Tarpeia in Livy and the Roman Forum
the Online Companion to The Worlds of Roman Women and VRoma
- ability to discuss the portrayal of a legendary woman in a Latin
- understanding of the close interrelationship between Latin
literature and the ancient city of Rome
Part I. Textual Representations
Using the Online Companion´s World of State, read/translate
Livy AUC 1.11.5-9: Tarpeia.
Then answer the following questions on the attached sheets (see
printable version of the
worksheet in an Adobe Acrobat file):
- What are the three possible motivations for Tarpeia's action
presented by Livy? Explain what textual devices he uses to lead the reader to
choose one over the other two. Does Livy ever give the reader a glimpse into
Tarpeia's own mind?
- How do you think your reaction to this story might change if you
considered the motivation that Propertius presents in Elegy 4.4, namely that
the Vestal Virgin Tarpeia fell desperately in love with the Sabine king Tatius
and fantasized that she could marry him and unite the Romans and the
Part II. Tarpeia in the Roman Forum:
Connect to VRoma's virtual city of Rome by going to the
Log-in Page and entering your username
and password, or as a guest simply by clicking "Log in as a guest."
- Visit the Basilica Aemilia/Basilica Paulli in the Roman Forum.
Proceed to the basilica by clicking on the exit to Rome at the bottom of
the Web window on the right of the screen, then clicking on Region VIII
in the map, and then clicking on Basilica Aemilia in the map of Region
VIII. Explore the basilica, reading about its history, and then click on
Basilica Aemilia frieze to view the sculptural decoration. How does the
story of Tarpeia figure in this frieze? Look closely at the depiction of
Tarpeia (with the red lines outlining missing sections). Why do you think she
is portrayed as slightly foreign, like an Amazon with one breast bared? Note
the context of this panel, proceeded by a panel depicting the Sabine women and
followed by a wedding scene? Is this context similar or different to that
supplied by Livy? What message about women would this convey to the Romans who
would frequently see this frieze? Why do you think Julius Caesar and Augustus
would want this frieze to be so prominently displayed in an important public
building in the Forum, when so much other public art depicted only men?
- Then visit the Tarpeian Rock by clicking on the exit to
Region 8; on the map click the long staircase called Gradus
Monetae. Read about the role these stairs played in Roman public life, and
then climb them by clicking the exit to the Tarpeian Rock. How did the
function of this precipitous cliff relate to that of the Gemonian Stairs? Why
do you think it was named after Tarpeia, and why would a late Republican and an
early Augustan moneyer feature Tarpeia on their coins?
- Since the Tarpeian Rock clearly predated Livy's history and the
Basilica Aemilia frieze most likely did (and since these public monuments would
have reached many more Romans than Livy's work ever did), how do you think they
might have affected his version of the Tarpeia story? What contribution does
the information about coins and architectureindeed the whole physical and
spatial context provided by VRomamake to your understanding of Livy and
of the role of the city of Rome in Roman culture and life?
Submitted by Barbara F. McManus