Feminization of the Conquered

Feminization of the Conquered February 5, 2012

In general support of the earlier post by Mike Bird, I offer this piece of evidence. Although not directly related to the act of crucifixion, it is widely known that the Romans portrayed their conquered in feminine ways.

Consider the picture here. It depicts a conquered people under the hand of a victorious Roman emperor. The sculpture clearly presents the conquered as a female. I took this photo in Aphrodisias (which is in Turkey) this past year.

So to the extent that Jesus was a conquered person, Rome would have feminized him. And it makes sense that the crucifixion underscored this element.

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  • Patrick

    Though it looks like I am in the minority among your audience, I for one really appreciate the thoughtful consideration of how feminine criticism can help evangelical biblical scholarship. As an ‘evangelical’ myself I constantly struggle with how to see how differing theories help challenge our cultural presuppositions, yet ensure I stay true to my theological presuppositions and don’t buy into the whole enterprise.

    My program has some huge Stephen Moore and Janice Capel Anderson fans which obviously leads to a poststructuralist and feminist affinity. My advisor isn’t as steeped in this (she tends to be more historically oriented to the study of Paul), but several others in the program are. So, from one perspective, thanks.

  • Joe Bruno

    In a similar vein, to feminize a conquered individual or people was fairly common within the ANE cultures as a whole. Note these passages out of Herodotus and Josephus:
    Herodotus, Histories 2.102-103:
    …according to the report of the priests he (Sesostris of Egypt) took a great army [86] and marched over the continent, subduing every nation which stood in his way: and those of them whom he found valiant and fighting desperately for their freedom, in their lands he set up pillars which told by inscriptions his own name and the name of his country, and how he had subdued them by his power; but as to those of whose cities he obtained possession without fighting or with ease, on their pillars he inscribed words after the same tenor as he did for the nations which
had shown themselves courageous, and in addition he drew upon them the hidden parts of a woman, desiring to signify by this that the people were cowards and effeminate. 103. Thus doing he traversed the continent, until at last he passed over to Europe from Asia and subdued the Scythians and also the Thracians

    Josephus (Ant. 8.10.3) iterates this same story; however, instead of “Sesostris,” he ascribes the story to Shishak of Egypt (1 Kings 14:25-28; 2 Chr. 12; cf. ANET, 263-64), who invaded Judah and “shut up” Rehoboam in Jerusalem: “Now it is manifest that he intended to declare that out nation was subdued by him; for he says, that he left behind him pillars in the land of those that delivered themselves up to him without fighting, and engraved upon them the secret parts of women. Now Rehoboam delivered up our city without fighting.”

  • Allen Browne

    No doubt about that at all, Joel. The *oppressors* certainly use this sexualized language.
    That does not make it appropriate theology for those of us who represent a kingdom where male and female are equally valued and kingdom life does not include shafting each other.

  • Anonymous

    I agree. No doubt the ancients did this.

    The sculpture reminds me of my Uncle Ken and my Aunt Millie. They really go at it now and then 😀

  • MBlaiseB

    The iconography of conquest in the first century was not monolithic regarding gender. One extensive example that goes against the “defeated as feminized” is the use of the Goddess Nike and some with Minerva on various Judeea Capta coins that celebrated Rome’s military victory over Jerusalem under Titus. In this sense, the conqueror was feminized not the defeated. I am not trying to disregard both yours and Mike’s point entirely, but I wonder if we should be more cautious in applying the feminine depictions of defeated nations or language of “piercing” as support for making the crucified Christ feminine.

  • Rey Jacobs

    “So to the extent that Jesus was a conquered person, Rome would have feminized him.”

    So that’s why he kinds looks like a woman in all those icons.

  • EdM01

    I found this article and Mr. Bird’s article very late. At Mr. Bird’s article I posted a message with supporting images that basically confirms his view that crucifxion was a feminizing and emasculating death… to the extreme.