Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index


  • Record Number: 9270
  • Author(s)/Creator(s): Long , Jacqueline.
  • Contributor(s):
  • Title: Memories of Zenobia
  • Source: Byzantine Studies Conference. Abstracts of Papers 22, ( 1996): Pages 60
  • Description:
  • Article Type: Conference Paper Abstract
  • Subject (See Also): Byzantium Greek Literature Historia Augusta, Continuation of Suetonius Queens Rulers Women in Literature Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra Zosimus, Author
  • Geographic Area: Eastern Mediterranean
  • Century: 3- 4- 5- 6
  • Related Resources:
  • Primary Evidence:
  • Illustrations:
  • Table:
  • Abstract: Zenobia of Palmyra indubitably bore a fascinating character in her own day. She commanded men's loyalties enough to be credited with having directed Palmyra's effective revolt from Roman authority in A.D. 270-272. Many modern scholars have endeavored to recover the contemporary Zenobia and her aims (Eugenia Equini Schneider, "Septimia Zenobia Sebaste" [Roma 1992] and Richard Stoneman, "Palmyra and its Empire: Zenobia's Revolt against Rome" [Ann Arbor, 1992], to name only two recent books). But although coins and inscriptions of the uprising preserve Zenobia's image and titles as they presented them to contemporary audiences, Zenobia is drawn in most detail by later literary sources: at greatest length, in preserved Roman and Byzantine texts, by the "Historia Augusta" and by Zosimus (D. F. Buck, "Anc. Hist. Bull." 9.2 [1995] 86-92 presumed that Zosimus echoes Eunapius closely in his account of the Palmyrene revolt, but cf. R. C. Blockley, "Byzantion" 50 [1980] 393-402). The "Historia Augusta" dilates on Zenobia's character. Elisabeth Wallinger has shown how its physical description of her improves on traits Suetonius ascribes to Augustus, carrying over with the portrait an implicit moral commentary ("Die Frauen in der Historia Augusta" [Wien 1990] 142-3). Zenobia in the "HA" foils both Gallienus and Aurelian, as the author emphasizes by making her contrast them explicitly when she explains why she set aside Roman rule ("HA Tyr. Trig." 30.23). I shall show how the conflicting judgments the author makes of her serve alternate sides of Zenobia's double role. Zosimus ascribes to Zenobia a "manly mind" when he reports that she succeeded Odaenathus in control of Palmyrene affairs, consonantly with the HA's more favorable remarks about her ([Greek Characters], Zos 1.39.2: e.g. "viriliter imperante," HA Gall." 13.5.) But for the most part he belittles her initiative: he assigns military decisions to her generals, he repeatedly characterizes her movements as flight, and finally he asserts that she threw all blame for the revolt onto her courtiers, of whom Longinus in particular suffers nobly (Zos. 1.51.1-3, 54.1-2, 55.1-2, 56.2-3.) Zosimus makes him foil Zenobia's conduct damningly. These differences reflect not only differences in the "Historia Augusta's" and Zosimus's sources for Zenobia and the Palmyrene revolt, but also fundamental differences in the ways the two authors construct their ideologies of ruling power and of femininity, which this paper will explore. Zosimus more simply disparages a woman's capacity to lead a state; the author of the "HA" feminizes traditional ideals of continence, thrift, and bravery, creating a woman ruler whom Aurelian could feel no shame at conquering (cf. "HA Tyr. Trig." 30.4, Zos. 1.55.3). [Reproduced by permission of the author.]
  • Author's Affiliation: University of Texas, Austin
  • Conference Info: - , -
  • Year of Publication: 1996.
  • Language: English
  • ISSN/ISBN: 01473387
  • Material/Technique :
  • Rights: