‘The Gender of Female Suicide in Greek Myth
: Divine, Amēchanon, Monstrous.’

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


This thesis takes as its starting point the widespread scholarly assumption about an affinity in Greek thought between suicide by hanging and women, and proceeds to argue that in certain contexts the network of associations between the two enables the formation of subversive gender identities. The Greek material, which comprises textual variants of Greek myths from 8th century BCE–2nd century CE, is approached from a perspective informed by Butler’s theoretical work on gender. Within this framework, gender is understood both as performance and as the cultural means that institute sex as a natural, prediscursive category. As a result, the observations on the available conceptualisations of gender in Greek antiquity bring together evidence ranging from the social roles of men and women to ideas about sexual difference and attitudes towards sexual desire and practice.

The nexus of connections between suicide by hanging and women is traced in diverse areas of thought and activity, prominent among which is Hippocratic medicine. The gynaecological treatises of the Hippocratic Corpus offer a model of female physiology and pathology within which suicide by hanging becomes connected to both specifically female pathological conditions and distorted versions of normal female reproductive functions. Within certain narrative contexts, these associations, combined with those suicide by hanging develops in other areas, render this mode of dying a site for the convergence, conflict, and parodic recirculation of conventionally female roles. As a consequence, a space is created for the redeployment of these associations towards gender configurations that subvert norms and exceed the descriptive abilities of existing categories. The discussion of a wide range of instances of women’s suicide by hanging in Greek myths demonstrates the variety of ways in which such a subversive gender identity may be performed, and offers new ways of understanding Greek ideas about gender.
Date of Award26 Nov 2020
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorVanda D Zajko (Supervisor) & Lyndsay Coo (Supervisor)


  • gender. suicide, hanging, classics, women, ancient greece, greek

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