Aristotle's theoretical basis for denying authority to women, the broader question of whether women's lives belong entirely in the private sphere, is examined. Circumstances in which exceptionally positioned women were enabled to take on male roles: the implications of this for their use of Latin, the language of authority, and public life are discussed. The reason for focusing on Latin verse writing is that it provides the clearest evidence for thorough knowledge of Latin. The argument is made that some writers of the middle ages and later make a more or less explicit distinction between ‘women’ and a variously-defined class of ‘more/other than women’. The usefulness to men of permitting such a sub-group to exist is discussed. The introduction ends with the sociolinguistics of Latin as language of authority and knowledge, and the difficulties women found in appropriating it.
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