The Missing Thread: A Women's History of the Ancient World (Hardcover)

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The Missing Thread: A Women's History of the Ancient World (Hardcover)


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A dazzlingly ambitious history of the ancient world that places women at the center—from Cleopatra to Boudica, Sappho to Fulvia, and countless other artists, writers, leaders, and creators of history

Around four thousand years ago, the mysterious Minoans sculpted statues of topless women with snakes slithering on their arms. Over one thousand years later, Sappho wrote great poems of longing and desire. For classicist Daisy Dunn, these womenwhether they were simply sitting at their looms at home or participating in the highest echelons of powerwere up to something much more interesting than other histories would lead us to believe. Together, these women helped to make antiquity as we know it.

In this monumental work, Dunn reconceives our understanding of the ancient world by emphasizing women's roles within it. The Missing Thread never relegates women to the sidelines and is populated with well-known names such as Cleopatra and Agrippina, as well as the likes of Achaemenid consort Atossa and Olympias, a force in Macedon. Spanning three thousand years, the story moves from Minoan Crete to Mycenaean Greece, from Lesbos to Asia Minor, from the Persian Empire to the royal court of Macedonia, and concludes with Rome and its growing empire. The women of antiquity are undeniably woven throughout the fabric of history, and in The Missing Thread they finally take center stage.
Daisy Dunn is an award-winning classicist and the author of The Shadow of Vesuvius: A Life of Pliny, Catullus’ Bedspread: The Life of Rome’s Most Erotic Poet and The Poems of Catullus: A New Translation. She read Classics at Oxford before receiving an MA in the History of Art from the Courtauld Institute and her PhD from UCL. She lives in London, England. Her website is
Product Details ISBN: 9780593299661
ISBN-10: 0593299663
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: July 30th, 2024
Pages: 480
Language: English
“In a deft survey of the contours of the classical world, elegantly stitched together into a narrative that weaves together 3,000 years of history, Dunn offers a much needed addition to standard histories that include only the men.” Times Literary Supplement (UK)

“Revelatory… an epic act of noticing… [in The Missing Thread] narratives of political and military ambition – the bloody internecine battles of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, for example – become more clearly explorations of intense familial and inter-personal dynamics, laced with division and rancour, rage and loathing – but also grief and longing, loyalty and love. It is all so utterly and desperately human. Ultimately, the book asks the question: what does it mean to participate in history?” – The Spectator (UK)

“Fresh, detailed… an engaging and well-researched history that brings ancient women to life.”Booklist

"A sweeping history thrumming with energy…. Dunn’s deft sleuthing uncovers long-overlooked realities…. Wars, rivalries, and invasions made women central to political alliances, and Dunn details their adept machinations as they moved boldly or plotted secretly. Besides familiar names, such as Cleopatra, Fulvia, and Lucretia, [Dunn] introduces scores more of prodigious prowess and influence…. Her erudition is impressive, and her narrative is consistently animated.” Kirkus Reviews *starred review*

“Bold and ambitious…. Dunn fills The Missing Thread with brilliantly drawn pen-portraits…. A wonderful book: informative, thought provoking, and a pleasure to read.” The Telegraph (UK)

“Groundbreaking… well-researched and elegantly written …. Dunn’s spirited work not only puts the overlooked women at the core of the narrative, but it also reminds us that the past, particularly with sexism and misogyny, has vital lessons for the 21st-century present.” – Independent (UK)

“The book is riveting. Dunn is an excellent storyteller and a master of the primary sources.”Fairer Disputations

“A brilliant concept, executed with enviable elegance. People will go to college to study the ancient world because of this book. Brava, Daisy Dunn!”—Lucy Worsley, author of Agatha Christie
“I loved this radical new take on the familiar stories of the ancient world we all think we know but clearly only know the half. Dunn succeeds magnificently not in erasing men but in bringing out of the shadows some extraordinary women and giving them much more than merely reflected glory. The book sparkles with fresh ideas.”―Anne Sebba, author of Ethel Rosenberg
“Daisy Dunn is the real deal. No thread is left hanging, let alone missing, in her closely woven tapestry of ancient women's history. Brilliantly conceived and written, The Missing Thread unerringly fingers the (chiefly male) ancients' inability to understand women and view them in the round.”―Professor Paul Cartledge, University of Cambridge, author of The Spartans

"A gem of a book. Thanks to Daisy Dunn's elegant and lively retelling of history, the women of the ancient world are restored to the centre of the story of classical antiquity, rather than being kept in the shadows. It was a joy to read." ― Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads
"With wonderful lightness of touch, Daisy Dunn has rewritten the history of the ancient world. Coming out of the shadows, so many human faces, from Homer to Agrippina, from Lucretia to Cleopatra. Our vision of antiquity will never be quite the same again." ― A. N. Wilson, author of Victoria: A Life