Djaida, Zarinaea, Rhoxane
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Categories: Ancient, Medieval

Djaida, Zarinaea, Rhoxane

Dr. Steve Muhlberger in Ontario passed on a link to an Arabic romance of the sixth century CE which Phil Paine posted on his blog (link to Muhlberger’s comments). One story in the romance tells of a young woman who was raised as a boy and a warrior, and what she did when she wished to marry.

About a thousand years earlier, Ctesias of Cnidos seems to have heard several similar stories, including about Zarinaea queen of the Sakai in the steppes east of the Caspian Sea who fought many battles and rebuffed a married man who fell in love with her, and another about Rhoxane the daughter of a Persian nobleman who was skilled with bow and javelin. Ctesias’ work only survives in later quotations, citations, and summaries; Lloyd Llewellyn Jones and James Robson have published an affordable English translation of these ‘fragments’ with Routledge.

I can’t say whether these stories are connected, or whether they have anything to do with reality. I suspect that we don’t have enough evidence to answer either question. What these stories do show is that Plato and Aristophanes were not the only people in the ancient world to muse about women who took on ‘male’ roles.

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