Sponsored by: Archaeological Institute of America
While scholarship on ancient seafaring and maritime networks has grown substantially since the new millennium, the role of women in the creation and maintenance of these networks remains underexplored. Women were important contributors to the domestic economy and key agents of religion, nested within overlapping and multiscalar Mediterranean-wide networks. They were also, as commodities themselves, part and parcel of forced migration through armed conflict and – willingly or not – marriage and motherhood. In this paper, I examine the agency of women as drivers of mobility networks between ancient Miletus and the Milesian islands (Leros, Patmos, Lepsia) in the southeast Aegean, which was well-situated to benefit from the expanding networks of the period due to its location on the sea-lanes to the Black Sea and Eastern and Western Mediterranean and the overland and riverine transportation routes to inland Anatolia and the east. To do so, I draw upon feminist geography, mobility and migration theory, and Indigenous gynocentric methodologies, and integrate them with traditional approaches to maritime navigation, such as GIS and network theory. Although temples, altars, and sanctuaries to female deities situated on conspicuous promontories and coastlines within the maritime landscape have traditionally been viewed as functions of the male sphere, I contend that there is a second, double-reading: the preponderance of female, foreign and domestic maritime deities suggests that they are also reflective of the condition of mobile women and their liminal moment of transition on the sea.