Theodore Balsamon’s Canonical Images of Women
Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies, articles (2004 – 2008)
The jurist Balsamon, in the course of his legal strictures on women who are mentruating, exhibits some detailed knowledge of anatomical and erotic literature and of unorthodox sexual practices.
CANON LAW often contains legal stipulations limiting the actions of women in order to prevent defilement and impurity. In particular, provisions concerning sexual morality contain detailed descriptions of female anatomy and faculties. This brief study will examine the descriptions of women contained in selected writings of the Byzantine canonist Theodore Balsamon (ca. 1130/1140–death after 1195, resident at Constantinople during the reign of Manuel I Komnenos). Balsamon, a chartophylax of the ecumenical patriarchate and patriarch of Antioch, was noted for his commentaries on the received corpus of Byzantine canon law as well as the Nomonkanon in Fourteen Titles. He is also the author of legal treatises and canonical responses dealing with a variety of subjects, including marital issues, abortion, and childbirth. The canonist’s works were extremely influential and emerged as a standard source for Orthodox canonists and theologians.