Blog Tour Guest Post by K. Hollan Van Zandt: Women of The Ancient World

    Today's guest writer is K. Hollan Van Zandt. She is the author of Written in the Ashes, a historical fiction novel about an Alexandrian slave that is tasked with restoring unity among religions. In her research, she came across many interesting findings about women in the ancient world. Surprisingly, there are many similarities to the modern world. Someone could have made a killing if they owned an ancient  Nordstrom! I hope that you will find this article enlightening. If you find it this interesting, pick up a copy of Written in the Ashes. Thank you, Ms. Van Zandt!




Women in the Ancient World by K. Hollan Van Zandt

     Did women of ancient Rome and Egypt wear make-up? Carry purses? Study in schools? Care about perfume? Run a household?

     Turns out, women of the ancient world cared and enjoyed many of the same luxuries that modern women do.

     How do we know?

     Cleopatra would travel by caravan hundreds of miles deep into the Sahara desert to a special oasis that promised rejuvenating baths and youth-giving clay. We still have the maps she used to travel to her favorite springs in the Siwa Oasis, which were named after her.

     Glass perfume flasks and gold earrings that required pierced ears have been found by archeologists, which date back thousands of years. You can see them in the display cases of many museum collections, like the Getty Villa in California, and the British Museum in London.


     There are even accounts in ancient texts of women who lined their eyes with kohl (a black eyeliner), and crushed urchin spines into eye shadow. We have detailed descriptions of women’s fashion, including dresses (himations, in Greek) and also of hats, tiaras and stylish footwear.

     In the ancient Roman era around the Mediterranean, clothing that flowed was preferred by both men and women. You could take one strip of woven fabric (wool, linen or cotton), three feet wide by six to eight feet long, and fold it and pleat it into infinite attractive shapes to fit the human form. Some were shorter for summer months, and longer in winter, and many were belted or worn off the shoulder. (There were basically no undergarments, but women of the ancient world used a loincloth like a diaper belted by leather or string beneath their robes to catch their monthly blood.)

     So we know women cared about beauty and fashion, even in the ancient world, but there was a class system in place in the Roman Empire that meant only the wealthiest of women had access to the fineries of beauty and adornments. This meant women of royalty, women whose husbands or family held political power, and also women who were married to wealthy merchants. A woman’s status and wealth was determined solely by who was her father, and/or who was her husband in that era, as few women owned land or held property.

     A lower class citizen of Greece or Egypt would own only one or two chitons (a loose dress cinched by a belt), maybe a pair of sandals and a winter cloak. She wouldn’t have access to fine silks, cloth of color, or ornaments like jewelry. She might tend chickens, goats, sheep, crops, or be a wet nurse for the babies of more wealthy women, or in a city, simply run errands.

     Female slaves were common, as were prostitutes. Female slaves were valued by their youth, beauty and how hard they could work, and prostitutes were present in every port city, like Athens (Piraeus) and Alexandria. Like in many parts of the world today, the lighter your skin tone, the better you would fare at the treatment of others, sadly.

     As for education, women simply weren’t educated on the whole, but there were exceptions. Occasionally a woman of royal blood would be taught to read, and strangely, it was also common for masters to teach their slaves of both sexes to read, as this made the slave more valuable and reliable (if you were a Roman soldier, for instance, and needed to be sure the correct message was carried.) Sometimes caring fathers chose to have their daughters educated.

     In Greece there seemed to have been no prejudice against having women educated, but the sad reality was that with no reliable birth control, many of these women who might have excelled as scholars bore as many as 9-14 children to their husbands, and the average life expectancy was only to age 45.

     Hypatia of Alexandria was a remarkable woman, educated by her father, Theon, a renowned mathematician who ran the Great library of Alexandria, Egypt in the 5th century. He chose to make Hypatia headmistress of the greatest library in antiquity, and she became the first female mathematician/philosopher. She could probably read 4-5 different languages including Greek, Aramaic, Latin, Coptic, Persian, and was fluent in mathematical theorems and geometry, which was a very important skill for early astronomers, of which there were many throughout the 700 years of the Great Library.

     Today, hundreds of millions of girls are prevented from attending school worldwide, but especially in the developing nations. Yet time and again, when girls are educated, statistics show us that they make improvements to sanitation, water collection, the nourishment of children, tending crops, housing; whereas men, even educated men, are statistically more likely to spend their money on immediate gratification: beer and prostitutes. (Nicholas D. Kristof, Half the Sky).

     When I was researching my novel about Hypatia, Written in the Ashes, I was thoroughly struck how much in common modern women have with ancient women. How much I love the clothing of that era, how comfortable it looks, how pretty. How much education makes a difference in our lives. And how all of us appreciate a little beauty ritual to make our eyes attractive, and our skin gleam.

Written In the Ashes by K. Hollan Van ZandtWritten In the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt

Publisher: Harper Collins
Release Date: Nov. 29, 2016
Category: Historical Fiction
Tour Dates: May-June, 2017 
ISBN:978-0062673688
ASIN: B01CY3A8X4
Available in: Print & ebook,
Pages: 554
Written In the Ashes
Synopsis: "Written in the Ashes is one of those rare novels that sets 'history' afire, to bathe readers in the glow of a greater, hotter truth. Fans of The Mists of Avalon will find this romantic/alchemical/feminist/spiritual epic equally captivating."—Tom Robbins, bestselling author of Tibetan Peach Pie: A True Account of an Imaginative Life, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and Villa Incognito

     In the bloody clash between Christians and pagans in fifth-century Alexandria, a servant girl becomes the last hope for preserving peace in this evocative and thrilling tale—a blend of history, adventure, religion, romance, and mysticism reminiscent of The Mists of Avalon.


     After she is abducted from her home in the mountains of Sinai, Hannah is enslaved and taken to Alexandria, where she becomes the property of Alizar, an alchemist and pagan secretly working to preserve his culture. Revered for her beautiful singing voice, the young slave is invited to perform at the city's Great Library, where she becomes friends with the revered mathematician and philosopher, Hypatia, as well as other pagans who curate its magnificent collections. Determined to help them uphold pagan culture and traditions, Hannah embarks on a dangerous quest to unite the fractured pieces of the Emerald Tablet—the last hope to save the pagans and create peace.


     On this odyssey that leads her to the lost oracles of Delfi and Amun-Ra and to rediscovered ancient cities and rituals, Hannah will experience forbidden loves, painful betrayals, and poignant reunions. But her efforts may be in vain. Returning to Alexandria, Hannah finds a city engulfed in violence, even as her own romantic entanglements come to a head. Now, it's not only her future, but the fate of all Alexandria that is at stake.

Praise for Written In the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt

     “In her captivating debut novel, Written in the Ashes, K. Hollan Van Zandt brings to life a fascinating and forgotten woman of history: Hypatia of Alexandria, who may have been one of the greatest female minds of all time. If you’ve ever wondered what it was like to walk the streets of long ago Egypt, then look no further. You will be enthralled!”– Michelle Moran, international bestselling author of Nefertiti and Cleopatra’s Daughter

     “Van Zandt’s vivid description of the Great Library instantly transported me to a lush fifth century Alexandria. Her lyrical writing style and breakneck storytelling kept me riveted to the very last page.”– Robin Maxwell bestselling author of The Secret Diary of Anne Boleyn and Signora da Vinci.


     "Going back so far in time leaves an author with little written record to rely on for fact. The burning of the Great Library at Alexandria was a monumental loss to humanity. The facts of the matter aside, this novel was truly arresting and I had a hard time putting it down to get anything done.


Ancient history fascinates me. Religion fascinates me. This book manages to tie both together in a story that resonates through time.

     The book was fascinating. The characters were well developed and I really didn't want to leave this world of ancient Alexandria. The imaginary, magical priests and the beautiful goddesses created by Ms. Van Zandt lent themselves to a mystical world that was quite believable within its context. As the story unfolded I was rooting for Hannah to fulfill her destiny and find peace with her past. I am looking forward to the next chapters in these characters lives."-Patty Woodland, Broken Teepee

About K. Hollan Van Zandt

     Kaia Van Zandt is a celebrated author and teacher whose novel, Written in the Ashes, chronicles the events that led up to the burning of the Great Library of Alexandria, Egypt. Kaia’s spiritual journey began at age 14 when she founded the youth division of the Humane Society of the United States. Then as a junior in high school, she traveled to the Earth Summit in Brazil, where she taught meditation, and was given the opportunity to work with world leaders on the challenges facing humanity and the planet today, an experience that profoundly influenced her work.

     She’s a graduate of Antioch University, where she focused on the intersection between the ancient Goddess traditions and modern culture. Her fascination with healing-both personally and collectively – led her to yoga. During her career she’s worked with thought leaders like Marci Shimoff and Deepak Chopra, actors like Ashley Judd, Jamie Lee Curtis, and Garry Shandling, as well as Sony ImageWorks, UCLA Medical, and the San Francisco 49ers. Her beloved writing mentor is bestselling novelist/humorist, Tom Robbins. Visit her Website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube.


Buy Written in the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt on Amazon and Barnes and Nobles.

Follow Written In the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt Tour

May 19 
Teddy Rose Book Reviews Plus- Interview & Giveaway

May 22 

May 24 

May 25 

May 30 

May 31 
Passages to the Past- Review & Giveaway

June 1 
Books, Dreams, Life- Review & Excerpt

June 2 

June 7 
Rainy Day Reviews- Review, Excerpt, & Giveaway

June 8  

June 16 

June 23 

June 26 
Lisa's Writopia- Guest Post

  Written In the Ashes by K. Hollan Van Zandt

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