Université d'Erfurt


Christopher Mowat

von Oktober 2015 bis März 2016 Gastkollegiat am Max-Weber-Kolleg



Engendering the Future. Divination and the Construction of Gender in the Late Roman Republic

With this research project, I seek to analyse the different divinatory traditions employed during the Roman Republic in respect to the gender identities of the people involved in these practices. There were many different methods the Romans employed to divine their futures (as well as their pasts and their presents), each with strict rules and rituals concerning the performance – and the identity of the performer.

Gender, and gender construction, was often used as a tool for restriction, and particularly for the marginalisation of women in Roman society. In the traditions of divination, however, the picture is more complicated than that. Oracular (and Sibylline) divination is one such example where a female diviner was often preferred, and even required, in order to unveil the knowledge sought by men. Why was the gender of the oracle giver so important? I believe that answering this can help us to further understand the construction, and significance of gender in the Roman world.

This project is structured around in-depth case studies of different traditions. For my stay with the Max-Weber-Kolleg Erfurt, I will be focussing on the Roman response to the birth of a hermaphrodite, which was to treat it as a portent of problems in wider society. Why was this disruption of individual gender seen as such an important message for the public?

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