The role of women in the world of ancient Rome is really a fascinating topic to write about. For the most part, in this era, women were seen as objects, and far from equals. They were viewed as something pretty and valuable to around and to serve in their intended roles, but ultimately disposable. As we learned in class these roles would primarily include things such as housekeeping and child bearing1. If the women in this society, especially the women of the higher class failed at the jobs of being good wives and mothers, then you could almost guarantee that they wouldn’t be kept around very long, as we can see in countless examples from the texts.
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In addition it is worth mentioning that because most of the writers of history are influenced by their own times, that history has the tendency to often paint people as villains and heroes, and this fact is important to keep in mind when looking at the women of ancient Rome because most of the time they are either remembered as virtuous or vile and there is rarely an in between.
This essay will hopefully go on now to reach it’s foal of explorring and answering the question, How are popular ideas about the virtues and vices of women presented through ancient writings about Rome’s imperial famillies2 and what oes this say about the people who lived during this time.. In order to answer this, this essay will primarily be focusing on the reign of Augustus and the women in his life. It will compare them to notable women in their near future, and discuss how as a whole these women show the lifestyles and treatments of the upper class women in the Roman empire.
The Reign of Augustus Caesar
The first era of the roman empire is traditionally known as beginning with the assent to power of Gaius Octavius, also known as Augustus. Augustus reigned over the Roman empire from 27 BC, to 14 AD. This is a good emperor to focus on because of the quantity of women in life, and the variety in how they were viewed and the traits that they have showed. All of these women from his three wives, to his siser, and lastly to his daughter, can all be used as tools to show how women were treated and remembered. It is also a good choice because as it is the first emperor in this age, it has no doubt influenced the expectations and the traditional values that would be expected of future women in the imperial famillies.
Claudia, Scribonia & Livia
Sources on Augustu’s first wife are divided on many things, including her name. While some sources refer to her as Clodia Pulchra, others refer to her simply as Claudia. Since two of this essay’s primary sources refer to her as Claudia, that is the name that will be used. Claudia was the the step daughter of Mark Antony and was to marry Augustus to unite the two houses in an alliance. However as we know this marrage does not work out, and is actually called off before it was even consummated. Some rumors have it that in the anullment of the engagement by Augustus he had stated that he returned her to her father in “Mint Condition”. If we can believe our sources on that phrase it is an excellent example of how women were treated as objects.
Augustus’s next wife Scribonia would be the only woman to successfully give him a child, however not a son. Scribonia would give birth to Augustus’s daughter Julia, however they the marriage was annulled shortly before her birth. Suetonius claims that this was due to, nagging3. Nowhere near grounds for divorcing someone today, this highlights how women even if they were to do their duties and provide children to their husbands, if they didn’t know their place or spoke out of turn then...