ROMAN WOMEN

Sarah Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives &  Slaves (1975): first significant study

Problems & Pitfalls

Almost no day in court goes by without cases which women
Prompt, one way or another, plaintiff, defendant, no matter.
They draw up the briefs themselves, prepare the indictments,
Ready to draft or dictate all the speakers of counsel.

                                -- Juvenal, Satire 6 (p. 72)

Marriages as long as ours are rare, marriages that are ended by death and not broken by divorce. For we were fortunate enough to see our marriage last without disharmony for fully 40 years ...

                                -- Anon., Laudatio of "Turia"

Hilarion to Alis his sister, heartiest greetings, and to my dear Berous and Apollonarion. Know that we are still even now in Alexandria. ... If--good luck to you--you bear offspring, if it is a male, let it live; if it is a female, expose it.

                                -- Papyrus letter, 1st c. BC

The Ideal: the faithful matrona

Why should I mention your domestic virtues: your loyalty, obedience, affability, reasonableness, industry in working wool, religion without superstition, sobriety of attire, modesty of appearance?
                                -- Laudatio of "Turia"

... they found Lucretia very differently employed: it was already late at night, but there, in the hall of her house, surrounded by her busy maid-servants, she was still hard at work by lamplight upon her spinning.
                                -- Livy, History 1 (p. 98)

Here lies Amymone, wife of Marcus, best and most beautiful, worker in wool, pious, chaste, thrifty, faithful, a stayer-at-home.
                                -- Inscription, 1st c. BC

                In the old days
Latin women were chaste ...
Hands were hard from working the wool ...
                                -- Juvenal, Satire 6 (p. 74)

Legal Position

Male custodianship (tutela)

Marriage Adultery
Wife Husband
Married Citizen Adultery Adultery
Unmarried citizen Adultery Adultery
Married freedman Adultery Adultery
Unmarried freedman Adultery OK
Slave Adultery OK
Foreigner Adultery  OK

Theory vs. Practice

Loosening of Legal/Social Restrictions

Political power (as wives, mothers) Artistic & public patronage Religion


Over our seven hills ... they came pouring,
The rabble and rout of the East, Sybaris,  Rhodes, Miletus,
Yes, and Tarentum too, garlanded, drunken ...

                                    -- Juvenal, Satire 6 (p. 74)

Or, it may be, they have deeper designs and are really preparing
For the arena itself. How can a woman be decent
Sticking her head in a helmet, denying the sex she was born with?

                                    -- Juvenal, Satire 6 (p. 72)

Even worse is the one who has scarcely sat  down at the table
When she starts in on books, with praise for Virgil ...

                                    -- Juvenal, Satire 6 (p. 81)

All their gossip, their fears, their anger, their joys and their worries,
Their intimate secrets of soul, they pour out in  Greek ...

                                    -- Juvenal, Satire 6 (p. 70)

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