Depictions of Women in the Works of Early Byzantine Historians and Chroniclers

Between Stereotype and Reality

in Historical Reflections/Réflexions Historiques
Ecaterina Lung Professor of Medieval History, University of Bucharest

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• The aim of this article is to highlight the ways in which women were represented in Byzantine historical works from the sixth to the ninth centuries. These are probably the best sources for a comprehensive understanding of Byzantine society, since they are more vivid, more related to literature than the law codes or archival documents, and less biased than the clergy’s writings. Like “Barbarians,” women were thought to be inferior, irrational, highly emotional, and unable to control their impulses. Byzantine women did not seem to have an identity of their own; they were always thought to be a reflection of a male. Byzantine authors believed that the normal behavior for women was to remain secluded in their houses, but when they actually presented individual women, these were almost always those who did not confine themselves to women’s quarters. A woman’s main avenue of entering written history was to behave like a man, renouncing her gender and acting in an independent manner.

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