THE WORLD OF STATE

aureus Agrippina I on an aureus (50-54 CE)
aureus Livia as Pax on an aureus (20 CE)

The world of the state, the field on which men distinguished themselves in politics and on the battlefield, saw the deepest divisions between gender roles. For women, to whom a political role in the state and public self-expression were legally closed, honor was earned by silently fulfilling the cultural ideal of matrona, producing citizens and exemplifying the feminine virtues of chastity and modesty, strictures which lower-class women experienced to a lesser degree. In no case were women permitted to vote or to hold public office, with the exception of the Vestals, whose virginity and care of the state hearth assured the public well-being. However, history offers instances of women, individually or in groups, who circumvented or transgressed these expectations, sometimes receiving condemnation and punishment, as in the case of Tarpeia, and at other times earning male encouragement and accommodation, as in the case of the women who demonstrated against the Oppian Law of 215 BCE, which was repealed despite the opposition of conservatives like Cato. For much of Republican history adult women, considered weak and vulnerable, lived under a form of tutela, or guardianship, that was provided all of their lives by their paterfamilias or husband, or, in the absence of these, a male kinsman or surrogate. However, beginning with the Second Punic war, conditions changed radically. Women whose husbands were killed or away for long periods of time on campaign were left in control of the home and family property. The expansion of empire that followed brought an increase of wealth, some of which found its way into dowries. The deadly struggles of the last century of the Republic, which implicated women as well as men, and upper-class women's preference for marriage sine manu (without the transfer of control from father to husband) brought about changed attitudes toward women's capacities and greater tolerance for women's autonomy. Augustan legislation in the late 1st century BCE, which was aimed at strengthening the family and morals, removed citizen women who had borne at least three children (for freedwomen at least four) from legal guardianship by males. Augustus' wife Livia was publicly acclaimed and given special privileges as a model of the traditional materfamilias while she assumed a new public presence for women as benefactor and representative to the gods. Under the Empire, women of the imperial family were frequently used to symbolize civic virtues, were sometimes awarded state titles, and occasionally even exercised real, though not legally sanctioned, power. See Bauman (1992) and Burns (2007) in the Bibliography and Images of State below.

Text-Commentaries Additional Readings
Quintus Horatius Flaccus, Carmina 3.6.17-32: corruption within See the Latin reader The Worlds of Roman Women for the following texts:
Cornelius Tacitus, Annales 1.3-6: Livia Gaius, Institutiones 1.144-145, 148-150: tutela
Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita I.34, 39, 41: Queen Tanaquil T. Livius, Ab Urbe Condita 1.39, 41 (excerpts): Tanaquil
P. Vergilius Maro, Aeneis 7.803-817: Camilla T. Livius, Ab Urbe Condita 1.47-48 (excerpts): Tullia minor.
Cornelius Tacitus, Annales 14.34-5: Boudica T. Livius, Ab Urbe Condita 39.9-10 (excerpts): Hispala Faecenia
Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita I.11.5-9: Tarpeia T. Livius, Ab Urbe Condita 2.40: Veturia
Pseudo-Seneca, Octavia 100-114: Claudia Octavia P. Ovidius Naso, Fasti 4.293-328, 343-344: Claudia Quinta
Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita I.11.1-2: Hersilia  CIL 6.492, Dedicatory Inscription on an Altar: Claudia Syntyche
  C. Sallustius Crispus, Bellum Catilinae 24-25 (excerpts): Sempronia

Inscriptions

C. Cornelius Tacitus, Annales 1.33, 40, 69 (excerpts): Agrippina maior
Honorary for Marcia Aurelia Ceionia Demetrias See De Feminis Romanis at Diotima for the following on-line Latin texts:
  Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita I. 8-13: Rape of the Sabine Women
  Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita I. 57-60: Rape of Lucretia
  P. Ovidius Naso, Metamorphoses VIII.51-66: Scylla
  C. Plinius Secundus, Maior, Naturalis Historia 34.25-31: Statues of women

IMAGES of STATE

REPUBLIC

     

IMPERIAL WOMEN

     

EMPIRE

REPUBLIC

IMPERIAL WOMEN

: portrayed in the traditional costume of the matrona, they expressed their individuality through their hairstyles.

EMPIRE

All images are courtesy of the VRoma Project's Image Archive.