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Women in Late Republican Rome Communal and Family Power.

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Presentation on theme: "Women in Late Republican Rome Communal and Family Power."— Presentation transcript:

1 Women in Late Republican Rome Communal and Family Power

2 Political Upheaval and Social Change Punic Wars: 218-202 BCE: Italy invaded and occupied Husbands/sons serving in the military Hard times, impact on small farms Civil disturbances: 120’s-27 BCE Extensive infighting and proscriptions among the elite Marriage and divorce increasingly as political tools Women in positions of mediation between families and factions

3 Sources Livy: Historian, c. 30 BCE Writes a “standard history” of Rome from its foundation Republican sentiments; embroidered with Livy’s reconstruction of events (influenced by values common in his time) Polybius, c. 120 BCE Greek historian, writing an inclusive history, lived for a long time in Rome Other historians Surviving mainly in fragments

4 Sources Inscriptions Often funerary Show conventional values Specifics of lives Comedy Plautus, Terence Based on Greek originals but with ideas specific to Roman experience An exaggerated, comic view but must relate to real concerns

5 Marriage and Dowry What were a wife’s or husband’s legal rights over her dowry? Women apparently retained control over it, as we have references to loans or gifts to husbands Husbands did typically use it and manage it, as evidence references to husbands who had a hard time replacing it when divorced Children had a legal right to it, 1/6 per child in the event of divorce Legal mediations may have favored the husbands, but fathers also had an interest in the outcome, so perhaps not. The arbitrator [in a divorce] has the authority to impose what seems good to him, if the woman has acted in any wrong or dishonorable fashion. She is fined if she drinks wine; if she has had a dishonorable relationship with another man, she is condemned. Gellius, quoting Cato

6 Economic Life Women engaged in marketing as a regular thing – both free and slave

7 Economic Life An unusual female slave profession: gladiators. This plaque commemmorates the freedom of Achillea and Amazonia. Professions: Pedagogue Personal secretary Hairdresser Fishmonger Grocer (in business with her husband) Porter

8 Fuller – some of the slaves shown are children Economic Life Wool-weigher (market position) Seamstress; Weaver Actress Musician

9 Women’s personal slaves are predominantly female – and female slaves are often portrayed doing typically feminine tasks. Slaves and Freedwomen

10 But most slaves described or referred to, even domestics, are male.

11 Slaves and Freedwomen Cato’s Instructions to a slave overseer, regarding the hosuekeeper: See that the housekeeper perform all her duties. If the master has given her to you as a wife, keep yourself only to her. Make her stand in awe of you. Restrain her from extravagance. She must visit the neighboring and other women very seldom, and not have them either in the house or in her part of it. She must not go out to meals or be a gadabout. She must not engage in religious worship herself or get others to engage in it for her without the orders of the master or mistress. She must be neat herself and and keep the farmstead neat and clean.

12 Slaves and Freedwomen Slaves were not allowed to marry, though they could live in marriage- like relationships. A slave’s partner was called a contubernalis, essentially, “roommate.” Slaves had no rights over their children, and at any point either partner or children could be sold away from the other. As Cato’s passge reveals, masters could reward male slaves with “wives,” niether slave having much choice in the matter. Masters had sexual rights to their slaves. Though social disapproval and family issues were factors limiting this in some cases. “dominus ancillae suae”

13 Slaves and Freedwomen One measure of status in Rome was the large numbers of slaves the elite had attending and serving them. Elite women, as well as elite men, participated in this sort of display. Domestic slaves in rich households might have light duties but little personal space, and be subject to the whims of their master or mistress.

14 Slaves and Freedwomen Slaves attending their mistress and her daughter

15 Slaves and Freedwomen Funerary monuments of freedmen and freedwomen often emphasize mainstream family values. Slaves could be manumitted, either for a price or otherwise, and could buy the freedom of their children – if the masters cooperated. Freedmen (and freedwomen) sometimes became wealthy, but most commonly lived ordinary lives.

16 Lucius Aurelius Hermia, freedman of Lucius, a butcher of the Viminal Hill. She who went before me in death, my one and only wife, chaste in body, a loving woman of my heart possessed, lived faithful to her faithful man; in fondness equal to her other virtues, never during bitter times did she shrink from loving duties. Slaves and Freedwomen

17 In life, I was named Aurelia Philematium, a woman chaste and modest, knowing not the crowd, faithful to her man. My man was a fellow-freedman; he was also in very truth over and above a father to me; and alas, I have lost him. Seven years old was I when he, even he, took me to his bosom; forty years old - and I am in the power of violent death. He through my constant loving duties flourished at all seasons... Slaves and Freedwomen

18 Adornment: Personal and Political Limiting women’s display: The Lex Oppia, imposed during the Punic wars, “restricted women’s finery and withdrew the privilege of riding in carriages” Taxes were imposed on wealthy women’s property in particular (as individual rather than precisely related to the patriarchal concerns of the family line) Were these limitations practical or did they have (also or instead) a symbolic meaning?

19 Women cannot hold magistracies or priesthoods or triumphs or military decorations or awards or spoils of war. Cosmetics and adornments are women’s decorations. They delight and boast of them and this is what our ancestors called women’s estate. (Valerius, in Livy 34.7.8) Adornment: Personal and Political The Lex Oppia, instituted in the Punic War, was protested by women afterward What view of women’s value in society and the outside world emerges here?

20 Adornment: Personal and Political Whenever Aemelia left her house to partake in women’s processions, it had been her habit to appear in great state, as befitted a woman who had shared the life of the great Africanus,,, Apart from the magnificence of her personal attire and the decoration of her carriage, all the... sacrificial essels and utensils were made of gold or silver, and were carried in her train in such ceremonial occasions... The ancient Trophy wife:

21 Adornment: Personal and Political If you will let them unbind each element [of social control] and finally be raised level with men, do you think that they will be tolerable? As soon as they begin to be our equals, they will be our masters... Speech attributed to Cato, Livy 34.3.2 Sumptuary and morality legislation often focuses on women, and is often an issue in conservative declarations of socal control: Solon’s restrictions on Athenian women’s display in mourning Islamic fundamentalism Morality legistlation in the USA?

22 Elite Women Political marriages Roles as mediators Julia Cornelia Servilia Octavia Education Moral guidance Fame (usually through deeds of her sons)

23 Finis

24 Slaves and Freedwomen



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