Department of Archaeology and Ancient History

Erika Lindgren Liljenstolpe

erika.liljenstolpe@antiken.uu.se

My research focuses on music and gender in Antiquity. In my dissertation, “Sempronia’s song. Attitudes to Women’s Music-making in Ancient Rome” (2015), I explored attitudes to women’s music making as expressed by Roman authors from several genres, during the Late Republic and the Early Empire (ca 120 BC–130 AD). An intersectional perspective was applied where analysis of gender, social status, age and ethnicity of the women musicians were of importance to explain the attitudes.

By considering the patriarchal nature of the Roman society and its implications on women’s positions in general, the structures prohibiting or encouraging women to make music became vivid. Both women and music needed to be controlled: music since its power was unpredictable and could evoke unexpected feelings and behaviour in a person, and women since the important Roman family line needed to be protected.

The attitudes were however complex. Some literary genres and authors showed a positive attitude to women’s musical talents, at least as long as it was performed on “appropriate” instruments and in accordance with the social status of the woman in question. A musical skill should not surpass what was appropriate in terms of modesty and goodness. This is an ideal that recurs later in history as well, displaying a long tradition of rather similar attitudes. In today's pop and rock music, for example, we see gender-coded musical areas, not least in terms of choice of instrument and the opportunity to perform on stage, where women have had less opportunities than men.

I am currently working on a project with the aim to reconstruct Scandinavian Iron age horns (bucina and cornu), both the instruments themselves as well as the music that might have been played on them. As a Riksspelman on violin, I also work as a musician.

I have previously worked at the Medelhavsmuseet (The Museum of Mediterranean and Near Eastern Antiquities) in Stockholm. I have also participated in excavations in Pompeii and in Prima Porta, Rome.