Classical Wisdom Litterae - October 2021

Litterae/3 I never had a sister. Instead of enjoying hair braiding, clothes swapping and late night gossiping sessions (for this is what I imagine having a sister is like), my childhood was composed of choosing the few female characters on video games, watching Transformers endlessly and occasionally being thwacked by my big older brothers. So is it surprising that I choose this month’s theme to be sisters? Perhaps not, because the concept seems to me to be both enigmatic as well as mysterious... but also because it is both an overlooked and essential relationship in the ancient world. In a time when the genders were more segregated, the relationships between women (and between men) were inevitably essential. Just as we see in various time periods of our own culture, or existing bonds in separated societies today, humans need each if a woman can’t confide in a man nor a man in a woman, it’s only natural that the relationship they can have with those with whom they can communicate would be strengthened. Moreover, ancient Greek culture was much more family focused and community aimed than our current individualistic lifestyle. Family was of the utmost importance. All of this is to say, the relationship between sisters would have been even more immense than we can imagine now.... And certainly more than one without a sister can even conceive! And yet, it is not often a focus for study. Searching for articles and books, it’s clearly a niche not fully discovered. And if you journey out of the history books and into mythology there, too, lies the story of many sisters. From the heroic age and the Theban cycle, to origin stories and the stars... sisters form a huge component of ancient Greek legends... and thus more than worthy of our consideration. So this month’s magazine is dedicated to sisters, both real and fantastic, both fearful and awesome, both beautiful and damned. Enjoy!