Bad Girls: The Role of the “Mala” in Ancient Greek and Roman Literature
The figure of the mala or “bad woman” is present in much of Ancient Greek and Latin literature. In this context, being a mala means being a woman who participates in the process where an older woman advises a younger woman about how to profit from men who will pay to sleep with her. In this paper, I define the characteristics of the mala and document the ways in which the language of power and control is used with malae in Plautus’ Casina; the elegies of Propertius, Tibullus, and Ovid; and Lucian’s Dialogues of the Courtesans. The characteristics of the mala that are present in all of these genres highlight the fact that this character is an important vehicle for expressing cultural anxieties surrounding women. Even though the mala is so pervasive in classical literature, this paper is the first to look specifically at her as a distinct character type.