Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Little late...

... since Women's History Month is now over, but as I said in my previous post on the subject, I think this kind of thing should be celebrated all the time, no matter what the calendar says.

Three-Hundred Women Who Changed the World

... be sure to check out the following women of the Medieval period of Europe: Boudicca, Queen Aethelflaed of Mercia, Queen Fredegonde of France, Queen Constance of Sicily, the Empresses Theodora, Irene and Zoe, and Byzantine Princess Anna Comnena, the Saints Perpetua, Chlothilde (Queen) of France, and Clare of Assisi, and the mathematician Hypatia. And who could forget the notorious Eleanor of Aquitaine?

... Some would argue that Boudicca and Perpetua were of the Roman period and not the Medieval, but Boudicca certainly got "medieval" all over the British Romans, and Perpetua... Well, I had to read her Passion narrative in class this semester, so I'm counting her in here (you can find that narrative at the "Medieval Sourcebook" linked in the right hand column of this page).

Also, what Empress Irene's page does not say about her: how she blinded her son, Constantine VI. It was tradition that the Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) had to be "without blemish" according to tradition in order to rule. There was a long history of blinding the Emperor if for some reason one wanted power but didn't want to actually kill him for whatever reason. Well, Irene, being a loving mother, didn't want to kill her son, but did want to rule the Empire... So she had him blinded the traditional way... She had molten gold poured into his eyes after they had been gouged out... Traditionally, molten lead was used for this, but she opted for the more expensive metal. Tradition also says, it killed him... He was certainly never heard from again in history if it didn't, and Irene ruled as sole Emperor (not Empress) until her death in 803. She was later declared an Eastern Orthodox Saint for her defense of icons during the iconoclasm controversy.

And I would add Freydi­s Eiri­ksdottir to the list of 300 if I could and take out one of the Saints who really didn't do anything to lasting effect because there are several on that list... Freydis sponsored the fourth recorded, purposeful Viking expedition to North America. The first purposeful expedition was led by her half-brother, Leif (Eiriksson... I know you've heard of him). During the third expedition (which was a failure), led by Thorfinn Karlsefni, she possibly gave birth to a son, the first European child born in North America. She was as ruthless as her father and grandfather; the whole family was full of murderers and cut-throats. Evenso, it is because of her expedition ca 1010 CE that the impermanent logging colony in Newfoundland was firmly founded (since all of the other expeditions were mostly exploratory, not purely for profit, or failed outright) and lasted for several decades, supplying Greenland with desperately needed cheap lumber, although she herself returned to Greenland...

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