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Valerius Maximus, Factorum et Dictorum Memorabilia Liber 8.3.3

Justice on a coin of Tiberius (22-23 CE)

Hortensia, daughter of the orator Quintus Hortensius Hortalus (114-50 BCE), achieved a reputation for eloquence for her single recorded public appearance in 42 BCE before the tribunal of the Second Triumvirate (Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus, Marcus Aemilius Lepidus, and Marcus Antonius: see coins) on behalf of the wealthy elite matrons of Rome, 1400 of whom were to be taxed to support the war. The Greek historian Appian of Alexandria (c. 95-165 CE) describes the events leading up to the women's march into the Forum, her speech, and its outcome in the fourth book of his Civil Wars (31-35). In fact, public outcry was so great after she finished speaking that the triumvirs, angered that women should dare to enter the Forum and question the actions of the magistrates, closed the tribunal; they announced the next day that the number of women to be taxed would be 400. Her speech (unfortunately not preserved in Latin), which questions the fairness of a war tax levied against women who do not have the vote and have lost their male protectors, shows a modern sensibility. A alluding to what must have been a familiar story, Valerius Maximus names her in Memorabilia 8.3 as one of three women (see Amesia and Afrania) who spoke before magistrates. Typically patronizing is his regret that her father left no male heir willing to carry on this gift.

Hortensia vero Q. Hortensi filia, cum ordo matronarum gravi tributo a triumviris
esset oneratus nec quisquam virorum patrocinium eis accommodare auderet,
causam feminarum apud triumviros et constanter et feliciter egit: repraesentata
enim patris facundia, impetravit ut maior pars imperatae pecuniae his remitteretur.
revixit tum muliebri stirpe Q. Hortensius verbisque filiae aspiravit, cuius si uirilis
sexus posteri uim sequi voluissent, Hortensianae eloquentiae tanta hereditas una
feminae actione abscissa non esset.

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Ann R. Raia and Judith Lynn Sebesta
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March 2006