BMCR Review of Connelly, Portrait of a Priestess

This week in BMCR 2007.08.43:

Joan Breton Connelly, Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007. Pp. xv, 415; figs. 109, color pls. 27. ISBN 978-0-691-12746-0. $39.50.

Reviewed by Catherine M. Keesling, Georgetown University (

This very thorough review is broadly positive, but makes some very important critical observations, especially with regard to evidence outside of Connelly’s primary field of archaeology and iconography (see below). On the methodological approach generally, Keesling notes approvingly that:

Chapter 1 outlines possible approaches, both theoretical and pragmatic, to the role of women in Greek religion. In the end (16-17), the methodology of Christiane Sourvinou-Inwood is adopted, in practice a kind of thick description of every possible source of evidence, without unduly privileging some forms of evidence over others.

But later in the review, and of particular interest to the epigraphist reader, she concludes:

In my opinion, Connelly’s scholarly accomplishment in this book would emerge with greater clarity if she were willing to concede this point, and to accept the primacy of the epigraphical evidence in the book she has written: after all, how many of the 150 priestesses mentioned here would we know by name without inscriptions?

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