5.9.12

The Book of the City of Ladies

The Book of the City of Ladies is a book that consists of Christine de Pizan (the books author) being visited by 3 angels who all give her lengthy lectures about all of the successes and great things women have done for the world. Aside from this general concept being amazing, the book is Medieval, so Christine is literally the first woman who has documented such notions, while also being one of the first women to make a living from her writing.  The following are some of my favorite quotes from the first part.

1. HERE BEGINS THE BOOK OF THE CITY OF LADIES, WHOSE FIRST CHAPTER TELLS WHY AND FOR WHAT PURPOSE THIS BOOK WAS WRITTEN.

In regards to a book where it's male author spoke of women in a negative way; "But just the sight of this book, even though it was of no authority, made me wonder how it happened that so many different men- and learned men among them- have been and are so inclined to express both in speaking and in their treatises and writings so many devilish and wicked thoughts about women and their behavior."

16. CONCERNING THE AMAZONS.

"And in this way the women of Scythia began to carry arms and were then called Amazons, which actually means 'breastless ones,' because they had a custom whereby the nobles among them, when they were little girls, burned off their left breast through some technique so that it would not hinder them from carrying a shield, and they removed the right breast of commoners to make it easier for them to shoot a bow.  They so delighted in the vocation of arms that through force they greatly increased their country and their dominion, and their high fame spread everywhere, just as I mentioned before."

22. SHE SPEAKS TO HER OF LILIA, MOTHER OF THE BRAVE KNIGHT THEODORIC.

"When the brave and wise mother, who has been paying close attention to the battle, saw her son flee, she was terribly pained, considering that ther could be no greater reproach for a knight than having fled in battle. Then her noble heart made her forget all maternal pity, and she would have preferred to see her son die honorable than incur such shame. She immediately ran in front of him and implored him not to dishonor himself with such a flight but to regroup his troops and return to the battle.  But as he did not pay much attention to words, the lady, overcome with great anger, lifted up the front of her dress and said to him, 'Truly, dear son, you have nowhere to flee unless you return to the womb from which you came.' Then Theodoric was so ashamed that he abandoned his flight, regrouped his troops, and returned to battle in which, because of the incitement stemming from his shame at his mother's words, he fought so bravely that he defeated his enemies and killed Odoacre."

28. SHE SPEAKS TO DISCUSS SEVERAL LADIES WHO WERE ENLIGHTENED WITH GREAT LEARNING, AND FIRST SPEAKS ABOUT THE NOBLE MAIDEN CORNIFICIA. 

" This little girl so devoted herself to study and with such marvelous intelligence that she began to savor the sweet taste knowledge acquired through study.  Nor was it easy to take her away from this joy to which she more and more applied herself, neglecting all other feminine activities.  She occupied herself with this for such a long period of time that she became a consummate poet, and she was not only extremely brilliant and expert in the learnedness and craft of poetry but also seemed ot have been nourished with the very milk and teaching of perfect philosophy, for she wanted to hear and know about every branch of learning, which she then mastered so thoroughly that she surpassed her brother, who was also a very great poet, and excelled in every field of learning."

There are so many examples that this first angel feels necessary to tell Christine about. Women accomlishing many things, it's refreshing to read a book like this, especially after all the terrible men talking about women in the media lately...

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