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Rahman 1 Fatema Rahman Hist 114B Dis: 1H 1/28/14 Roman Women Very little is known about the public

and private lives of Roman women, although they had a great influence on Rome. Tacitus and Suetonius only mentioned a few women of the elite class who very public figures in passing. It is difficult to know much more about women of lower classes as they are hardly mentioned. The writings of Pliny the Elder and Seneca do provide a small window in the private lives of woman, but it is quite skewed due to that fact that those accountings do not come directly from the women themselves. Women were granted few rights, and only by the grace of their male kinsmen. Men had certain standards for women, consigning their place to the home and hearth to take care of their children. A few exceptions applied to the women of the ruling family, but powerful women usually met their demise at the hands of men. A typical Roman woman attained positions of power as a wife and mother. Marriages for most girls were usually made in their teens, although a few could to be Vestal Virgins or priestess (Hallett, 4). Even in marriages, the bride had a minimal role wherein only her chastity, ability to provide heirs, and the opportunity to forge new alliances were taken into consideration (Hallett, 4-6). In the Eulogy of Turia, Turia was described as the ideal wife for her general selflessness and quintessential devotion to her husband, ideals that were mirrored in other Roman men. Such examples of selflessness and devotion were seen in the accounts of Arria by Pliny, Germanicuss wife who stayed with her husband during battle (Mellor, Tacitus, 318), and Livia who was said to have supplied virgins for Augustuss pleasure (Hallett, 10). Both Pliny and Seneca praised various women who put great importance on family and blood ties. While not as educated as their male counterparts, they had some schooling and some historians like Seneca

Rahman 2 even urged for further education (Hallett, 2). His mother might have had some financial independence, but she was not left any property by her father (Hallett, 2). Mothers were very close to their children from childhood onwards, and they were in charge of their children s education (Hallett, 9). Suetonius even wrote that Augustus educated his own female descendants, especially in wool working. Mothers like Livia and Agrippina greatly counseled their sons, and Julias mother even followed her into exile (Hallett, 11). Womens main role was as a very proper and devoted caretaker. The influences of the very few public women were usually seen to be negative. Tacitus wrote scathingly of a few women in the royal family, like Augustuss daughter Julia who was eventually banished for her prowess in mens beds (Mellor, Tacitus, 323). Another such women whose power hungry ways lead to her death was Messalina and to a greater extent Agrippina the Younger, Neros mother. Supposedly, she poisoned her husband Claudius so that Nero could rule (Mellor, Tacitus, 351). In Neros youth, she ruled in his stead with the help of two trusted men but her power goaded Nero into killing her (Mellor, Tacitus, 353). Although marriage was an allimportant institution, there were many instances of divorces to and they were sometimes made on the whims of the males. Caesar, Augustus and Nero, just to name a few, divorced their wives and carried on extramarital affairs with married women (Hallett, 11). Male extramarital affairs were seen as normal but as seen with Julia and Agrippina; their actions were just described as lurid. These public figures were under a lot of scrutiny and were unfavorably portrayed. Roman women derived their social identity from their male kinsmen. Rarely did they have any powers. Their major role was as a wife and mother, and their male kinsmen had specific standards of what made a good Roman woman. Although overlooked, they figured quite prominently in history.