Living with the rules: the rule of law and gender in Herodotus' histories

Tank, Helen Katharine (2020). Living with the rules: the rule of law and gender in Herodotus' histories. University of Birmingham. Ph.D.

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In this thesis, I take a gender perspective to consider how Herodotus presents the rule of law in the Histories. Demaratus introduces Xerxes to the Spartan military nomos which compels men to ‘win or die’, making it an external despotic force to be feared more than the command of a tyrant. However, Herodotus as narrator observes that people have an internal attachment to their own rules, which include the regulation of gender performance and involve women as much as men. I show that, although most women were excluded from legal and political institutions, devalued by gender ideology, and prevented from exercising power, they were involved in the regulation of everyday life, which is a key aspect of the rule of law in the Histories. I adopt a socio-legal methodology to examine how women and men live with a variety of rules, political, religious and social, and adopt a range of strategies to do so.

The rule of law is also a normative ideal which is used by Herodotus to interrogate power, in particular the nomos of tyranny. I use a range of case studies to show how a focus on gender helps us to think about abuse of power, excess and arbitrariness. For Herodotus, respect for nomos is necessary whatever one’s status and gender, and operates within a network of relationships, depends on the performance of appropriate roles and is contingent on reciprocity. I argue that the rule of law is a powerful force in the Histories precisely because it combines external coercive force, internal rule of conduct and normative ideal.

Type of Work: Thesis (Doctorates > Ph.D.)
Award Type: Doctorates > Ph.D.
Licence: All rights reserved
College/Faculty: Colleges (2008 onwards) > College of Arts & Law
School or Department: Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
Funders: None/not applicable
Subjects: D History General and Old World > DE The Mediterranean Region. The Greco-Roman World
K Law > K Law (General)


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