Classical Studies 3400E Chapter Notes -Cinnabar, Hair Removal, Hypersexuality
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The female body:
1. What is the sexual nature of women, according to the authors? (as
nymphomaniacs Pr 26 and most of the other poems, unfaithful Ovid Am 3.14;
frigid Mart 11.60; note too sex as a medical cure).
2. What makes a desirable woman? (Ovid: Am. 3: makeup, perfume, hairstyle,
colorful clothing, adornment, hairless legs and sweet-smelling armpits;
3. What makes an undesirable woman? (Ovid Am 3: one who makes up in public
or lets her lover see the adornment process; who abuses her slave girls; elderly:
see Pr. 83; loose vagina, dark skin, smelly, old women who depilate in hopes of
sex; women who are too skinny or too fat).
The ideal female body
A pale complexion was sought by women; to achieve it, Roman women
plastered their faces with cerussa (white lead: this was an ingredient in female
cosmetics up until the early 19th C). Chalk dust was also be used on the face to whiten
it, and was safer than white lead. Those women who plastered with chalk dust or
cerussa were warned to keep out of the rain lest their makeup streak, and also to avoid
the sun, because sweat would likewise ruin the mask. Similarly, women were
supposed to avoid shedding tears while made-up.
Roman women also used rouge. Some rouges were composed of cinnebar (red
mercuric sulphide), or minium (red lead); both were poisonous. Different substances
were used to outline and enhance brows and eyes. Kohl for eyelids or brows was in
powdered form. To apply it a thin kohl stick was used, made of wood, glass, bone, or
ivory; the stick was dipped in water or scented oil first and then in the powder.
Remains of kohl are often found in cylindrical cosmetics tubes (green and black
remains of kohl have been found). Old Women According to most of the ancient
authors (all male, please note), aging took a heavier toll on women than on men.
Horrible old women appear throughout Greek and Latin literature, most merely
described as physically repulsive and sexually rapacious, a genre that one scholar has
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