Asterisk denotes entries on real places.
Christine’s study. Surrounded by books on all kinds of subjects, while “solitary and separated from the world,” the widowed Christine ponders the role of women in western intellectual and literary history. Her visitations by the allegorical ladies are not a matter of a dream, but of a conscious struggle against the social prejudices of her age, as symbolized by her own books. She is thus both isolated from the world’s opinions, yet intimately fenced in by them.
City of Ladies. The “city” that Christine is to build with her pen (“mix the mortar in your ink bottle”) will be gorgeous, peerless, everlasting, ever prosperous and unconquerable. Each of Christine’s three visitors provides her with a long list of examples of worthy women with whom she is to build the city. It is to be constructed on the flat, well-watered, fertile, and fruitful Field of Letters. Reason helps Christine with the ditches, foundations, and walls by refuting the misogynistic claims of male authors and by reporting on a long list of powerful and inventive women. Rectitude helps her lay out streets, build edifices, and populate the place by reciting a litany of worthy and virtuous women who were seers, loving and faithful wives, saviors of their nations, well educated, chaste, and who loved overmuch. Roofs of gold, as well as a queen, are provided by Lady Justice, in the forms of female saints and the Virgin Mary. Like the City of God of St. Augustine, Christine’s city is a community of virtuous people past and present, whose personal qualities segregate them from the common fold.
Amazonia. Vibrant empire ruled and defended by women. Located by tradition and by Christine in southwestern Russia (Scythia), Amazonia has deep roots in Western mythology. Christine uses it as a fount of powerful, exemplary women, as an example of a place ruled successfully by women, and as a fully female society like that of her own city, which surpasses it.
*Rome. Ancient capital of the Roman Empire. True to her culture, Christine finds many of her heroines in the ancient city of Rome. Even this early in the Renaissance much was known of the valor and virtue of ancient Roman men and women, as celebrated by their historians, especially Livy. Rome’s special place in Western culture as the root of both secular and Christian empires made the stories of her chaste maidens, bold matrons, and female martyrs especially compelling.
*Troy (Ilium). Ancient city celebrated by Homer and Vergil and discovered in western Turkey by Heinrich Schliemann in the late nineteenth century. Troy provides Christine with a number of heroic women, both on the battlefield (Penthesilea) and within the walls. Christine seems to compare Troy’s foundation and fate with those of her city.
*Carthage. Powerful ancient city-state, located on the coast of northern Africa in what is now Tunisia, and enemy of the young Roman republic. According to Christine, Carthage was founded by its female ruler, Dido. It serves as backdrop to Christine’s recounting of Queen Dido’s career.