The Marital and the Martial

Exemplary Women Beyond Lucretia


Karen Hersch (Temple University) []

Jaclyn Neel (Temple University) []

Despite the surge in women’s history from the 1980s onwards, the women of early Rome remain stubbornly archetypal. Lucretia is good; Tullia is bad; most of the others spun wool. This panel argues that the women of early Rome are more complex than this picture suggests. Rather, we see women engaged in political, military, and economic activities that have been less emphasized by modern scholarship. While it has long been recognized that women, especially the women of the imperial household, could exercise influence over their husbands (or sons), we argue that the role of materfamilias has been overstated. Women have power within the marital sphere, but

they also play a role in the masculine world of war. By re-analyzing the women of this period from a variety of different methodological perspectives, we bring the findings of women’s history to the exempla of Rome.

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