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Famous Women
by Giovanni Boccaccio
translated by Virginia Brown
Harvard University Press, 2003
Paper: 978-0-674-01130-4

The first collection of biographies in Western literature devoted exclusively to women, Famous Women affords 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. Virginia Brown's acclaimed translation, commissioned for The I Tatti Renaissance Library, is the first English edition based on the autograph manuscript of the Latin.

Table of Contents:


I. Eve, Our First Mother
II. Semiramis, Queen of the Assyrians
III. Opis, Wife of Saturn
IV. Juno, Goddess of Kingdoms
V. Ceres, Goddess of the Harvest and Queen of Sicily
VI. Minerva
VII. Venus, Queen of Cyprus
VIII. Isis, Queen and Goddess of Egypt
IX. Europa, Queen of Crete
X. Libya, Queen of Libya
XI-XII. Marpesia and Lampedo, Queens of the Amazons
XIII. Thisbe, a Babylonian Maiden
XIV. Hypermnestra, Queen of the Argives and Priestess of Juno
XV. Niche, Queen of Thebes
XVI. Hypsipyle, Queen of Lemnos
XVII. Medea, Queen of Colchis Arachne of Colophon
XIX-XX. Orithya and Antiope, Queens of the Amazons
XXI. Erythraea or Herophile, a Sibyl Medusa, Daughter of Phorcus Jole, Daughter of the King of the Aetolians
XXIV. Deianira, Wife of Hercules
XXV. Jocasta, Queen of Thebes
XXVI. Almarhea or Deiphebe, a Sibyl
XXVII. Nicostrata or Carmenta, Daughter of King lonius
XXVIII. Pocris, Wife of Cephalus
XXIX. Argia, Wife of Polynices and Daughter of King Adrastus
XXX. Manto, Daughter of Tiresias
XXXI. The Wives of the Minyans
XXXII Penthesilea, Queen of the Amazons
XXXIII. Polyxena, Daughter of King Priam
XXXIV. Hecuba, Queen of the Trojans
XXXV. Cassandra, Daughter of King Priam of Troy
XXXVI. Clyremnesrra, Queen of Mycenae
XXXVII. Helen, Wife of King Menelaus
XXXVIII. Circe, Daughter of the Sun
XXXIX. Camilla, Queen of the Volscians
XL. Penelope, Wife of Ulysses
XLI. Lavinia, Queen of Laurentum
XLII. Dido or Elissa, Queen of Carthage
XLIII. Nicaula, Queen of Ethiopia
XLIV. Pamphile, Daughter of Platea
XLV. Rhea lila, a Vestal Virgin
XLVI. Gaia Cyrilla, Wife of King Tarquinius Priscus
XLVII. Sappho, Girl of Lesbos and Poetess of Collatinus
XLIX. Tamyris, Queen of Scyrhia
L. Leaena, a Prostitute
LI. Athaliah, Queen of Jerusalem
LII. Cloelia, a Roman Maiden
LIII. Hippo, a Greek Woman
LIV. Megullia Dotata
LV. Veturia, a Roman Matron
LVI. Tamaris, Daughter of Micon
LVII. Artemisia, Queen of Caria
LVIII. Virginia, Virgin and Daughter of Virginius
LIX. Irene, Daughter of Cratinus
LX. Leontium
LXI. Oiympias, Queen of Macedonia
LXII. Claudia, a Vestal Virgin
LXIII. Virginia, Wife of Lucius Volunmius
LXIV. Flora the Prostitute, Goddess of Flowers and Wife of Zephyrus
LXV. A Young Roman Woman
LXVI. Marcia, Daughter of Varro
LXVII. Sulpicia, Wife of Fulvius Flaccus
LXVIII. Harmonia, Daughter of Gelon of Sicily
LXIX. Busa of Canosa di Puglia
LXX. Sophonisba, Queen of Numidia
LXXI. Theoxena, Daughter of Prince Herodicus
LXXII. Berenice, Queen of Cappadocia
LXXIII. The Wife of Orgiago the Galatian
LXXIV. Tertia Aemilia, Wife of the Elder Africanus
LXXV. Dripetrua, Queen of Laodicea
LXXVI. Sempronia, Daughter of Gracchus
LXXVII. Claudia Quinta, a Roman Woman
LXXVIII. Hypsicratea, Queen of Pontus
LXXIX. Sempronia, a Roman Woman
LXXX. The Wives of the Cimbrians
LXXXI. Julia, Daughter of the Dictator Julius Caesar
LXXXII. Portia, Daughter of Cato Uticensis
LXXXIII. Curia, Wife of Quintus Lucretius
LXXXIV. Hortensia, Daughter of Quintus Hortensius
LXXXV. Sulpicia, Wife of Truscellio
LXXXVI. Cornificia, a Poetess
LXXXVII. Mariamme, Queen of Judaea
LXXXVIII. Cleopatra, Queen of Egypt
LXXXIX. Antonia, Daughter of Antony
XC. Agrippina, Wife of Germanicus
XCI. Paulina, a Roman Woman
XCII. Agrippina, Mother of the Emperor Nero
XCIII. Epicharis, a Freedwoman
XCIV. Pompeia Paulina, Wife of Seneca
XCV. Sabina Poppaea, Wife of Nero
XCVI. Triaria, Wife of Lucius Vitellius
XCVII. Proba, Wife of Adelphus
XCVIII. Faustina Augusta
XCIX. Symiamira, Woman of Emesa
C. Zenobia, Queen of Palmyra
CI. Joan, an Englishwoman and Pope
CII. Irene, Empress of Constantinople
CIII. Gualdrada, a Florentine Maiden
CIV. Constance, Empress of Rome and Queen of Sicily
CV. Camiola, a Sienese Widow
CVI. Joanna, Queen of Jerusalem and Sicily

Note on the Text

Reviews of this book:
In a pungent new translation by Virginia Brown, [Boccaccio's] famous women hold up very well indeed...The success of Famous Women suggests that [Renaissance] ladies read their Boccaccio as we are invited to read him: with forbearance for his foibles and delight in the tales he tells with such gusto and skill.
--Ingrid D. Rowland, New York Times Book Review

Reviews of this book:
For good or evil, as wife, mother, or whore, these women have the splendor of clarity; their individual destinies are sharply defined.
--Tim Parks, New York Review of Books

Reviews of this book:
Whatever his intentions--and it may be that feminism was a long-term outgrowth of the humanism that he pioneered--Boccaccio launched a lasting genre that urged women, as well as men, to reach for glory, and gave them examples to live by.
--David Quint, The New Republic

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