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Women in the military: scholastic arguments and medieval images of female warriors

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Abstract:

In their political treatises, the scholastic writers Ptolemy of Lucca (c.1236-1327) and Giles of Rome (1243-1316) discussed the question of whether women should serve in the military. The dispute came in response to Aristotle, who reported in his Politics that Plato and Socrates taught that women should receive the same military training as men and take an equal part in fighting. Such a treatment was made possible by a medieval context in which women under certain circumstances could be feudal lords responsible for maintaining a contingent of knights and sometimes commanding them, and in which a large number of medieval stories of women fighters or leaders of knights circulated, some of them mythical but others based on real women. Both Giles and Ptolemy ultimately rejected female participation but, in keeping with the dialectical method, proposed arguments on both sides. These involve historical precedent, the biological and medical differences between men and women, analogies between female animals and women, divinely ordained gender roles, and the benefits of exercise.

Keywords: Aegidius Romanus; Amazons; Aristotelianism; Bartholomew of Lucca; Giles of Rome; Ptolemy of Lucca; Tolomeo da Lucca; feminism; history; medieval; military; misogyny; political thought; republicanism; scholasticism; women

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: The University of Memphis, Department of History, Mitchell Hall 100, Campus Box 526120, Memphis, TN 38152-6120, USA.. Email:jmblythe@memphis.edu

Publication date: January 1, 2001

imp/hpt/2001/00000022/00000002/179
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