Greek & Roman Studies

Student Honors Papers

The Student Honors Papers collection represents exemplary work in Greek & Roman Studies at Illinois Wesleyan University. The Ames Library is proud to archive these and other honors projects in Digital Commons @ IWU, the University's online archive of student, faculty and staff scholarship and creative activity.

Sexual Slander in the Ancient Mediterranean From the Late Republic Through Early Christianity

by Jenni Tucker

When women rose to power in the ancient world and threatened the established patriarchal order, men would use sexual slander to disempower, discredit, and defame these women, Through the examples of Clodia, Cleopatra, Julia, JuliaDomna, and Theodora, I demonstrate how and why sexual slander was used in Rome, Egypt, and Byzantium to attack powerful women. Clodia was from a wealthy, political family making her an easy target for politicians to slander for their own gains. Cleopatra was dangerous for Roman morals because she had influence over the tho strongest men in Rome. Julia acted in a manner contrary to her father's moral reforms, and was made a public example of how not to behave for the Roman Empire. Julia Domna was an influence empress who was active in the political scene, which prevented men from rising in politics because she blocked their access to power. Finally, Theodora's sinful early life could never be excused by the Christian society she lived in despite her piety and good works.

I apply Luce Irigaray's modern feminist theory to explain the struggles women faces when trying to rise in the patriatchal society. The other explains the gender gap within society and how society was structured in a way to discourage the other from gaining power. Male language is a tool created by men to secure their place in society and to attack women more easily. Finally, commodification is a way in which women could be stripped of their agency and serve as merely an object beneficial to the male subject. This modern framework demonstrates how men used the other, male language, and commodification to sexually slander women from the Late Republic through Early Christianity. This paper proves that women could infiltrate patriarchal societies, but they were punished by sexual slander when their rise threatened men.

Pushing the Limit: An Analysis of the Women of the Severan Dynasty

by Colleen Melone

By applying Judith Butler’s theories of identity to the imperial women of the Severan dynasty in ancient Rome, this paper proves that while the Severan women had many identities, such as wife, mother, philosopher, or mourner, their imperial identity was most valued due to its ability to give them the freedom to step outside many aspects of their gender and to behave in ways which would customarily be deemed inappropriate. Butler’s theories postulate that actions create identities and that these identities then interact to form new possibilities for action. Using Butler’s theories, this paper first examines the actions of the Severan women in order to determine their identities, and then analyzes the ways in which their various identities overlap allowing them to act in ways contrary to traditionally accepted gender roles. This method produces superior results because Butler’s theories on the mingling of identities require scholars to view the Severan women as a product made up of many parts, rather than attempting to define the women based on a specific feature or only one identity. This paper concludes that the imperial identity of the Severan women was ultimately responsible for the differences between the imperial Roman women and average Roman women. This argument is significant because it proves that sources regarding empresses cannot be applied to typical Roman women, and vice versa.

Sexual Healing: Gender and Sexuality in the Healing Cult of Asklepios

by Aislinn E. Lowry

This study analyzes gender roles and sexuality within the cult of Asklepios through the analysis of inscriptions, medical texts, poetry, and art. I argue that the ancient Greek understanding of gender identity and sexuality is so omnipresent that it permeates everything from the concepts of illness and health themselves, to the appearance of the deities, and even the way healing was received within the sacred precinct. Also, I contend that Hygeia and Asklepios, representing health through harmony with nature and medical intervention respectively, were created and function in healing cults as an interdependent, inextricably linked sexual binary: health is equated with femininity and nature while medicine is culturally constructed and masculine. I conclude that the balance and adequate influence of both the masculine and the feminine creative principles, embodied by the divinities of healing and represented by all actors and objects associated with them, must be present for healing to occur.

The Greek Language: An Historical Study

by Richard C. Leonard '60

The Greek alphabet has been in constant use since the eighth century B.C., and was derived from the Phoenician alphabet. Greek colonists in Italy gave the Romans a modified version of the Greek alphabet, which became the Roman alphabet in which English is written.

The War of Images: An Artistic Approach to the Parting of the Ways

by Kristin Zavislak, '09

The "parting of the ways" did not occur in one isolated, climactic event; it was a slow and gradual process. When exactly the split between Judaism and Christianity was completed is a topic scholars still disagree on today. To locate the date that it happened, most rely on the scriptures and Christian historical accounts; because very little Jewish writing from the second and third centuries survives, Jewish opinion on the subject is left out entirely. Through an examination of the earliest examples of 'Jewish' and 'Christian' art, on the walls of the Christian catacombs and the buildings found at Dura-Europos, I will clarify the reasons as to when and why the split occurred. In particular, I will focus on how one motif, Abraham's sacrifice of Isaac, is interpreted by both Christian and Jewish artists and used within their most private spaces of worship to express their religious identities. In this paper I will argue that the threat of paganism, intensified by the expanding Roman Empire, brought about the need for Jewish art, and that the need to unite in a "war of images" against polytheism ultimately kept the "ways" together for longer than most historians postulate.

Titus and the Queen: Julia Berenice and the Opposition to Titus' Succession

by Michael S. Vasta '07

The purpose of this paper is to demonstrate that one of the primary reasons for this apprehension towards Titus' succession was his "conspicuous love ofthe queen Berenice, to whom, they say, he even promised marriage. The affair of Titus and Berenice has not been given proper attention by modem scholars. Most ignore the affair or gloss over it as a novelty, yet this is an error. Those who do connect the relationship of Titus and Berenice to the political context of Flavian Rome, such as John Crook, mistakenly associate the delay in Berenice's arrival to the influence of Licinius Mucianus. However, this paper will demonstrate that the relationship of Titus and Berenice is integral to understanding the opposition to the Flavian regime, and Titus' succession in particular. It will examine how the history ofJulia Berenice before and after the start of her affair with Titus served as ammunition for the opposition against her and argue that their relationship became a focal point for the opposition to Titus' succession led by Helvidius Priscus.