The modern binary model of gender is perhaps inappropriate for the ancient Mediterranean world

The idea of gender as a cultural system rather than a biological given has led to the recognition that the modern binary model of gender, rooted in a taxonomy of permanent, anatomically determined opposite sexes, is perhaps inappropriate for the ancient Mediterranean world. This is not to suggest that biological sex played no role in ancient conceptions of gender, but that the presence or absence of certain types of external genitalia constituted only one part of a vast and complex array of gender signifiers. Moreover, it is now widely agreed that gender in antiquity was viewed, at least from the perspective of the surviving male elite literary sources (an important qualification indeed!), through a single-gender, and not surprisingly androcentric, conceptual framework.

Jason von Ehrenkrook, “Effeminacy in the Shadow of Empire: The Politics of Transgressive Gender in Josephus’s Bellum Judaicum,”  The Jewish Quarterly Review 101:2 (Spring 2011), 147.

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