, and in many parts of the world still is male.
Then there was Queer for which I could also work in the word Quaker by covering the quote my mother repeated to me time and again to show me the folly of judging others. As she learned it, it went as follows,
Everyone is queer but me and thee, and sometimes I think thee is a bit queer.
The quote, “‘All the world is queer save thee and me, and even thou art a little queer.” is attributed to Robert Owen in 1828. He was a bit of a utopian, so I understand why Quakers and Amish are supposed to use this phrase. My mother learned it from her grandmother, who was born into an Amish family. I am quite sure that this in no way referred to sexuality, gender, or status. I could go on about this phrase and all of which it is indicative , but this does not really apply to the iconic feminine either.
But I finally decided to borrow Leanne’s word Quality (over Quantity) as she wrote on Cresting the Hill. She is doing a Zen thing for the challenge. On reading her post I immediately began thinking of the women who have inspired me and how they stressed quality in all you do as well as how quality is more important than quantity in nearly all things. Myrdene, my major professor, an anthropologist, taught qualitative methods, as quantitative methods have no real meaning as you cannot be sure you are counting the same things that others are counting.
A mother knows this. Children are not equal units. You cannot compare your first two children with your last two children. Or at least generations and places where many children were or are common in families know the birth order argument. Parents have favorites. Some children become the family scapegoats or black sheep. Male and female children are, to this day, valued differently in many cultures.
A mother also knows that food stuffs are not all equal. You cannot compare, nor add together, the processed, empty calorie items available in corner fast food markets in food deserts with the fresh produce available in farmer’s markets that feature locally produced, organic, fresh in-season vegetables and fruits.
Nothing is comparable. As we age we learn that we are truly unique within our overlapping patterns of behavior. Quality is perception. Number is … well just number. We’ve all heard the phrase, “Boys with Toys.” And we also know the “He who dies with the most toys wins.” Women tend to not think this way. Lots of men do not either, but our modern world tends to emphasize the accumulation of goods. A good life, a well-lived life, happy and healthy children who have happy lives ,and if they want, have children of their own. These are not additive. Our lives need to be analog, not digital. Degrees of meaning are shades of experience. Checked off boxes bleak and without nuance. Quality is like a texture. Communication is qualitative, while letters and sounds can be digitized, the content within communication is qualitative.
To me quality is a feminine concept. How do you see it?
Women get very short shrift in Greek Myth. Doomed before creation.
Pandora was the first woman according to the Greek origin story. The Gods and Titans made men, and then became angry after Prometheus helped them gain fire and they became uppity. So to punish men, they created a woman, the first mortal woman, Pandora.
So before we get to her box, which as it turns out was a sealed jar, probably an amphora and not a box, the lies start. This should be our first clue that the whole story is bogus, but then you already knew that right?
So how was Pandora to punish men? She was created by Hephaestos and Athena on Zeus’s orders. He was the craftsman, the blacksmith, potter, and stonemason of the Gods. As a master crafter and with Athena’s help Pandora was lovely and skilled, she could weave, and was beguiling with her beauty and sexuality. Other Gods added their two cents worth with Aphrodite giving Pandora beauty, desire, self-aware vanity, and grace. Hermes gave her a bold and shameless mind, a duplicitous nature, and language. Other Gods decorated her with gold and flowers.
I am far from the first to notice her similarity with Eve. First woman. Created for man. Temptress responsible for downfall of man per the apple. As a weaver Pandora has elements of Eve leading to the awareness of nakedness. The gold and flowers are not part of Eve’s story and probably related to early economics and the commercialization of sex or the definition of women as property.
Pandora certainly has all the patriarchal branding upon which our modern western world is built. There is potential linkage to an earlier story when you bring in the covered jar rather than a box which Pandora opens. There is an All Souls Day ritual that involved the opening of wine jars which also released the souls of the dead to the world while the drinking fest lasted over the course of a couple days.
After the harvest most proto European cultures have a festival where the worlds of living and dead come together as Winter descends. There is usually a female deity or supernatural being associated with Winter such as Cailleach. These late Autumn or early Winter associations may well trace back to a proto-European mythology which is fairly well evidenced by early three dimensional representational carvings of women.
In any case, the dispersal of all of life’s misfortune’s such as pestilence, illness, suffering and death are blamed on Pandora and the curiosity that sparked her opening of a sealed jar that Zeus gave her and then told her not to open. This sounds like Eve too, with the tree of knowledge and the snake representing human understanding and knowledge. Blaming women for death and the understanding of our mortality makes sense only if you understand that the cycle of life and death are obviously under women’s control because of gestation and birth in early cultures.
The Sheela na gig or witch on the wall obviously, to most researchers, connect this life/death cycle in Western Celtic cultures, and when you include Pandora and Southern European mythologies you see this cycle attributed to women. Patriarchal cultures often see this linkage as negative. More egalitarian or women-honoring cultures see this element of humanity as part of the mystery and wonder of the life cycle.
The shackling of women and blaming of them for all of society’s ills is clear example of bullying and psychologically-enforced servitude that is not a balanced nor productive structure for organizing society in the most beneficial way for all members.
Pandora, the first women of Greek myth, and all the women in society derived from that time on have been scapegoats of a negatively framed worldview.