Famous Women

Front Cover
Harvard University Press, 2001 - Biography & Autobiography - 530 pages
2 Reviews

After the composition of the Decameron, and under the influence of Petrarch's humanism, Giovanni Boccaccio(1313-1375) devoted the last decades of his life to compiling encyclopedic works in Latin. Among them is Famous Women, the first collection of biographies in Western literature devoted exclusively to women.

The 106 women whose life stories make up this volume range from the exemplary to the notorious, from historical and mythological figures to Renaissance contemporaries. In the hands of a master storyteller, these brief biographies afford a fascinating glimpse of a moment in history when medieval attitudes toward women were beginning to give way to more modern views of their potential.

Famous Women, which Boccaccio continued to revise and expand until the end of his life, became one of the most popular works in the last age of the manuscript book, and had a signal influence on many literary works, including Chaucer's Canterbury Tales and Castiglione's Courtier. This edition presents the first English translation based on the autograph manuscript of the Latin.

  

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Famous women

User Review  - Not Available - Book Verdict

While largely known for the Decameron (c.1351), Boccaccio exercised a profound influence on British and European literature with his Latin De mulieribus claris. Geoffrey Chaucer inserted a translation ... Read full review

Review: Famous Women

User Review  - Marianna - Goodreads

Did not like the author's portrayal of women. But it was an interesting look at the views of the times. Read full review

Contents

Dedication
3
Eve Our First Mother
14
1n Opis Wife of Saturn
24
vn Venus Queen of Cyprus
38
Europa Queen of Crete
46
x1xxx Orithya and Antiope Queens of the Amazons
82
King Adrastus
116
xxxvn Helen Wife of King Menelaus
143
LXIII Virginia W1fe of Lucius Volumnius
260
Flora the Prostitute Goddess of Flowers and Wife of Zephyrus
265
A Young Roman Woman
271
Marcia Daughter of Varro
275
Sulpicia Wife of Fulvius Flaccus
276
Harmonia Daughter of Gelon of Sicily
280
Busa of Canosa di Puglia
285
Sophonisba Queen of Numidia
288

xxxv1n Circe Daughter of the Sun
151
Penelope wife of Ulysses
159
Lavinia Queen of Laurentum
165
Dido or Elissa Queen of Carthage
167
Nicaula Queen of Ethiopia
180
Pamphile Daughter of Platea
184
Rhea Ilia a Vestal Virgin
186
XLV1 Gaia Cyrilla Wife of King Tarquinius Priscus
190
Sappho Girl of Lesbos and Poetess
192
Lucretia wife of Collatinus
194
Tamyris Queen of Scythia
199
Leaena a Prostitute
204
LI Athaliah Queen of Jerusalem
208
Cloelia a Roman Maiden
216
LII1 Hippo a Greek Woman
218
Megullia Dotata
220
Veturia a Roman Matron
222
Tamaris Daughter of Micon
230
Artemisia Queen of Caria
233
Virginia Virgin and Daughter of Virginius
243
Irene Daughter of Cratinus
249
Leontium
250
Olympias Queen of Macedonia
253
Claudia a Vestal Virgin
259
Theoxena Daughter of Prince Herodicus
297
LXX11 Berenice Queen of Cappadocia
303
LXX111 The Wife of Orgiago the Galatian
306
LXX1V Tertia Aemilia Wife of the Elder Africanus
310
Dripetrua Queen of Laodicea
314
Sempronia Daughter of Gracchus
316
Claudia Quinta a Roman Woman
319
Hypsicratea Queen of Pontus
322
Sempronia a Roman Woman
329
The Wives of the Cimbrians
335
Julia Daughter of the Dictator Julius Caesar
338
Portia Daughter of Cato Uticensis
340
Curia Wife of Quintus Lucretius
344
Hortensia Daughter of Quintus Hortensius
348
Sulpicia Wife of Truscellio
351
Cornificia a Poetess
352
Mariamme Queen of Judaea
354
Cleopatra Queen of Egypt
361
Antonia Daughter of Antony
375
Conclusion
472
Notes
479
Bibliography
505
Copyright

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About the author (2001)

Although Giovanni Boccaccio was born in France and raised and educated in Naples, where he wrote his first works under the patronage of the French Angevin ruler, Boccaccio always considered himself a Tuscan, like Petrarch and Dante. After Boccaccio returned to Florence in 1340, he witnessed the outbreak of the great plague, or Black Death, in 1348. This provided the setting for his most famous work, the vernacular prose masterpiece Il Decamerone (Decameron) (1353). This collection of 100 short stories, told by 10 Florentines who leave plague-infected Florence for the neighboring hill town of Fiesole, is clear evidence of the beginning of the Renaissance in Italy. The highly finished work exerted a tremendous influence on Chaucer, Shakespeare, Dryden, Keats, and Tennyson even as it established itself as the great classic of Italian fictional prose. Although Chaucer did not mention Boccaccio's name, his Canterbury Tales are clearly modeled on the Decameron. Boccaccio's other important works are a short life of Dante and commentaries on the Divine Comedy; Filocolo (1340) a prose romance; Filostrato (1335), a poem on Troilus and Cressida; and Theseus (1340-41), a poem dealing with the story of Theseus, Palamon, and Arcite. Boccassio's only attempt at writing an epic was a work that Chaucer rendered as his "Knight's Tale." Boccaccio's last work written in Italian was the gloomy, cautionary tale titled The Corbaccio (1355). The Nymph Song (1346), as a counterpiece for the Decameron, demonstrates that it is possible to read the Decameron as an allegory, with the plague representing the spiritual plague of medieval Christianity, viewed from the vantage point of Renaissance humanism. Many of the Decameron tales are indeed paganized versions of medieval sermons about sin and damnation with the morals reversed. After 1363 Boccaccio concentrated on trying to gain enduring fame by writing, in Latin, a series of lives of memorable men and women and a genealogy of the pagan gods. Boccaccio died in 1375.

Virginia Brown is Senior Fellow, Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto.

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