• Almost all the information we have about Roman women derives from elite Roman males
  • Usually women we portrayed stereotypically
    • Chaste wives, mothers, daughters
    • Evil seductresses, scheming power-mongers

Women and Public Life

  • Women had no political rights
  • They could not vote
  • They could not be elected magistrates
  • Could exemplify an idea
    • Embody the values of the state
    • Self-sacrifice to preserve those ideal
  • Some women did play a role in political life
    • Through the men in their lives (e.g. Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi)
    • In their own right (e.g. Servilla, lover and friend of Julius Caesar and mother of Brutus, who chaired political meetings in a time of crisis)
  • Livia (Augustus’ wife) combined virtuous and old-fashioned behaviour with a very active political agenda
  • Roman men considered women frail and weal of mind, and so could not participate in business
    • They required a legal guardian (tutor -> safekeeper

§  Cf. the kyrios of Greece

  • The reality was that they worked independently of their tutores
  • Cicero’s wife Terentia managed the household finances
    • His daughter Tullia was a keen student of philosophy

The Married Ideal

Women typically married in their teens

  • Husbands were 10-15 YEARS OLDER

§  SIX CHILDREN ON AVERAGE (3 would die)

Ideally a woman would be married to one man and, after his death, remain devoted to his memory (UNIUIRA)

The chaste (casta or pudica) uniuira is a highly praised ideal!

  • THE OPPOSITE WAS MUCH CRITICIZED

In reality… divorces and remarriages were common!

MARRIAGE… The MOST important way of creating alliances between households

  • Among the elite these alliances would be political
  • Among the lower classes they would often be more practical

STRONG EMPHASIS on CHILDREN

Matrimonium was an institution for making mothers (matres)

Children “than which nothing is more dear to the human race” (Livy)

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