• Rewriting history or representing history: Women as leaders and commanders in ancient societies



    Single Issue XVIII

    Rewriting history or representing history? Women as leaders and commanders in ancient societies
    By Alwyn

    What's the problem with women being represented as leaders and commanders?

    The free update which accompanied the release of the Desert Kingdoms DLC for Rome II (patch 19) added women as influential characters and generals to this game for the first time (except for Queen Zenobia of Palmyra, introduced when the previous DLC, Empire Divided, was released). The introduction of women as leaders and generals was criticised by some people as 'rewriting history'. Some people said that women weren't leaders or generals in ancient societies or that they only had these roles in very exceptional cases.

    This article investigates whether women were leaders and generals in ancient societies. To answer this question, we'll explore the situation of women in ancient societies. It's easy to make assumptions about these cultures. We might assume that ancient societies all had the same attitude to women in positions of authority. We might assume that, if the position of women in many societies improved in the 20th century, then it must have been worse the further back in history we go, so that women's status must have been very low in antiquity. In this article, we'll investigate whether assumptions like these are supported by evidence and stand up to questioning.

    Isn't it true that ancient societies treated women as inferior?

    Yes, some of them were strongly opposed to women in leadership. In ancient Greece and Rome, there is certainly evidence that women had a lower status. Artistotle wrote that "the courage of a man is shown in commanding, of a woman in obeying" (Aristotle, Politics, Part XIII). There's more evidence of ancient Greek attitudes from the ancient Greek historian Polybius. Polybius wrote that, after the death of King Agros of Illyria:

    His wife Teuta succeeded him on the throne; and managed the various details of administration by means of friends whom she could trust. But her woman's head had been turned by the success just related, and she fixed her gaze upon that, and had no eyes for anything going on outside the country. Her first measure was to grant letters of marque to privateers, authorising them to plunder all whom they fell in with; and she next collected a fleet and military force as large as the former one, and despatched them with general instructions to the leaders to regard every land as belonging to an enemy. - Polybius, Histories 2.4
    It's hard to miss the snide comments by Polybius about Teuta as a queen sending military forces into action - the reference to "her woman's head [which] had been turned". In Histories 2.8, Polybius accuses Teuta of having Roman ambassadors murdered after they spoke rudely to her, saying that she acted with "womanish passion and unreasoning anger", when she had the ambassadors killed. Polybius says that this caused the people of Rome to become "highly incensed at the queen's violation of the law of nations". I don't know whether this is Roman propaganda (a made-up cause for war) or whether Teuta actually had the ambassadors killed. After all, representing women in a historically authentic way involves recognising that women are people. Women are neither saints nor the "unreasoning" bogeywomen which some ancient writers saw them as.

    We've seen an ancient Greek philosopher and a historian share hostility to the idea of women in authority. This view was widely shared among ancient Greeks:

    Women in the ancient Greek world had few rights in comparison to male citizens. Unable to vote, own land, or inherit, a woman’s place was in the home and her purpose in life was the rearing of children. - Mark Cartwright, Women in Ancient Greece
    Cartwright also warns us to be cautious because, often, our information comes from some city-states but not others. We might wonder why that matters. It makes a difference because there's evidence that:

    Spartan women were treated somewhat differently than in other states. For example, they had to do physical training like men, were permitted to own land, and could drink wine. - Mark Cartwright, Women in Ancient Greece
    Cartwright also gives examples of ancient Greek women who defied the limitations of their society, such as the poet Sappho of Lesbos, the philosopher Arete of Cyrene and the physician Agnodice of Athens. The Canadian Museum of History provides an another example of an ancient Greek women whose refused to restrict her role to responsibilities at home:

    Hypatia, daughter of Theon of Alexandria, was born in that city around 350 AD. She studied and later taught at the great school in Alexandria. Some modern mathematicians acclaim her as having been the world's greatest mathematician and the world's leading astronomer”, a viewpoint shared by ancient scholars and writers. She became head of the Platonist school at Alexandria lecturing on mathematics, astronomy and philosophy attracting students from all over the ancient world. Political and religious leaders in Alexandria sought her advice. - Canadian Museum of History, Women in Ancient Greece
    These examples show that, even in societies with strong cultural resistance to women having authority, some women carried out roles in the professional, cultural and political spheres. We might conclude from these few examples that it was very rare for women in ancient Greece to have such roles. That may be true. However, Helena P. Schrader suggested an alternative explanation - that it was rare for women with such roles to be recorded by ancient writers:

    The most remarkable thing about Gorgo, wife of King Leonidas I of Sparta, is that we know anything about her at all. Herodotus and other ancient Greek historians are far more likely to mention Persian queens than the wives of Greeks – not because Persian women were more powerful than their Greek counterparts, but because Persians had several wives, and so it was sometimes useful to record by which of them a certain Persian figure had been born. Since Greeks had only one legitimate wife, there was no need for such clarification when it came to prominent Greek citizens. - Helena P. Schrader, quoted in Joshua J. Mark, Gorgo of Sparta
    This suggests that there are important women in ancient Greek societies whose names are lost to us, because ancient writers didn't see it as necessary to mention their names.

    Like ancient Greek culture, ancient Roman culture contained strong opposition to the idea of woman in authority. Ancient Roman writers, commenting on women who opposed Rome, saw women leaders as strange, disturbing and unnatural:

    ... everything in Cassius Dio's description [of Boudica's uprising against Rome] seems designed to instill the reader with an awe that is also tainted with disgust: like the Amazons to the Greeks, everything about the other culture was upside-down and plain wrong. To a Roman audience, a woman ruler was a vile oxymoron as only men were fit to govern: queens, with their deadly blend of sex and power, represented a perversion of the natural order. - Vanessa Collingridge, Boudica (2005) p. 8
    Publius Cornelius Tacitus, another Roman historian, also indicated his disapproval of women in positions of power, even though he described them as 'feminae' (a term associated with the virtues of loyalty and service to the republic):

    In regards to the power held by women (Boudica, Cartimandua, and Veleda), Tacitus, while calling them feminae (because they were high-born noble women), then augmented that term with words that indicated he disapproved of how these women had usurped power that rightly belonged to men. - Lauren Hammersen, Indigenous Women in Gaul, Brittania, Germania and Celtic Hispania, 400 BC to 235 AD (2017) p. 35
    While there was hosility to women in authority in Rome, it would not be safe to assume that ancient Roman culture had the same attitude as ancient Athens:

    ... Roman women in general had much greater independence than women in most parts of the classical Greek or Near Eastern world, limited as it must seem in modern terms. The contrast is particularly striking with classical Athens, where women of wealthy families were supposed to live secluded lives, out of the public eye, largely segregated from men and male social life (the poor, needless to say, did not have the cash or the space to enforce any such divisions). There were, to be sure, uncomfortable restrictions on women in Rome too: the emperor Augustus, for example relegated them to the back rows of the theatres and the gladiatorial arenas; the suites for women in public baths were usually markedly more cramped than those for men; and in practice male activities probably dominated in the swankier areas of a Roman house. But women were not meant to be publicly invisible, and domestic life does not seem to have been formally divided into male and female spaces, with gendered no-go areas - Mary Beard, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (2016) p. 307.
    While ancient Greek and Roman cultures had a shared hostility to women in authority, it seems that the status of women varied, both within these societies (for example, the situation of women was different in different Greek city-states), in different levels of society (poorer Athenian women were not segregated, unlike the wealthy) and different activities (Roman women were generally not segregated but they were at the theatres and the gladiatorial games).

    Ancient Greek and Roman writers provided many of the texts through which we view the ancient world. Perhaps there is a danger of seeing the ancient world through the eyes of members of the societies which were most hostile to women in authority. Greek and Roman cultures were very important and influential in antiquity. However, even in Europe and neighbouring regions represented in Rome II's Grand Campaign (such as north Africa and Arabia), other important cultures existed - and ancient societies did not all have the same attitude to women.

    In ancient Celtic societies, there is evidence of woman having important responsibilities. For example, women ambassadors from the Volcae were sent to negotiate with Hannibal. Julius Caesar's Gallic War records how in Germanic communities women would declare, through divination, when the people should go to war:

    When Caesar inquired of his prisoners, wherefore Ariovistus did not come to an engagement, he discovered this to be the reason-that among the Germans it was the custom for their matrons to pronounce from lots and divination, whether it were expedient that the battle should be engaged in or not; that they had said, "that it was not the will of heaven that the Germans should conquer, if they engaged in battle before the new moon." - C. Julius Caesar, Gallic War
    There is evidence of women having high status. Hammersen noted that Green's Boudica Brittania discussed Veleda, a Germanic prophetess and a member of the Bructeri tribe:

    Tacitus’ description of Veleda as a prophetess and spiritual leader was indicative of a woman of great power on a level similar to that of Boudica - Lauren Hammersen, Indigenous Women in Gaul, Brittania, Germania and Celtic Hispania, 400 BC to 235 AD (2017) pp. 115 to 116
    Some women from the Halstatt and La Tene eras of Celtic societies were buried with accoutrements usually included in the graves of warrior kings. The grave of the Bettelbühl Princess, from early Celtic society in south-east Germany, provides an example:

    ... the Bettelbühl Princess was interred, with her gold finery and her horse's decorated bronze chamfron, in a plank-floored wooden chamber, under a mound ... one of the most striking messages from the graves of the Bettelbühl Princess is that the higher echelons of this society were not exclusively reserved for men. And not only was it possible for a women to possess such high status, her children - including her daughters - would inherit such status - Alice Roberts, The Celts: Search for a Civilization (2015) pp. 82 to 83).
    Of course, evidence of high-status women doesn't mean that women were rulers or generals. It does provide a reason to question any argument that women cannot have had authority because women didn't have high status. Boudicca and Teuta weren't the only Celtic queens, others included Cartimandua of the Brigantes (who agreed to become a client kingdom of Rome), Medb of Connaught (who led warriors into Ulster) and Chiomara of Galatia (who decapitated a man who raped her and gave his head to her husband). While Germanic queens were not recorded in the surviving classical sources before 235 AD, after this date there was a Germanic queen whose name is known, Fritigilia of the Marcomanni (Hammersen 2017, pp. 104 to 105).

    Women in at least some ancient Celtic societies had better property rights than women in early to mid-19th century Britain. In surviving codifications of Celtic law codes, women could inherit property and remained the owner of property brought into marriage (Peter Beresford Ellis, A Brief History of the Celts, 2003). Even in ancient Rome where women tended to have less freedom (for example, they had no option about whether to marry), women had some legal rights which compared well with 19th-century Britain:

    A woman did not take her husband's name or fall entirely under his legal authority. After the death of her father, an adult woman could own property in her own right, buy and sell, inherit or make a will and free slaves - many of the rights which women in Britain did not gain until the 1870s - Mary Beard, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (2016) p. 308


    A silver tetradrachm of Cleopatra minted at Ascalon, Israel, source

    In ancient Egypt, Cleopatra VII reigned as a pharoah. She was not the only woman to rule Egypt, others included Arsinoe II who was "full co-ruler" with Ptomeley II (Joann Fletcher, The female ‘kings’ of ancient Egypt). It was not unusual for women to have high-status roles in ancient Egypt:


    Egypt’s women were portrayed alongside men at every level of society. ... So while the most common female title in Egypt’s 3,000-year history was ‘lady of the house’ (housewife), many women worked in the temple hierarchy. Other women were overseers and administrators, or they held titles ranging from doctor, guard and judge to treasurer, vizier (prime minister) and viceroy. - Joann Fletcher, The female ‘kings’ of ancient Egypt
    Rome II's patch 19 accompanied the release of the Desert Kingdoms DLC which made the African kingdom of Kush playable without mods. Most nations in Rome II have relatively few women leaders, but the rate is higher in Kush. This, too, reflects historical evidence. In Kush:

    Perhaps as a result of the strong influence of women figures in religion, Nubia and its Kushite rulers gave way to a number of strong queens during its history. Ten sovereign ruling queens are recognized from the period - Tara L. Kneller, Neither Goddesses Nor Doormats: The Role of Women in Nubia (University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center 1993)
    We might think of women leaders as exceptions. It's true that some ancient societies were strongly opposed to women in positions of authority. However, women could have high status in other cultures, such as Celtic tribes, Egypt and Kush. Tacitus wrote of the ancient Britons that "they admit no distinction of sex in their royal successions" (Tacitus, Agricola, 16.1). While some ancient societies were hostile to women in authority, others accepted women leaders.

    Perhaps women were leaders in some ancient societies. But surely they weren't military commanders - or only one or two were?

    We might wonder if warrior queens really were generals, or if they were merely figureheads. When the Roman historian Cassius Dio wrote of Boudicca, he "made no mention of Boudica having borne arms herself in any of the battles during the campaign against the Romans" (Hammersen 2017, p. 89). However, if a male commander directed an army, we'd call him a general, even if he didn't personally engage in hand-to-hand fighting. It seems reasonable to apply the same question to women commanders: is there evidence of them directing or leading warriors?



    Aldaron, Boudica statue near Westminster Pier, London, source, CC BY-SA 2.0


    Boudicca of the Iceni ambushed the Ninth Legion (IX Hispania) on their journey from Lincoln to defend the Roman capital in Britain. IX Hispiania were veterans of campaigns in Iberia and Pannonia before serving in Britain (Ellis 2003). Tacitus wrote that Boudicca and her daughters "flew to arms" and describes their victory:

    Turning to meet Petilius Cerialis, commander of the ninth legion, who was arriving to the rescue, the victorious Britons routed the legion and slaughtered the infantry to a man - Tacitus, Annals, 31 to 32
    When she met other Roman legions, XIV Gemina and XX Valeria, at Watling Street her army was broken. But was it really 'her' army and did she direct the actions of the warriors, as a general would have done? The Roman historian Cassius Dio described Boudicca as "'a Briton woman"' who "assembled her army" (Cassius Dio, The Library of History, 62.2:3). He wrote that she "directed the conduct of the entire war" and that she "rode in a chariot herself and assigned the others to their several stations" (Cassius Dio, The Library of History, 62.8:2). This does not sound like a description of a mere figurehead or a passive spectator. In his description of the Battle of Watling Street (The Library of History, 62.8:2), Cassius Dio wrote that, because the Romans were outnumbered, the Roman commander Paulinus "could not extend his line the whole length of hers". 'Hers' refers to Boudicca's army and his choice of words shows that the commander of the army of the Britons at Watling Street was a woman.

    Different writers have different views on whether Boudicca actually participated in hand-to-hand fighting. Lauren Hammersen criticises Simon James (in his book The World of the Celts) for writing that:

    “The modern notion of the sword-wielding Celtic Amazons is more difficult to substantiate: although women were often present on the battlefield, there seem to be no evidence of them bearing arms – except in Dio’s description of Boudica...” - Simon James, The World of the Celts, quoted in Lauren Hammersen, Indigenous Women in Gaul, Brittania, Germania and Celtic Hispania, 400 BC to 235 AD (2017) p. 75
    Hammersen observed that:

    This statement completely ignored Appian’s description of Celtiberian women fighting in battle during the Spanish Wars and mischaracterized the primary sources which described Boudica, none of which made any reference to her fighting with the men of her army. - Lauren Hammersen, Indigenous Women in Gaul, Brittania, Germania and Celtic Hispania, 400 BC to 235 AD (2017) p. 75
    It seems that there is evidence of Celtic (more specifically, Celtiberian) women personally engaged in battle in this era, even though Boudicca herself may not have fought hand to hand. Even if she didn't do so, it's been shown that she "directed" her army and rode in a chariot while assigning others to their places for combat. A man who directs an army and instructs units in battle is a general; since Boudicca did those things, it seems reasonable to conclude that she was a general.

    Boudicca became ruler of the Iceni and led a rebellion after the death of her husband. Amage, queen of the Sarmatians, took over the leadership of her people, including giving instructions to soldiers, while her husband was still alive. She "observed her husband to be totally given up to luxury, and took the reins of government into her own hands. She judged causes, stationed garrisons, repulsed the invasions of enemies, and directed everything with so great ability, that her fame extended through all Scythia" (Polyaenus, Strategems of War, 56). Like Boudicca, Amage gave instructions to soldiers, by stationing garrisons and repelling invasions.

    While Boudicca led a rebellion, Rhodogune of Parthia was described by Polyaenus, a 2nd-century Macedonian writers, as leading the troops who quelled a rebellion:

    Rhodogune was just coming out of her bath, with her hair as yet undressed, when she received intelligence of the revolt of a subject nation. Without waiting to have her hair dressed, she mounted her horse, and put herself at the head of her army. At the same time, she vowed never to have her hair dressed, till she had subdued the rebels; which she eventually achieved after a tedious war. She then bathed, and had her hair dressed. From this circumstance, the seal of the kings of Persia bears on it Rhodogune with dishevelled hair. - Polyaenus, Strategems of War, 27
    Boudicca was not the only female commander who fought Rome's armies. Others included Amanirenas of Kush, Zenobia of Palmyra and Mavia of the Saracens:

    The perfect example of the expanded powers of the queen is Kushite Queen Amanirenas. In 24 B.C., she was threatened by the Roman Empire. Egypt was under the subjugation of Rome and the frontier of the Kushite/Nubian empire was seventy miles south of Syene (Assuan). The Nubians were constantly raiding their Egyptian neighbors. On one of these journeys, the Kandace Amanirenas went along. When confronted, she led her armies into battle and defeated three Roman cohorts. - Tara L. Kneller, Neither Goddesses Nor Doormats: The Role of Women in Nubia (University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center 1993)
    Zenobia of Palmyra "personally led her army as a 'warrior queen'" and conquered more territory, including Syria, Lebanon and Palestine, creating an empire independent of Rome." (Jone Johnson Lewis, Zenobia - Warrior Queen). Like Boudicca, she rebelled against Rome. In the Battle of Emesa, Zenobia and Zabdas, her general, led her army against Aurelian.

    Rufinus of Aquileia (who died in 410 AD) wrote about how Mavia and her Saracen warriors fought the late Roman army in the 370s, laying waste to cities and how “she also wore down the Roman army in frequent battles, killed many, and put the rest to flight.” (Mohamad Ballan, Mavia’s Revolt: An Arab Warrior Queen and the Roman Desert Frontier during the Late Fourth Century).

    There were women who led armies against rivals. Onomaris of the Scordisi led her people in battle against the Illyrians. (Ellis 2003). Macha, an Irish queen, raised an army and defeated a rival, Dithorba (Ellis 2003). Cynane of Macedon defeated an army led by Antipater, one of Alexander's generals, through "superior tactics" (Joshua J. Mark, Cynane)

    Just as men sometimes commanded through force of personality and necessity in a desperate situation (as opposed to appointment by a monarch or Senate), so did women. Telesilla of Argos (a faction in the Wrath of Sparta DLC) led an improvised force to defend her city:

    With Telesilla as general, they took up arms and made their defense by manning the walls around the city, and the enemy was amazed. They drove Cleomenes off after inflicting many losses. - Joshua J. Mark, Telesilla of Argos
    Not all female commanders led armies. Artemisia I of Caria, Queen of Halicarnassus, was a naval commander and advisor to Xerxes I, King of Persia, in the 5th century BC (Polyaenus, Strategems of War, 53). Tom Holland describes Queen Artemisia as a proficient admiral whose triremes were so well captained that "they had a reputation second only to the squadrons of Sidon" (Tom Holland, Persian Fire, 2005, p. 207).

    These examples don't prove that women commanders were common. They do suggest that, if we claim that Boudica was the only woman commander in this period, or that only two or three women were generals, we're mistaken. Most of these examples of women commanders were warrior queens, which suggests that this was the normal way for women to become commanders in societies which (unlike ancient Rome and Greek city-states) allowed women to lead nations and armies.

    We might want to know how many warrior queens (and other women commanders) there were, and what percentage of historical commanders were women. Unfortunately, the answers to these questions have been lost to us. Without complete lists of 'all ancient generals' and 'all ancient women generals', we cannot accurately calculate the percentage of commanders who were women. Different people can reasonably come to different conclusions about these questions.

    Some people may conclude that women commanders were very rare, because we know the names of relatively few of them. However, if we are prepared to assume that male commanders existed in antiquity whose names have been lost, it seems reasonable to assume that there are women commanders whose named were lost (or were not recorded in writing). If we consider the Iceni, for example, we might only be able to think of one person who led them in battle: Boudicca. If someone made the mistake of suggesting that, because we can only name one Iceni commander and she was a woman, therefore there were no Iceni male commanders, such a claim would not be convincing. If we accept that there were male commanders of the Iceni whose names have been lost, then it seems reasonable to conclude that the names of women generals could also have been lost, in cultures where women could be commanders.

    As we saw earlier (in the comment by Helena P. Schrader), women tended not to be mentioned by the ancient Greek and Roman historians who wrote much of the source material we rely on. Our main sources come from writers belonging to the cultures which were hostile to the idea of women in authority. It seems reasonable to conclude that there were women leaders and commanders whose names have been lost. There is evidence for this: Hammersen refers to an "unknown female leader", after the defeat of Boudicca of the Iceni, who led another tribe of the Britons against the Romans:

    Sometime between the Boudican revolt and Agricola’s campaign against the Caledonians in 85, Tacitus recounted that a woman led the Brigantes in battle against the Romans - Indigenous Women in Gaul, Brittania, Germania and Celtic Hispania, 400 BC to 235 AD, (2017) p. 98
    We might suspect that this unnamed warrior queen was actually Cartimandua, a queen of the Brigantes whose names is known. However, Hammersen explains that this doesn't fit with the known facts about Cartimandua. She was a loyal client ruler of Rome. When there was an uprising among the Brigantes, the Roman army in Britain marched to intervene on her side. Hammersen also considers the possibility that Tacitus was mistaken and that this was meant to be a reference to Boudicca:

    such an argument seems flawed for the following reasons: Tacitus’ source was most likely Agricola himself (who had served in Britain both during the time of the Boudican revolt, as well as the campaigns against the Brigantes and in Caledonia). Tacitus may have had access to military documents of this period in Britain; the unknown female leader described in this passage is mentioned in the context of the fighting during Agricola’s campaign against Caledonia in an area that bordered the territory of the Brigantes (whereas the Iceni were far to the south and would have been much further removed from the personal experience of the Caledonians). The Brigantes were known to follow female leaders (such as Cartimandua); and Tacitus explicitly mentions Boudica much earlier in his writing of the Agricola - Indigenous Women in Gaul, Brittania, Germania and Celtic Hispania, 400 BC to 235 AD, (2017) p. 103
    The evidence suggests that women were commanders in some ancient societies and that, while we know some of their names, the names of others have been lost.

    Why, if women really were leaders and commanders in ancient history, do people say that this is unhistorical?

    We might wonder why some Rome II players feel so confident that women weren't leaders or generals (or that women only took these roles in very rare cases). Three things seem to be happening:

    1. We don't realise how many women leaders and commanders there were, historically.

    Because we can't think of more than one or two, we assume that there must have only been one or two. That's understandable, however it's not difficult to find examples if we look. Women leaders included Artemisia I of Halicarnassus, Boudicca of the Iceni, Cleopatra VII of Egypt, Olympias of Macedonia, Arsinoe II of Thrace, Cartimandua of the Brigantes, Zenobia of Palmyra and ten queens of Kush (Tara L. Kneller 1993). Women commanders included Boudicca of the Iceni, Rhodogune of Parthia, Amanirenas of Kush, Zenobia of Palmyra, Onomaris of the Scordisi, Macha of Ireland, Cynane of Macedon, Telesilla of Argos and Mavia of the Saracens. These are the women leaders whose names were recorded and retained. Just as the names of some male rulers and generals have been lost, it seems likely that the names of some ancient women weren't recorded or didn't survive the centuries between antiquity and the present day.

    2. We know that the ancient Romans and Greeks were horrified by the idea of women in authority and we assume that all ancient societies must have been like that. It wasn't so.

    As part of this, we might assume that societies became more progressive over time and prejudice declined. Based on that assumption, and the knowledge that laws against gender discrimination were passed relatively recently in many countries, we might think that ancient societies must have severely restricted the roles which women could have. However, the situation of women varied enormously in different ancient societies - and, in some historical periods, some societies such as Britain became less progressive and more prejudiced, rather than the opposite. For example, it was noted (above) that women in some ancient Celtic societies could inherit property and remained the owner of property brought into marriage. Modern Britain didn't allow this until the Married Women's Property Act in 1870 (Peter Beresford Ellis, A Brief History of the Celts, 2003).

    3. We instinctively assume that, if the game is set so that there's a 15% chance that a new character in a Celtic nation will be a woman, then 15% of leaders and commanders in those societies will be women.

    That's not how probability works - it's the Gambler's Fallacy (the belief that good luck will turn bad, or bad luck turn good, because the outcome of a series of dice rolls, draws of the cards or spins of the wheel in their gambling session will reflect the chance of that outcome). With thousands of campaigns being played, and our computers making hundreds of thousands of dice rolls, in some campaigns the percentage of women leaders and generals will be higher (just as, in some campaigns it will be lower.) Connected to this (in Rome II) is the introduction of the family tree in the Ancestral update. For campaigns which were already ongoing, the 'cards' which previously represented wives became characters on the family tree, which could have created the impression of a sudden increase in female characters. These women were already present in the game, the only difference is that they were now represented as characters in their own right, not as ancillaries of male characters.

    Conclusion

    It's true that generals and leaders were usually men in antiquity. In Rome II, as in history, women leaders and generals are uncommon in most societies and absent from some cultures. Women didn't generally have equal status in ancient societies. The game rightly represents the resistance to women in leadership in some ancient societies. Women characters in some cultures - Rome, Carthaginian, Greek and Eastern cultures generally - have a Family Duty trait in the game which means that they can't be generals or party leaders.

    The game makes it possible for players to include woman in our rosters of influential characters and generals, in cultures which historically had women in such roles. The percentage chance of a new important character being a woman was reported as 15% for Barbarian cultures, 6% for Greek and Roman cultures and 50% for Kush. Some players may want to create mods to change these percentages (or use such mods which are already availabe). Apparently the database tables to include in any such mod are female_character_culture_details; female_character_faction_details and female_character_subculture_details. Since there is no list of 'all ancient generals' from which we can calculate the actual percentage of women generals, different people can reasonably come to different conclusions about this.

    Some of us may conclude from the fact that we know the names of relatively few women generals that they were very rare. That could be a mistake. We've seen that, while some societies strongly opposed women as leaders, others had a very different view, such as ancient Britons who "admit no distinction of sex in their royal successions" (Tacitus, Agricola, 16.1). We've seen that women could become rulers of some ancient societies and that female rulers could become warrior queens. We've seen that much of our information on ancient history came from the writings of ancient Greek and Roman historians - writers whose societies opposed the idea of women in authority. We've seen that the names of important women in ancient Greece and a warrior queen of the Brigantes who fought the Romans have been lost.

    It's easy to assume that because history involves progress, our ancestors must have been more prejudiced than us. It's easy to assume that because some ancient societies didn't allow women in leadership roles, it must have been the same everywhere. It isn't so. Even in ancient societies where there was a lot of hostility to woman in authority, some women became philosophers, poets and physicians. In other ancient societies, women became rulers and generals. To enable players to play a game in which Cleopatra can rule Egypt, Teuta can send Illyrian marines to raid her enemies and Amanirenas and Boudicca can lead their soldiers against Roman armies is not rewriting history: it is representing history.

    Bibliography

    Aristotle, Politics

    Ballan, Mohamad, Mavia’s Revolt: An Arab Warrior Queen and the Roman Desert Frontier during the Late Fourth Century

    Beard, Mary, 2016, SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome (Profile Books)

    Caesar, C. Julius, Gallic War

    Canadian Museum of History, Women in Ancient Greece

    Cartwright, Mark, Women in Ancient Greece

    Collingridge, Vanessa, 2005, Boudica (Ebury Press)

    Dio, Cassius, The Library of History

    Ellis, Peter Beresford, 2003, A Brief History of the Celts (Robinson)

    Fuhs, Richard A, 2013 Archaelogists revise image of ancient Celts, Deutsche Welle (Germany's international broadcaster)

    Hammersen, Lauren, 2017, Indigenous Women in Gaul, Brittania, Germania and Celtic Hispania, 400 BC to 235 AD.

    Holland, Tom, 2005, Persian Fire (Abacus)

    Johnson Lewis, Jone, Zenobia - Warrior Queen

    Kneller, Tara L., 1993, Neither Goddesses Nor Doormats: The Role of Women in Nubia (University of Pennsylvania African Studies Center)

    Mark, Joshua J, Cynane

    Mark, Joshua J., Gorgo of Sparta

    Mark, Joshua J. Telesilla of Argos

    Polyaenus, Strategems of War

    Polybius, Histories

    Roberts, Alice, 2015, The Celts: Search for a Civilization (Heron Books)

    Tacitus, Cornelius, Agricola

    Tacitus, Cornelius, Annals
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    1. Maltacus's Avatar
      Maltacus -
      Well written indeed. I know too little of ancient history to form an informed opinion about the Rome II time frame but I can at least say that the sources you cite support the conclusions/doubts that you present. In this regard it outclasses an appalingly large amount of modern historical doctrine...
    1. CommodusIV's Avatar
      CommodusIV -
      Well done. This is perhaps the most articulate take on the issue that I have yet seen for Rome 2.
    1. King Athelstan's Avatar
      King Athelstan -
      Great article!
    1. Abdülmecid I's Avatar
      Abdülmecid I -
      Very interesting article, Alwyn. Just some notes about the passages about which my opinion differs a bit. Firstly, I suspect that the hypothesis that female commanders are under-represented in our literary sources is quite unlikely. Ancient authors often underlined instances like these, because they considered them highly unusual and spicy enough to gain the attention of their readership. A typical case is Telesilla, a juicy story flourished by Pausanias (not a historian), whose details are incredible. Herodotus ignores her completely and her achievements violate archeological data, our knowledge about Argos and its society, as well as common sense (allegedly, every single male Argive was killed in a single battle against the Spartans).

      Moreover, female generals are usually the result of a rare political coincidence, mainly due to the premature death of their husband (or father), in a moment when the son (or brother) is too young to assume power. If a threat emerges, they inevitably adopt a military role, as well, although basically in a symbolic manner. This covers the cases of Boadicea, Zenobia, Artemisia and Ada of Caria, Mania (sloppily labelled as a satrap by Wikipedia) and Cleopatra III and VII. The last two should not be called as pharaohs, because not a single Lagid ruler presented himself as a pharaoh among his Greek subjects, but they always preferred the title of king (βασιλεύς). By the way, although the last Cleopatra is the most famous queen, thanks to Hollywood and Roman yellow journalism (to return to my first point), Cleopatra III styled herself as the Queen of Egypt, followed by her male co-ruler, almost one century after Cleopatra VII copied her example (only with the son of Caesar, Ptolemy XV, not with her brother, Ptolemy XIV).

      Ιn conclusion, although I definitely agree that the recent outrage was an unnecessary over-reaction, the proliferation of female generals in Rome II (presumably for reasons similar to those of Plutarch or Pausanias) is historically inaccurate. They are too common and the process with which they are recruited contradicts the special circumstances that really contributed to their appearance in the political foreground.
    1. Marcus_Iunius_Brutus_Caepio's Avatar
      Marcus_Iunius_Brutus_Caepio -
      Great article, i'm usually not reading Helios, but this was an excellent, interesting, well informed article.
    1. mishkin's Avatar
      mishkin -
      Bookmarked to read it later calmly
    1. isa0005's Avatar
      isa0005 -
      I'm half way through and so far I'm loving it! Brilliant article!
    1. SanyuXV's Avatar
      SanyuXV -
      Excellent as always from Alwyn, will be reading closely the second time around.
    1. Patronus86's Avatar
      Patronus86 -
      Why, if women really were leaders and commanders in ancient history, do people say that this is unhistorical?

      Because the degree to which Rome 2 portrays female generals is not historically accurate. Yes, there were some examples of female leaders/generals in these ancient societies (key word being some). But they certainly weren’t common (at least not to the degree of which they are portrayed in Rome 2). There were few, if any, examples of female leaders in the Mediterranean civilizations (Roman Republic and Empire, Hellenic kingdoms). And yet, playing as the Romans, there is a good chance that the player will encounter several female generals for that faction during the course of the campaign; that just is not accurate or historically immersive, plain and simple. If Creative Assembly had made the occurrence of female generals very rare (statistically possible, but unlikely), I think there may have been some grumbling from the fans, but for the most part everyone would have been on board. The way Creative Assembly went about including the female generals just seemed like it was a pandering gesture, which had little basis in historical reality.

      Also, arguing that we don’t know for sure how many female generals there were is setting the foundation for a futile academic endeavor. There are a lot of unknowns with regards to ancient history. Historians have to write and analyze based on what limited information they do know. And the information that we have from antiquity has told us that female leaders/generals were few and far between.
    1. C-Beams's Avatar
      C-Beams -
      Great article Alwyn, thanks for taking the time to create it.
    1. Agema Ippeon's Avatar
      Agema Ippeon -
      Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
      Very interesting article, Alwyn. Just some notes about the passages about which my opinion differs a bit. Firstly, I suspect that the hypothesis that female commanders are under-represented in our literary sources is quite unlikely. Ancient authors often underlined instances like these, because they considered them highly unusual and spicy enough to gain the attention of their readership. A typical case is Telesilla, a juicy story flourished by Pausanias (not a historian), whose details are incredible. Herodotus ignores her completely and her achievements violate archeological data, our knowledge about Argos and its society, as well as common sense (allegedly, every single male Argive was killed in a single battle against the Spartans).

      Moreover, female generals are usually the result of a rare political coincidence, mainly due to the premature death of their husband (or father), in a moment when the son (or brother) is too young to assume power. If a threat emerges, they inevitably adopt a military role, as well, although basically in a symbolic manner. This covers the cases of Boadicea, Zenobia, Artemisia and Ada of Caria, Mania (sloppily labelled as a satrap by Wikipedia) and Cleopatra III and VII. The last two should not be called as pharaohs, because not a single Lagid ruler presented himself as a pharaoh among his Greek subjects, but they always preferred the title of king (βασιλεύς). By the way, although the last Cleopatra is the most famous queen, thanks to Hollywood and Roman yellow journalism (to return to my first point), Cleopatra III styled herself as the Queen of Egypt, followed by her male co-ruler, almost one century after Cleopatra VII copied her example (only with the son of Caesar, Ptolemy XV, not with her brother, Ptolemy XIV).

      Ιn conclusion, although I definitely agree that the recent outrage was an unnecessary over-reaction, the proliferation of female generals in Rome II (presumably for reasons similar to those of Plutarch or Pausanias) is historically inaccurate. They are too common and the process with which they are recruited contradicts the special circumstances that really contributed to their appearance in the political foreground.
      Quote Originally Posted by Patronus86 View Post
      Why, if women really were leaders and commanders in ancient history, do people say that this is unhistorical?

      Because the degree to which Rome 2 portrays female generals is not historically accurate. Yes, there were some examples of female leaders/generals in these ancient societies (key word being some). But they certainly weren’t common (at least not to the degree of which they are portrayed in Rome 2). There were few, if any, examples of female leaders in the Mediterranean civilizations (Roman Republic and Empire, Hellenic kingdoms). And yet, playing as the Romans, there is a good chance that the player will encounter several female generals for that faction during the course of the campaign; that just is not accurate or historically immersive, plain and simple. If Creative Assembly had made the occurrence of female generals very rare (statistically possible, but unlikely), I think there may have been some grumbling from the fans, but for the most part everyone would have been on board. The way Creative Assembly went about including the female generals just seemed like it was a pandering gesture, which had little basis in historical reality.

      Also, arguing that we don’t know for sure how many female generals there were is setting the foundation for a futile academic endeavor. There are a lot of unknowns with regards to ancient history. Historians have to write and analyze based on what limited information they do know. And the information that we have from antiquity has told us that female leaders/generals were few and far between.
      Agree 100%. The revisionism is politically motivated, and history is merely another stage to push these politics into.
    1. mishkin's Avatar
      mishkin -
      Very interesting Alwyn, thanks a lot.
    1. Flinn's Avatar
      Flinn -
      Alwyn, you are kindly requested to stop to ashame me and my silly anthropological articles

      stellar work, really a lot of interesting stuff sir
    1. Benjin's Avatar
      Benjin -
      Patronus86 - And yet, playing as the Romans, there is a good chance that the player will encounter several female generals for that faction during the course of the campaign; that just is not accurate or historically immersive, plain and simple.
      Romans, Hellenics (except Egypt) and (most) Easterns do not allow female characters to become generals / admirals at all - they're given the "Family Duty" trait which bars them from commanding an army / navy. So, your statement about encountering several female generals for Rome (the one I presume you meant by "that faction" after mentioning "the Romans") is false unless you're using a mod to allow them.

      Patronus86 - If Creative Assembly had made the occurrence of female generals very rare (statistically possible, but unlikely), I think there may have been some grumbling from the fans, but for the most part everyone would have been on board.
      CA already tried to do that by making the female character spawn rates around 10% for all factions (except for the Kingdom of Kush, which was set to 50%) when they first introduced the possibility to recruit female generals. Not 10% of faction's characters being female, but 10% just for one to even be recruited via the candidate window, which takes a long time if you test it for yourself ingame. One could argue that it should be even lower, like 1%, but I guess CA stuck to 10% as they believed that the figure was rare enough; any lower and the player would have probably never seen them, therefore being a waste of time and resources even developing them in the first place (new code, new voice acting, new 3D artwork etc).

      Even after the Ancestral Update, which added in a family tree to the political system with the option to instantly spawn female characters to marry your male characters (which is why the player sometimes has a lot of options to have female generals / admirals if they're playing as a faction that allows them - they're all wives. The player has the choice not to recruit them at all if they don't want to), the spawn / appearance rate is still the same for the AI due to their new characters having to rely on the candidate mechanic which the spawn rate is for. I believe their characters never marry (unless via diplomacy) and their family trees are static; they don't work like the player's does past the first turn. If an AI faction's ruling party does have any children or spouses which weren't married via diplomacy then they were probably spawned via the startpos at the campaign's start, not afterwards.
    1. Dead*Man*Wilson's Avatar
      Dead*Man*Wilson -
      Interesting read. Thank you, sir!

      I just don't get why some people feel that seemingly any representation of women in the ancient world outside of being queens and/or harlots is 'revisionism'. If only people didn't let their own values and politics taint their objectivity.
    1. Quintus Hortensius Hortalus's Avatar
      Quintus Hortensius Hortalus -
      Indeed a well-written article
      I've to disagree with some comments here. Yes the Roman and Greek civilisation were hostile to women outside the domestic sphere which is why women are maybe overrepresented those societies in Rome II.
      But the thing is, as pointed out, we don't know much about the barbaric civilisations (mainly Celtic and German) before Rome came in. In addition the Roman or Greek historians have to be used carefully as they have a bias, not only against women alone but also against the barbaric societies as a whole.
      As pointed out by Alwyn, some former 'warrior kings' grave sometimes discovered decades ago were in fact graves of 'warrior queens'.
      That at least in the Germanic societies women had important roles can still be seen when in the Dark Ages some tribes wrote down their law (through the filter of monks and kings pressing their own agendas) were initially some tribes the Weregild for women was higher than for men.
      The major problem here is, that we see those barbaric societies through Roman and Greek eyes which transport their bias against women.
    1. Fahnat's Avatar
      Fahnat -
      Quote Originally Posted by Agema Ippeon View Post
      Agree 100%. The revisionism is politically motivated, and history is merely another stage to push these politics into.
      I to agree with such statement. And it is a shame that people wish to portray their 21st century ideals into an age where it does not belong to.

      I do not see any harm in having women in ancient historical settings in strategy games, like in total war. But make it have features that bring an authentic feel to why we have a general as a women, not a simple and toughtless percentage to how can women appear in as generals. Because it is ridiculous to think that women did not have any agency back then, because that is just false; but the way people want to paint as is also ridiculous.
    1. Patronus86's Avatar
      Patronus86 -
      Quote Originally Posted by Benjin View Post
      CA already tried to do that by making the female character spawn rates around 10% for all factions (except for the Kingdom of Kush, which was set to 50%) when they first introduced the possibility to recruit female generals. Not 10% of faction's characters being female, but 10% just for one to even be recruited via the candidate window, which takes a long time if you test it for yourself ingame. One could argue that it should be even lower, like 1%, but I guess CA stuck to 10% as they believed that the figure was rare enough; any lower and the player would have probably never seen them, therefore being a waste of time and resources even developing them in the first place (new code, new voice acting, new 3D artwork etc).

      Even after the Ancestral Update, which added in a family tree to the political system with the option to instantly spawn female characters to marry your male characters (which is why the player sometimes has a lot of options to have female generals / admirals if they're playing as a faction that allows them - they're all wives. The player has the choice not to recruit them at all if they don't want to), the spawn / appearance rate is still the same for the AI due to their new characters having to rely on the candidate mechanic which the spawn rate is for. I believe their characters never marry (unless via diplomacy) and their family trees are static; they don't work like the player's does past the first turn. If an AI faction's ruling party does have any children or spouses which weren't married via diplomacy then they were probably spawned via the startpos at the campaign's start, not afterwards.
      Regardless of whatever algorithms CA used, the percentage of female generals depicted in the average game is not historically accurate. Based on the historical texts that we do have (which is all that we can go off of), we know that female leaders (especially wartime leaders) were few and far between as compared to their male counterparts.


      Quote Originally Posted by Quintus Hortensius Hortalus View Post
      Indeed a well-written article[IMG]file:///C:/Users/kevin/AppData/Local/Temp/msohtmlclip1/01/clip_image001.gif[/IMG]
      I've to disagree with some comments here. Yes the Roman and Greek civilisation were hostile to women outside the domestic sphere which is why women are maybe overrepresented those societies in Rome II.
      But the thing is, as pointed out, we don't know much about the barbaric civilisations (mainly Celtic and German) before Rome came in. In addition the Roman or Greek historians have to be used carefully as they have a bias, not only against women alone but also against the barbaric societies as a whole.
      As pointed out by Alwyn, some former 'warrior kings' grave sometimes discovered decades ago were in fact graves of 'warrior queens'.
      That at least in the Germanic societies women had important roles can still be seen when in the Dark Ages some tribes wrote down their law (through the filter of monks and kings pressing their own agendas) were initially some tribes the Weregild for women was higher than for men.
      The major problem here is, that we see those barbaric societies through Roman and Greek eyes which transport their bias against women.
      Arguably there was a bias against women in ancient Italian and Greek societies, though compared to most contemporary societies, the women of those Mediterranean cultures probably enjoyed the most rights and privileges.

      However one cannot argue that because of that bias, there must have been more women leaders than were actually depicted in historical texts (who were otherwise censored out of history).

      Firstly, there was often more than one historical source discussing some of the main leaders and events; it’s unlikely that there was some widespread conspiracy to delete women from the historical texts. Women of note and importance were usually mentioned, if not analyzed and explained; refer to Cleopatra, Boudica, or any number of Roman wives to emperors.

      Secondly, we can only consider things/events/people that were actually mentioned in the existing historical texts. Any speculation on people who might have existed, but had no reference in the texts or other sources, is just that….speculation, which has no place in academic discussion or in a game that purports to be semi-historically accurate.
    1. Leonardo's Avatar
      Leonardo -
      Great article and well written too about ancient history. Thanks for publishing this article, Alwyn.
    1. Alwyn's Avatar
      Alwyn -
      Thank you, everyone, for taking the time to comment.

      Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
      Very interesting article, Alwyn. Just some notes about the passages about which my opinion differs a bit. Firstly, I suspect that the hypothesis that female commanders are under-represented in our literary sources is quite unlikely. Ancient authors often underlined instances like these, because they considered them highly unusual and spicy enough to gain the attention of their readership.
      Thank you for your thoughtful comments! Yes, some ancient authors saw women commanders as unusual and interesting. However, for ancient writers to write about women commanders, they had to know about them. Ancient Roman writers recorded those who fought Rome, such as Boudicca, Amanirenas, Zenobia and Mavia. Those writers might not have known about women leaders who lived in the centuries before Rome encountered their nations. As Quintus said, we tend to lack written sources on Germanic and Celtic societies before the Romans came. Ancient writings, to be part of “our literary sources”, would have to have survived the sacking of cities, the burning of libraries and the slow decay of time, long enough for us to know about them.

      Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
      A typical case is Telesilla, a juicy story flourished by Pausanias (not a historian), whose details are incredible. Herodotus ignores her completely and her achievements violate archeological data, our knowledge about Argos and its society, as well as common sense (allegedly, every single male Argive was killed in a single battle against the Spartans).
      You say that the reported actions of Telesilla are incredible. Yes, some dispute that Telesilla really rallied the people against the Spartan attackers. They may be right. Even if it’s true, details may have been exaggerated. However, there are “many scholars” who consider this account to be plausible (Kate Spitzmiller, Telesilla of Argos: Warrior Poet), including Jane McIntosh Snyder and Marcel Pierat. Pierat wrote that the account of Telesilla is:

      ...not entirely lacking for realistic parallels. On the shield of Achilles, the women, young children, and old men stood on the ramparts and defended them whilst the men went off to fight outside the walls. Historical texts mention more than one fight undertaken from roof tops by women who threw roof-tiles and stones down upon attackers. The fact of their [the women of Argos] presence on the ramparts constitutes in itself less of an exploit than the fact of donning the armour of the men and taking their place after the annihilation of the Argive infantry (Herodotus and His World, 278-279). - Joshua J. Mark, Telesilla of Argos
      Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
      Moreover, female generals are usually the result of a rare political coincidence, mainly due to the premature death of their husband (or father), in a moment when the son (or brother) is too young to assume power. If a threat emerges, they inevitably adopt a military role, as well, although basically in a symbolic manner. This covers the cases of Boadicea, Zenobia, Artemisia and Ada of Caria, Mania (sloppily labelled as a satrap by Wikipedia) and Cleopatra III and VII. The last two should not be called as pharaohs, because not a single Lagid ruler presented himself as a pharaoh among his Greek subjects, but they always preferred the title of king (βασιλεύς). By the way, although the last Cleopatra is the most famous queen, thanks to Hollywood and Roman yellow journalism (to return to my first point), Cleopatra III styled herself as the Queen of Egypt, followed by her male co-ruler, almost one century after Cleopatra VII copied her example (only with the son of Caesar, Ptolemy XV, not with her brother, Ptolemy XIV).

      Ιn conclusion, although I definitely agree that the recent outrage was an unnecessary over-reaction, the proliferation of female generals in Rome II (presumably for reasons similar to those of Plutarch or Pausanias) is historically inaccurate. They are too common and the process with which they are recruited contradicts the special circumstances that really contributed to their appearance in the political foreground.
      You make a good point about Cleopatra VII not using the title of pharoah, even though some history sites call her one.

      I know the names of an Iceni queen, Boudicca and a king, Prasutagus. The Iceni would have had other kings, but no complete list of them appears to remain. If the names of kings were lost, it seems reasonable that the names of ruling queens were lost, too, especially as they "admit[ted] no distinction of sex in their royal successions" (Tacitus, Agricola, 16.1). It seems reasonable to conclude that there were other ruling queens of the Iceni in their history and that ancient Roman writers didn't know of them, didn't see any reason to record them (for example, because they didn’t fight Rome) or that any such works have been lost.

      Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
      Moreover, female generals are usually the result of a rare political coincidence, mainly due to the premature death of their husband (or father), in a moment when the son (or brother) is too young to assume power. If a threat emerges, they inevitably adopt a military role, as well, although basically in a symbolic manner.
      Yes, it seems likely that female generals tended to command when a husband or father died. How rare this was seems difficult to judge, now. There are several reasons why husband or father could have died prematurely in this era - including death in battle, a hunting accident, assassination or illness.

      The example of Boudicca shows that it's not necessary for a husband or father to die "prematurely" for a woman to rule. It seems that Boudicca had only daughters, so she became queen when her husband died.

      Boudicca's example also shows that a female general didn't always need to be queen of all the warriors she commanded. Like Vercingetorix of the Aerverni, Boudicca of the Iceni led a multi-tribe army: "The building fury of other tribes, such as the Trinovantes to the south, made them eager recruits to her cause." (Margaret Donsbach, Boudica: Celtic Warrior Queen Who Challenged Rome). Also, the example of Amage of Sarmatia shows that not all powerful women waited for a husband to die before becoming active leaders.

      It may seem intuitively right to us that a female commander would have only had a "symbolic" role. However, the evidence suggests that Boudicca (for example) directed warriors from her chariot, she wasn't a mere figurehead. Treating female commanders as rare exceptions assumes that their culture had a strong rule against them. However, ancient cultures varied and the strength of their opposition to women in leadership varied, too.

      Quote Originally Posted by Abdülmecid I View Post
      Ιn conclusion, although I definitely agree that the recent outrage was an unnecessary over-reaction, the proliferation of female generals in Rome II (presumably for reasons similar to those of Plutarch or Pausanias) is historically inaccurate. They are too common and the process with which they are recruited contradicts the special circumstances that really contributed to their appearance in the political foreground.
      We agree that the recent outrage was an over-reaction. As I see it, the difficulty with concluding that they are “too common” is determining reliably how often they occurred, and how “special” the circumstances were. It may be true that women leaders are too common; I imagine they will be more common in some campaigns than they were historically, because of random number generation. In my view, these are things which people can reasonably disagree about and which we can’t know for sure.

      Quote Originally Posted by Patronus86 View Post
      Why, if women really were leaders and commanders in ancient history, do people say that this is unhistorical?

      Because the degree to which Rome 2 portrays female generals is not historically accurate. Yes, there were some examples of female leaders/generals in these ancient societies (key word being some). But they certainly weren’t common (at least not to the degree of which they are portrayed in Rome 2). There were few, if any, examples of female leaders in the Mediterranean civilizations (Roman Republic and Empire, Hellenic kingdoms). And yet, playing as the Romans, there is a good chance that the player will encounter several female generals for that faction during the course of the campaign; that just is not accurate or historically immersive, plain and simple. If Creative Assembly had made the occurrence of female generals very rare (statistically possible, but unlikely), I think there may have been some grumbling from the fans, but for the most part everyone would have been on board. The way Creative Assembly went about including the female generals just seemed like it was a pandering gesture, which had little basis in historical reality.

      Also, arguing that we don’t know for sure how many female generals there were is setting the foundation for a futile academic endeavor. There are a lot of unknowns with regards to ancient history. Historians have to write and analyze based on what limited information they do know. And the information that we have from antiquity has told us that female leaders/generals were few and far between.
      You say that female leaders and generals “certainly” weren’t common. That may be true. However, I wonder how you can be “certain” about how many there were when our information on leaders and generals in so many societies in this period is so incomplete. We agree that we have “limited information”. The limited information we have suggests that some other cultures didn’t share the ancient Greek and Roman hostility to women leaders and that some women leaders existed.

      It seems that someone has misinformed you, if you believe there’s a “good chance” that someone “playing as the Romans” will encounter “several female generals for that faction” [Rome]. As Benjin said, Roman women characters can’t be generals unless you modded the game to allow that. CA didn’t just make women generals “very rare” for Rome, Carthage and (some) Greek and Eastern factions, they gave important women characters in those nations the Family Duty trait. Characters with that trait can’t be generals or rival party leaders.

      Quote Originally Posted by Patronus86 View Post
      Regardless of whatever algorithms CA used, the percentage of female generals depicted in the average game is not historically accurate. Based on the historical texts that we do have (which is all that we can go off of), we know that female leaders (especially wartime leaders) were few and far between as compared to their male counterparts.
      It’s interesting that you say that “we know” this, even though so much is unknown about the actual leaders and generals of many peoples of this era.

      Quote Originally Posted by Patronus86 View Post
      Arguably there was a bias against women in ancient Italian and Greek societies, though compared to most contemporary societies, the women of those Mediterranean cultures probably enjoyed the most rights and privileges.

      However one cannot argue that because of that bias, there must have been more women leaders than were actually depicted in historical texts (who were otherwise censored out of history).

      Firstly, there was often more than one historical source discussing some of the main leaders and events; it’s unlikely that there was some widespread conspiracy to delete women from the historical texts. Women of note and importance were usually mentioned, if not analyzed and explained; refer to Cleopatra, Boudica, or any number of Roman wives to emperors.

      Secondly, we can only consider things/events/people that were actually mentioned in the existing historical texts. Any speculation on people who might have existed, but had no reference in the texts or other sources, is just that….speculation, which has no place in academic discussion or in a game that purports to be semi-historically accurate.
      We agree that there was bias against women in authority in ancient Greece and Rome and that we have “limited information”. It seem reasonable to say that, if a society "admit[ted] no distinction of sex in their royal successions" (Tacitus, Agricola, 16.1), then it could have had more than one queen in a period of centuries. It seems reasonable to suggest that, while ancient Greeks and Romans were strongly hostile to women in authority, not all ancient cultures shared that hostility, when the evidence supports that. If you’re suggesting that we should conclude that the leaders we don’t know about were all (or almost all) men, that wouldn’t fit with the evidence.

      I'm not saying that there was a “conspiracy”, nor am I suggesting that bias against women in authority was the only reason why don’t have written records of all ancient women leaders. No conspiracy is needed for ancient Roman historians to not know about women leaders in the centuries before Rome encountered their nations. No conspiracy is needed for ancient Romans to ignore women leaders who weren’t of interest, for example because they didn’t encounter the Roman whose exploits a book was about (such as Tacitus, whose book Agricola was about Gnaeus Julius Agricola, a Roman general and governor of Britain). No conspiracy is needed for some ancient books to be lost to the sacking of cities, the burning of libraries and the slow decay of time. Also, no conspiracy is needed for women leaders to occur in cultures which (unlike ancient Greece and Rome) left very limited written records. There is evidence (discussed by Lauren Hammersen) of a warrior queen of the Brigantes who fought Rome, whose name was lost. If her name has been lost, the names of others could have been lost, too. In my view, to conclude otherwise would be to assume that all ancient cultures shared the antipathy of ancient Greece and Rome to women leaders, which wasn’t the case.