lecture

Envoi.

1a. Cicero, On Invention 2.1-3. Translated by H. M. Hubbell.

The citizens of Croton, once upon a time, when they had abundant wealth and were numbered among the most prosperous in Italy, desired to enrich with distinguished paintings the temple of Juno, which they held in the deepest veneration. They, therefore, paid a large fee to Zeuxis of Heraclea who was considered at that time to excel all other artists, and secured his services for their project. He painted many panels, some of which have been preserved to the present by the sanctity of the shrine; he also said that he wished to paint a picture of Helen so that the portrait though silent and lifeless might embody the surpassing beauty of womanhood. This delighted the Crotoniats, who had often heard that he surpassed all others in the portrayal of women. For they thought that if he exerted himself in the genre in which he was supreme, he would leave an outstanding work of art in that temple. Nor were they mistaken in this opinion. For Zeuxis immediately asked them what girls they had of surpassing beauty.

They took him directly to the wrestling school and showed him many very handsome young men. For at one time the men of Croton excelled all in strength and beauty of body, and brought home the most glorious victories in athletic contests with the greatest distinction. As he was greatly admiring the handsome bodies, they said, “There are in our city the sisters of these men; you may get an idea of their beauty from these youths.” “Please send me then the most beautiful of these girls, while I am painting the picture that I have promised, so that the true beauty may be transferred from the living model to the mute likeness.” Then the citizens of Croton by a public decree assembled the girls in one place and allowed the painter to choose whom he wished. He selected five, whose names many poets recorded because they were approved by the judgement of him who must have been the supreme judge of beauty. He chose five because he did not think all the qualities which he sought to combine in a portrayal of beauty could be found in one person, because in no single case has nature made anything perfect and finished in every part. Therefore, as if she would have no bounty to lavish on the others if she gave everything to one, she bestows some advantage on one and some on another, but always joins with it some defect.

1b. François-André Vincent, Zeuxis et les filles de Crotone. 1789-91. François-André_Vincent_-_Zeuxis_Choosing_his_Models_for_the_Image_of_Helen_from_among_the_Girls_of_Croton_-_WGA25109.jpg

1c. Edwin Long, The Chosen Five. 1885.DOR_BRC_BORGM_01348.jpg

2a. Jia Tolentino, “Always Be Optimizing”, Trick Mirror (2019), pp63-64: 

“The ideal woman has always been generic. I bet you can picture the version of her that runs the show today. She’s of indeterminate age but resolutely youthful presentation. She’s got glossy hair and the clean, shameless expression of a person who believes she was made to be looked at. She is often luxuriating when you see her — on remote beaches, under stars in the desert, across a carefully styled table, surrounded by beautiful possessions or photogenic friends. Showcasing herself at leisure is either the bulk of her work or an essential part of it; in this, she is not unusual — for many people today, especially for women, packaging and broadcasting your image is a readily monetizable skill. She has a personal brand, and probably a boyfriend or husband: he is the physical realization of her constant, unseen audience, reaffirming her status as an interesting subject, a worthy object, a self-generating spectacle with a viewership attached. 

Can you see this woman yet? She looks like an Instagram — which is to say, an ordinary woman reproducing the lessons of the marketplace, which is how an ordinary woman evolves into an ideal. The process requires maximal obedience on the part of the woman in question, and — ideally — her genuine enthusiasm, too. This woman is sincerely interested in whatever the market [p64] demands of her (good looks, the impression of indefinitely extended youth, advanced skills in self-presentation and self-surveillance). She is equally interested in whatever the market offers her — in the tools that will allow her to look more appealing, to be even more endlessly presentable, to wring as much value out of her particular position as she can.”

2b. On the “Instagram Husband.” Cf. “The Instagram-Husband Revolution”, Taylor Lorenz (Jan. 11 2019), The Atlantic.

3. Jia Tolentino, “Pure Heroines”, Trick Mirror (2019), pp124-125:

“In 2015, in an interview with Vanity Fair, [Elena] Ferrante cited as inspiration the ‘old book’ Relating Narratives, by Adriana Cavarero: a dense and brilliant tract, translated into English in 2000, that argues for identity as ‘totally expositive and relational.’ Identity, according to Cavarero, is not something that we innately possess and reveal, but something we understand through narratives [p125] provided to us by others. She writes about a scene in the Odyssey where Ulysses sits incognito in the court of the Phaeacians, listening to a blind man sing about the Trojan War. Having never heard his own life articulated by another person, Ulysses stars to weep. Hannah Arendt called this moment, ‘poetically speaking,’ the beginning of history: Ulysses ‘has never wept before, and certainly not when what he is now hearing actually happened. Only when he hears the story does he become fully aware of his significance.’ Cavarero writes, ‘The story told by an ‘other’ finally revealed his own identity. And he, dressed in his magnificent purple tunic, breaks down and cries.’

Cavarero then expands the Ulysses story into a third dimension, in which the hero suddenly becomes aware not just of his own story but also of his own need to be narrated. ‘Between identity and narration…there is a tenacious relations of desire,’ she writes. Later in the book, she provides the real-life example of Emilia and Amalia, two members of the Milan Women’s Book-store Collective, a group that also powerfully influenced Ferrante. As part of the consciousness-raising process, Emili and Amalia told each other their life stories, but Emilia could not make hers sound coherent. So Amalia wrote her friend’s story down on paper. By that point, she’d memorized it, having heard it so many times. Emilia carried around the story in her handbag, reading it over and over — ‘overcome by emotion’ at the fact of understanding her life in story form.”

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Sulpicia.

Identifications
— Sulpicia

1. Lawrence Alma-Tadema, “The Favourite Poet” 1888.

Favourite_Poet.jpg

2. Josephine Balmer, Women Classical Poets (1996: 96-97):

“This mischievous insistence on the equality of relations between the sexes informs all of Sulpicia’s poetry, providing an invaluable and precious glimpse into the emotional consciousness of Roman women, seen elsewhere only through the distorted mirror of the male elegists’ often sub-pornographic characterisations. Her sexual honesty, her witty sensuality and teasing innuendo, too, present an image of womanhood far from the traditional ‘silent women’ of Rome.”

3a. Sulpicia no. 86 (Balmer): “Sulpicia Thwarted”:

Hateful birthday, here again, and I must pass a tedious
tearful trip to the country — all without Cerinthus.
For what’s more charming than the city? Is a draughty villa
fit for the girl about town? Arno’s freezing river?
Too much now, Messalla, you’re stifling me — give this girl a rest,
since travel, uncle, does not broaden every mind.
For if my body’s carried off, then I’ll leave my thoughts behind,
since you won’t let me judge what I know — or love — the best.

3b. Sulpicia no. 87 (Balmer): “Sulpicia Saved”:

Have you heard, I’ve been released? Yes, the weight of that dull journey
has been lifted from your girl, freed from rural humdrum
to celebrate her birthday in Rome; a treat for all which comes
to you by surprise, my love — and with it, of course, me.

3c. Sulpicia no. 88 (Balmer): “Sulpicia Angry”: 

Here’s a pleasant thought: now you’ve become so careless over me
there’s no sad chance that I might take a sudden tumble.
So take more trouble for some rag-bag tart in tatty toga
than for Sulpicia, Servius’ non-servile daughter;
there are those who trouble about me, those whose greatest grumble
is that I might now let it slip — and for nobody.

3d. Sulpicia no. 89 (Balmer): “Sulpicia Sick”: 

Have you no respect, Cerinthus, no concern for your sweetheart
now fever fires up my feeble frame, allows no rest?
Oh, but I don’t desire a cure, an end to torrid torment
if you don’t want it too, won’t play your own willing part.
For what good are cures, why conquer cares, if you could not care less,
can bear this heat so coolly, all your compassion spent?

3e. Sulpicia no. 90 (Balmer): “Sulpicia Sorry”: 

Don’t carry a burning torch for me, my love, my fierce bright light,
— as I thought perhaps you might have done these past few days —
if I have ever done anything more foolish in my life,
anything I could confess to you that might outweigh
this grievous greatest crime of leaving you alone late last night
desiring only to disguise my own red-hot blaze.

3f. Sulpicia no. 91 (Balmer): “Sulpicia’s Advice to a Lover on His Birthday”:*
*Sulpicia or auctor de Sulpicia?

This festive day, Cerinthus, this day which delivered you to me,
will be sacred forever, our own blazing portent.
For when you were born the cruel Fates cried down fresh slavery
on women, made you harsh overseer, searing torment.
And I burn more than most. But I’ll take my pleasure on these coals,
Cerinthus, if my fierce fires can somehow fire you too;
on our tender tinder love, and to your own slow sparking soul,
I’m praying that this same desire will catch hold in you.

So I’ll make the sacrifice, birth spirit, fan his dying flame;
you turn his thoughts to mine, make his body yearn for mine.
But if by chance he’s smouldering at the sound of some new name,
then leave his hearth-fires smoking, desert that faithless shrine.
And you, Venus, play us fair; either forge us both together
slave to branded slave, or release me from my bondage —
no better make it together, and with your strongest fetter,
the links not even time can corrode or disengage.

You see, the man has his wants but still says silent as he’s wont,
too shamed (so far) to speak those three small words out loud.
But in my brazen birthday suit, my love, here’s my binding vow:
you’ll be damned if you do, but damned (by me) if you don’t.

3g. Sulpicia no. 92 (Balmer): “To Cerinthus at the Hunt”:
*Sulpicia or auctor de Sulpicia

Don’t toy with my boy, ugly boar, as your roam the great outdoors,
poring over crooked paths, your hidden mountain lairs —
and please, don’t think to sharpen those tough old tusks; this isn’t war:
Love, protect him for me, just return him unimpaired;
for he’s been captured for the chase, and Diana’s all the rage
(oh those dark woods can pine away, hounds go to the dogs).
What frenzy’s this, what sort of scheme, to use forests for a cage
or wound those oh so supple hands, give self-harm the nod?
And what pleasure’s here, among wild beasts, to penetrate their hides,
brand with thorns those milk-white thighs, endure such stinging barbs?
So here’s the plan, Cerinthus, clear: let me wander by your side,
bear your tangled, twisted webs along such shady paths;
yes, I can rake the cooling traces, track down your own fast deer,
slip the leash, unchain the dog, swoon at the scent of hare
(oh these dark woods can give such pleasure, if you, my light, stay near).
So let’s make love — to prove the point — by the sets and snares;
and we’ll let wild beasts walk by our mesh, retire again intact
(crashing boars could never jolt the joy of our caress).
But don’t play Venus without me, make Diana’s virgin pact:
be chaste, not chased, my own true boy, cast your purest nets.
And if some girl should stalk my love, mark him our for secret prey,
then let the beasts tear out her heart, you just cut her charms;
the chase’s thrill is not for you, leave your father to the fray,
except, of course, for this charge — into my waiting arms.

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Beyond binaries.

1. Plato, Symposium (4th c. BCE), 189c-e. On the “third sex.” 

[189c] “It is indeed my intention, Eryximachus,” said Aristophanes, “to speak in somewhat different strain from you and Pausanias. For in my opinion humanity has entirely failed to perceive the power of Love: if men did perceive it, they would have provided him with splendid temples and altars, and would splendidly honor him with sacrifice; whereas we see none of these things done for him, though they are especially his due. [189d] He of all gods is most friendly to men; he helps mankind and heals those ills whose cure must be the highest happiness of the human race. Hence I shall try and introduce you to his power, that you may transmit this teaching to the world at large. You must begin your lesson with the nature of man and its development. For our original nature was by no means the same as it is now. In the first place, there were three kinds of human beings, [189e] not merely the two sexes, male and female, as at present: there was a third kind as well, which had equal shares of the other two, and whose name survives though, the thing itself has vanished. For ‘man-woman’ [= ἀνδρόγυνος] was then a unity in form no less than name, composed of both sexes and sharing equally in male and female; whereas now it has come to be merely a name of reproach. 

2a. Diodorus Siculus, Library of History (1st c. BCE) 4.6.5: 

A birth like that of Priapus is ascribed by some writers of myths to Hermaphroditus, as he has been called, who was born of Hermes and Aphrodite and received a name which is a combination of those of both his parents. Some say that this Hermaphroditus is a god and appears at certain times among men, and that he is born with a physical body which is a combination of that of a man and that of a woman, in that he has a body which is beautiful and delicate like that of a woman, but has the masculine quality and vigour of a man. But there are some who declare that such creatures of two sexes are monstrosities, and coming rarely into the world as they do have the quality of presaging the future, sometimes for evil and sometimes for good. But let this be enough for us on such matters.

2b. Diodorus Siculus, Library of History (1st c. BCE) 32.10.2-5:

[2] There was dwelling at Abae in Arabia a certain man named Diophantus, a Macedonian by descent. He married an Arabian woman of that region and begot a son, named for himself, and a daughter called Heraïs. Now the son he saw dead before his prime, but when the daughter was of an age to be married he gave her a dowry and bestowed her upon a man named Samiades. [3] He, after living in wedlock with his wife for the space of a year, went off on a  long journey. Heraïs, it is said, fell ill of a strange and altogether incredible infirmity. A severe tumour appeared at the base of her abdomen, and as the region became more and more swollen and high fevers supervened her physicians suspected that an ulceration had taken place at the mouth of the uterus. They applied such remedies as they thought would reduce the inflammation, but notwithstanding, on the seventh day, the surface of the tumour burst, and projecting from her groin there appeared a male genital organ with testicles attached.

Now when the rupture occurred, with its sequel, neither her physician nor any other visitors were present, but only her mother and two female slaves. [4] Dumbfounded at this extraordinary event they tended Heraïs as best they could, and said nothing of what had occurred. She, on recovering from her illness, wore feminine attire and continued to conduct herself as a homebody and as one subject to her husband. It was assumed, however, by those who were privy to the strange secret that she was an hermaphrodite, and as to her past life with her husband, since natural intercourse did not fit their theory, she was thought to have consorted with him homosexually.

[5] Now while her condition was still undisclosed, Samiades returned and, as was fitting, for very shame, could not bear to appear in his presence, he, they say, grew angry. As he continually pressed the point and claimed his wife, her father meanwhile denying his plea but feeling too embarrassed to disclose the reason, their disagreement soon grew into a quarrel. As a result Samiades  brought suit for his own wife against her father, for Fortune did in real life what she commonly does in plays and made the strange alteration lead to an accusation. After the judges took their seats and all the arguments had been presented, the person in dispute appeared before the tribunal, and the jurors debated whether the husband should have jurisdiction over his wife or the father over his daughter. [6] When, however, the court found that it was the wife’s duty to attend upon her husband, she at last revealed the truth. Screwing up her courage she unloosed the dress that disguised her, displayed her masculinity to them all, and burst out in bitter protest that anyone should require a man to cohabit with a man….

[8] Heraïs, changing her name to Diophantus, was enrolled in the cavalry, and after fighting in the king’s forces accompanied him in his withdrawal to Abae. Thus  it was that the oracle, which previously had not been understood, now became clear when the king was assassinated at Abae, the birthplace of the “two-formed one.” [9] As for Samiades, they say that he, a thrall still to his love and its old associations, but constrained by shame for his unnatural marriage, designated Diophantus in his will as heir to his property, and made his departure from life. Thus she who was born a woman took on man’s courage and renown, while the man proved to be less strong-minded than a woman.

3a. Ovid, Metamorphoses (1st c. CE) 4.368-388. Translated by A. D. Melville (1986).* Hermaphroditus. 

The youth fought back, denied the nymph [Salmacis] her joy;
She strained the more; her clinging body seemed
Fixed fast to his. “Fool, fight me as you will”,
She cried, “You’ll not escape! Ye Gods ordain
No day shall ever dawn to part us twain!”
Her prayer found gods to hear; both bodies merged
In one, both blended in one form and face.
As when a gardener sets a graft and sees
Growth seal the join and both mature together,
Thus, when in fast embrace their limbs were knit,
They two were two no more, nor man, nor woman —
One body then that neither seemed and both.
So when  he saw the waters of the pool,
Where he had dived a man, had rendered him
Half woman and his limbs now weak and soft,
Raising his hands, Hermaphroditus cried,
His voice unmanned, “Dear father and dear mother,
Both of those whose names I bear, grant me, your child,
That whoso in these waters bathes a man
Emerge half woman, weakened instantly.”
Both parents heard; both, moved to gratify
Their bi-sexed son, his purpose to ensure,
Drugged the bright water with that power impure.”

*Note: a new translation of Ovid’s Metamorphoses is currently being prepared by Stephanie McCarter (@samccart1). Read this transcription of a discussion between Stephanie McCarter and Jia Tolentino (@jiatolentino), moderated by Joanna Stalnaker: “The Brutality of Ovid: A conversation on sex, violence, and power in the Metamorphoses.”

3b. “Alone Together” Steven Universe (2017). Stevonnie. 

4. Statue of Hermaphroditus (c. 20 BCE – 40 CE). Half-sized statue with “Egyptian”-style haircloth; cloak over the right shoulder revealing female breasts; display of male genitalia; Eros in left hand. Image: MFA Boston.

5a. Ovid, Metamorphoses (1st c. CE) 9.705-735. Translated by A. D. Melville (1986). Iphis and Ianthe. 

…a girl was born (unknown to Ligdus),
And Telethusa bade them tend the boy.
Trust hid the truth, and no one knew the trick
Except the nurse. The father paid his vows
And named the child after its grandfather,
Iphis, a name that gave its mother joy:
It meant no fraud — it could be a girl or boy.
So the long lie that love began lay hid.
She dressed her as a boy, and, whether judged
As boy or girl, the child was beautiful.
Time rolled apace and thirteen years passed by,
and then her father found Iphis a bride,
Teles’ charming daughter, golden-haired
Ianthe, highest praised of all the girls
Of Phaestos for her dower of loveliness.
Equal in age they were, equal in looks,
And both from the same masters had received
The first instruction of their early years;
And so it was that both their simple hearts
Love visited alike and both alike
Were smitten — but their hopes how different!
Ianthe longed to fix the wedding day,
To be a wife and take to be her man
Her Iphis, whom she took to be a man.
Poor Iphis loved a girl, girl loving girl,
And knew her love was doomed and loved the more.
Almost in tears, “What will become of me?”
She said, “possessed by love unheard of, love
So monstrous, so unique? If the gods mean
To spare me, they should spare me. If they mean
To ruin me, at least they should have sent
Some natural ill, some normal malady.
Cows never yearn for cows, nor mares for mares;
The ewe follows the ram, the hind her hart;
So the birds mate, so every animal;
A female never fires a female’s love.
Would I were not a girl!

5b. Ovid, Metamorphoses (1st c. CE) 9.786-791 Translated by A. D. Melville (1986).* Iphis and Ianthe. 

…At her side
Walked Iphis, as she went, with longer strides
Than usual, her cheeks of darker hue,
Her features firmer, limbs more powerful,
Her hanging tresses shorter and her strength
Greater than woman’s wont. She who had been
A girl a moment past was now a boy.

5c. Lisa Franklin (@lrfranks), “Life as an Iphis: Ancient and Modern Perspectives on Your Hopeless Gay Crush.” Eidolon, July 19th 2018.

At first, my thoughts on the Iphis myth focused on a few translations I’d found after reading the original text at school: in them, for some reason, the authors had written that Iphis called her own feelings “monstrous” (prodigiosa) in between the sobs and cattle comparisons. I’m a stickler for details, so perhaps I was more offended by the inaccuracy than the judgment evident in that word choice. These translations seemed to project an assumption that Ovid, and Iphis, would call Iphis a monster, but that’s not what prodigiosa means. Lewis & Short (for the uninformed: a Latin dictionary, not a little pair of colonizers) defines the adjective as “unnatural, strange, wonderful, marvelous, prodigious” — anything that you would never expect to see while canoeing along the Missouri River. The word shows up one other time in the Metamorphoses to describe a witch’s lavish palace. To render prodigiosa and Iphis’s other descriptions of her crush in those lines (cognita nulli, novaeque Veneris) as “monstrous” would require an embarrassing and vicious lack of intuition about the female experience. “Unknown, prodigious, and of a new kind of love.” Unfamiliar to nature — even unfamiliar to Venus! These words are clearly ancient girl-speak for our most prized and self-pitying retort: You wouldn’t understand.

5d. Sasha Barish, “Iphis’ Hair, Io’s Reflection, and the Gender Dysphoria of the Metamorphoses.” Eidolon, July 16th 2018.

So maybe stories like this are not proof that my people existed in ancient Rome; in a way, they’re proof that my people were so silent that we were confined to fantasy stories, existing only to symbolize the epitome of impossibility. The fact that Iphis is fictional — that her words are really Ovid’s — also prompted my reevaluation of her identity. After all, it’s easy to be sympathetic to Iphis’ speech if you imagine that she’s a real person, who is transgender or gay and feels isolation and self-loathing because of it. But a sentence like “nowhere in nature does a female experience love for a female” takes on a different meaning when someone says it about another person rather than about oneself. Ovid is not in Iphis’ situation or mine, most obviously because he is not female. It’s one thing for me to say about my own experience, “I feel different and unnatural,” and it’s quite another thing for Ovid to say, as it were, “If I were like you, I would feel different and unnatural.” When I think about it that way, Iphis’ speech feels alienating and a little insulting.

English translations: Plato’s Symposium, Harold N. Fowler (1925); Diodorus Siculus’ Library of History, C. H. Oldfather (1935); Ovid’s Metamorphoses, A. D. Meville (1986).

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Augustan Rome.

Identifications
— Augustan marriage laws
— Livia
— Ovid’s love poetry

1a. Ara Pacis Augustae, The Altar of Augustan Peace. Pledged 13 BCE, dedicated 9 BCE. The altar, made of Carrara/Luna marble, was erected in the northern Campus Martius, voted in 4th July 13 BCE by the senate (according to Augustus’ Res Gestae 12) to commemorate his safe return from Gaul and Spain, and dedicated 30th January 9 BCE, the birthday of Augustus’ wife, Livia (Ovid Fasti 1.709-722). An acanthus frieze binds the whole design in unity. Image: “Rabax63” (CC BY-SA 4.0) via Wikimedia.

ara_pacis_sw.jpg

1b. Hypothesized colour light projection. Image: ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP/Getty Images, see Bond 2017. See also this video which shows the other sides with colour projected.

Ara Pacis colour

1c. Aerial plan of the Ara Pacis. Text overlay by Čulík-Baird based on Pollini ap. Tuck 2016: 121; base image: “Augusta 89” (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia.

1d. Detail of frieze on the east side of Ara Pacis. A seated female figure, variously interpreted as Mother Earth (tellus), Peace (pax), Venus, Ceres, or Italy, with two babies in her lap. Sheep and cow rest beneath her. Representations of fresh water, air, and sea (indicated by tipped over water jug left, billowing drapery, and waves at right). Image: Manfred Hedye (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia.

1024px-ara_pacis_relief_pax

1e. Detail of frieze on the south side of the Ara Pacis, showing individuals believed to be Agrippa, Livia, and Tiberius. Strong visual connection to the 5th c. BCE Parthenon frieze at Athens. Unprecedented depiction of women and children in a sculptural relief. Image: Miguel Hermoso Cuesta (CC BY-SA 3.0) via Wikimedia.

ara_pacis_relieve_roma_01 (1)

2. Portraits of Livia (b. 58 BCE, d. 29 CE), wife of Augustus (r. 27 BCE – 14 CE).

2a. Mid to late 30s BCE, marble. Livia is represented with “a new coiffure with no precursors in the ancient world — the nodus hairstyle — in which a section of hair is arranged in a nodus or roll over the forehead. The rest of the hair is brushed back in loose waves over the ears and fastened in a bun at the back of the head” (Diana Kleiner I, Claudia 1996: 53). Image: Baltimore, Walters Art Gallery.

baltimore-walters-art-gallery-23-211.jpg

Diana Kleiner (I, Claudia 1996: 53): “In these portraits, Livia is depicted as a serene beauty with almond-shaped eyes and a small rounded mouth. Her prominent aquiline nose is also accentuated. There is in these portraits little indication, even in Livia’s later years, of the aging process. This was in keeping with the Augustan ideal of an eternal youthfulness for portraiture of men and women that was based on the images of youthful male athletes and goddesses.”

2b. Siân Phillips as Livia in the 1976 BBC television adaptation of I, Claudius.

sian-phillips-livia.jpg

3. Suetonius (2nd c. CE), Life of Augustus 62-63

Shortly after that he married Scribonia…He divorced her also, “unable to put up with her shrewish disposition,” as he himself writes, and at once took Livia Drusilla from her husband Tiberius Nero, although she was with child at the time; and he loved and esteemed her to the end without a rival. [63] By Scribonia he had a daughter Julia, by Livia no children at all, although he earnestly desired issue. One baby was conceived, but was prematurely born.

4a. Suetonius (2nd c. CE), Life of Augustus 34:

He revised existing laws and enacted some new ones, for example, on extravagance, on adultery and chastity, on bribery, and on the encouragement of marriage among the various classes of citizens. Having made somewhat more stringent changes in the last of these than in the others, he was unable to carry it out because of an open revolt against its provisions, until he had abolished or mitigated a part of the penalties, besides increasing the rewards and allowing a three years’ exemption from the obligation to marry after the death of a husband  or wife. When the knights even then persistently called for its repeal at a public show, he sent for the children of Germanicus and exhibited them, some in his own lap and some in their father’s, intimating by his gestures and expression that they should not refuse to follow that young man’s example. And on finding that the spirit of the law was being evaded by betrothal with immature girls and by frequent changes of wives, he shortened the duration of betrothals and set a limit on divorce.

4b. Women in the Classical World, p302-303:

“The Augustan laws, designed to penalize those citizens who remained unmarried or childless (women between 20 and 50 and men after the age of 25) and those who committed adultery or married women or men of the “wrong” social rank or status, had as their goals the moral revitalization of the upper class, the raising of the birth rate among citizens, and the policing of sexual behaviour  in the attempt to reintroduce conservative social values and control the social conduct of an upper class seen as more interested in pleasure and autonomy than in duty and community…The laws, first issued probably in 18 BCE, and amended by supplementary legislation more than 25 years later in 9 CE as the Lex Papia Poppaea, are today known mainly in fragmentary and sometimes distorted from in the writings of later jurists and historians who cite them. Issues of marriage and reproduction that once had been mainly under the control of families now became, at least on paper, public and the purview of the community as a whole. The laws penalized people who did not marry or have children by attacking their eligibility to inherit wealth.”

5. Julia and Julia. 

  • Julia the Elder (daughter of Augustus) in 2 BCE was charged with multiple adulteries and sent into exile (Velleius Paterculus 2.100.3; Pliny NH 7.149) — Velleius gives a list of five adulterers, all with noble Republican names, including Iullus Antonius (son of Mark Antony); Julia was initially sent to the island of Pandateria, an island less than 2 miles long (Tacitus Annales 1.53Dio Cassius 55.10.14), later Reggio.
  • Julia the Younger (daughter of Julia) was also exiled for adultery in 8 CE, suspected of an affair with D. Silanus (Tacitus Annales 3.24.5); Julia was sent to the island of Trimerus. Augustus refused to allow Julia’s child, born in exile, to be raised (Suet. Aug. 65). The poet, Ovid, who was also exiled in 8 CE, writes that it was because of carmen (poem) and error (a mistake), Tristia 2.207. Tristia 2.103ff. claims he saw something unwittingly.

6a. Ovid, Amores 1.5. Translated by John Svarlien. 

It was hot – the day already more than half gone.
I lay where I’d dropped on the bed.
It happened a window was half-open. Light filtered in
like light falling in a forest;
like the afterglow of twilight or when it’s dawn
but the night hasn’t quite faded.
That’s the kind of dim light shy girls like – it gives
their modesty some cover.
The door opens. In comes Corinna, her dress half buttoned,
her hair fixed to show off that lovely neck.
She looked as lovely as Semiramis on her wedding night
or Lais in anyone’s bed.
I tore off the dress. To make it more fun she fought
to keep the flimsy thing half on.
We struggled; I won! Her protests betrayed
the truth: she had wanted to lose.
Clothes littered the room. There stood Corinna nude.
God, what a masterpiece she was!
Looking was not enough; I had to touch those shoulders, those arms;
mold my hands round each round breast.
Her belly’s subtle curves coaxed my fingers on. Soon I felt
the supple swell of hips and thighs.
But why catalogue the store of pleasure her body held?
I held her naked in my arms.
You can fantasize the rest. We were exhausted and slept.
May many afternoons be so well spent.

6b. Ovid, Amores 1.8.35-54. Translated by John Svarlien.

Does that make you blush? Hmm, a little color adds tone to your complexion;
but dab on some rouge; don’t rely on nature.
Keep your eyes leveled on your lap; gear your fetching glances
to the price a customer’s gift will bring.
Maybe in Tatius’ time the Sabine girls went unadorned and
refused service to any but a husband.
Now Mars leads our boys around the world to test their courage;
but Venus rules the city of her Aeneas.
The fun’s non-stop for sexy girls; the chaste are those no one asks out.
Only a hick wouldn’t ask the man herself.
As for prim matrons, take another look – those venerable wrinkles hide
tales of debauchery that would shock you.
Penelope knew how to try the strength of young men: she had them
straining to arch the bow’s bone.
Time slips by unnoticed – it goes spinning along out of control;
a year has raced by before you know it.
Bronze is polished bright by use; a lovely dress is made to show off,
if a house stands empty, it rots.
The same goes for beauty: you have to use it. You can’t save it for rainy days.
Don’t think one lover makes a spring.

6c. Ovid, Amores 2.13. Diane Arnson Svarlien.

For trying to unseat the burden crouched in her swelling womb,
for her audacity, Corinna lies near death.
I should be furious: to take such a risk! And without telling me!
But anger fails me — I’m so afraid.
You see, I’m the one who got her that way, or so I believe;
I might as well be, since I could have been.
Isis! Great queen of Paraetonium, of Canopus’ joyful plains,
of Memphis, and of Pharos, rich in palm-trees,
of the broad delta where the swift Nile spreads, and pours
his waters to the sea through seven mouths,
I pray, by your sacred rattles, by the venerated face of Anubis —
may faithful Osiris forever love your rites!
may the unhurried snake glide always amid your offerings,
and horned Apis travel at your side! —
come here, look kindly upon her, and save two lives in one:
for you’ll give life to her, and she to me.
She’s been devout: performed each service on your festival days,
observed the Gallic laurel ritual.
And you, who comfort laboring women in their time of distress, when
the lurking burden strains their bodies hard,
come gently now, and smile upon my prayers, Ilithyia —
she’s worthy of your intervention — please!
I myself, in white robes, will bring incense to your smoking altar;
I myself will offer votive gifts
and lay them at your feet with the inscription, “For Corinna’s Life.”
Goddess, give occasion for those words!
Corinna, listen, if you’re out of danger:
please don’t ever go through this again!

6d. Ovid, Amores 2.14.1-22. Translated by Diane Arnson Svarlien.

What good does it do for girls to be exempt from combat, freed
from all the dangers that our soldiers face,
if they will suffer self-inflicted wounds far from the front lines,
and blindly brandish arms against their own
bodies? The woman who first took aim at her helpless fetus
should have died by her own javelin.
Can it be possible that, simply to avoid a few stretch-marks,
you’d make your womb a bloody battleground?
What if our forebears had forborne to bear? Without willing mothers
the world would be unpopulated – again
someone would have to seed the empty earth with flung stones.
Priam’s palace wouldn’t have been sacked
if sea-goddess Thetis had refused to shoulder (so to speak) her load;
if Ilia, her belly swollen big,
had terminated her twins in utero, who would have founded
the City that was bound to rule the world?
If Venus, in her audacity, had aborted fetal Aeneas
the Caesars never would have graced our land.
Even you (though you were meant to be born a beauty) would have died
if your mother had attempted what you’ve tried.
I myself (though personally I plan to die of love) would not
have seen the light of day, had mother killed me.

 

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Cleopatra: The Impossible Queen.

Identifications
— Cleopatra VII

1. Limestone stele in the Louvre. Dedicated to Cleopatra VII 2 July 51 BCE by Onnophris, the Greek. Cleopatra is represented here (right) as a traditional, male pharaoh wearing double crown of Upper and Lower Egypt, and a triangular loincloth. Two vases are offered to the goddess Isis, who nurses her baby, Horus.

Cleopatra Stele 51 BCE.png

2. Cleopatra meets Julius Caesar in 48 BCE (Alexandria):

2a. Plutarch (1st/2nd c. CE), Life of Julius Caesar 49

So Cleopatra, taking only Apollodorus the Sicilian from among her friends, embarked in a little skiff and landed at the palace when it was already getting dark;  and as it was impossible to escape notice otherwise, she stretched herself at full length inside a bed-sack, while Apollodorus tied the bed-sack up with a cord and carried it indoors to Caesar. It was by this device of Cleopatra’s, it is said, that Caesar was first captivated, for she showed herself to be a bold coquette, and succumbing to the charm of further intercourse with her, he reconciled her to her brother on the basis of a joint share with him in the royal power.

2b. Cleopatra (1963):

Cleopatra rug-1.gif

2c. Assassin’s Creed, Origins (2017):

Cleopatra rugs.gif

 

3a. A bronze coin struck in Cyprus showing Cleopatra VII and her young son Caesarion, 48–30 BCE. Image: CNGcoins.

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3b. Relief of Cleopatra VII and her son by Julius Caesar, Caesarion at the Temple of Hathor at Dendera. Before 30 BCE. Image: Wikimedia.

Denderah3_Cleopatra_Cesarion.jpg

 

4. Mark Antony and Cleopatra meet at Tarsus in 41 BCE (Cilicia):

4a. Plutarch (1st/2nd c. CE), Life of Mark Antony 25

Such, then, was the nature of Antony, where now as a crowning evil his love for Cleopatra supervened, roused and drove to frenzy many of the passions that were still hidden and quiescent in him, and dissipated and destroyed whatever good and saving qualities still offered resistance. And he was taken captive in this manner. As he was getting ready for the Parthian war, he sent to Cleopatra, ordering her to meet him in Cilicia in order to make answer to the charges made against her of raising and giving to Cassius much money for the war. But Dellius, Antony’s messenger, when he saw how Cleopatra looked, and noticed her subtlety and cleverness in conversation, at once perceived that Antony would not so much as think of doing such a woman any harm, but that she would have the greatest influence with him. He therefore resorted to flattery and tried to induce the Egyptian to go to Cilicia “decked out in fine array”* (as Homer would say), and not to be afraid of Antony, who was the most agreeable and humane of commanders.”

*“decked out in fine array” =  a quotation from Homer Iliad 14.162, where Hera prepares her body to be beautiful so that she can seduce and deceive Zeus. Hera enlists the help of Aphrodite (Iliad 14.190ff.).

4b. Plutarch (1st/2nd c. CE), Life of Mark Antony 26

Though she received many letters of summons both from Antony himself and from his friends, she so despised and laughed the man to scorn as to sail up the river Cydnus in a barge with gilded poop, its sails spread purple, its rowers urging it on with silver oars to the sound of the flute blended with pipes and lutes. She herself reclined beneath a canopy spangled with gold, adorned like Venus in a painting, while boys like Cupids in paintings stood on either side and fanned her. Likewise also the   fairest of her serving-girls, attired like Nereïds and Graces, were stationed, some at the rudder-sweeps, and others at the reefing-ropes. Wondrous scents from countless incense-offerings diffused themselves along the river-banks.  Of the inhabitants, some accompanied her on either bank of the river from its very mouth, while others went down from the city to behold the sight. The throng in the market-place gradually streamed away, until at last Antony himself, seated on his tribunal, was left alone. And a rumour spread on every hand that Venus was come to revel with Bacchus for the good of Asia… (27) Cleopatra observed in the jests of Antony much of the soldier and the common man, and adopted this manner also towards him, without restraint now, and boldly. For her beauty, as we are  told, was in itself not altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her; but conversation with her had an irresistible charm, and her presence, combined with the persuasiveness of her discourse and the character which was somehow diffused about her behaviour towards others, had something stimulating about it. There was sweetness also in the tones of her voice; and her tongue, like an instrument of many strings, she could readily turn to whatever language she pleased, so that in her interviews with barbarians she very seldom had need of an interpreter, but made her replies to most of them herself and unassisted, whether they were Ethiopians, Troglodytes, Hebrews, Arabians, Syrians, Medes or Parthians. It’s said that she knew the speech of many other peoples also, although the kings of Egypt before her had not even made an effort to learn the native language, and some actually gave up their Macedonian dialect.

5a. Silver denarius of Mark Antony, 32 BCE (RRC 543/1). Left: Antony; Armenian tiara behind portrait as an allusion to his conquests in the East. Right: Cleopatra with diadem, in front of the bust, a ship’s bow as an allusion to her war fleet. Image: CRRO.

Screen Shot 2018-11-28 at 9.48.10 PM.png

 

5b. Kevin Butcher (2016) The face of Cleopatra: was she really so beautiful?

“Cleopatra is always newsworthy. So when in February 2007 a small coin in the collection of the Society of Antiquaries of Newcastle was said to have changed our understanding of her, it made headlines around the world. Journalists reacted with shock. Cleopatra was no beauty queen, said the reports. The face on the coin was nothing like that of Elizabeth Taylor. Instead she looked “plain”, even “shrewish”, and had a “hook-like hooter”. This was announced as a revelation. Yet for all the fanfare, there was nothing particularly unusual about the Newcastle coin. There are plenty of coins surviving with Cleopatra’s portrait on them, and they generally repeat the same features that seemed to astound reporters: a prominent nose, sloping forehead, sharply pointed chin and thin lips, and hollow-looking eye sockets.

These coin portraits, surprising though they may be to those who have grown up with a ‘Hollywood Cleopatra’, are the only certain images we have of her. That hasn’t stopped people from attempting to dismiss them as inaccurate and overly stylised – hoping against hope that there could have been another face of Cleopatra, a hidden one whose face would better match our expectations. Perhaps, they suggest, these unconvincing portraits were the work of unskilled artists.”

6a. Assassin’s Creed, Origins (2017): “I will sleep with anyone! As long as they agree to be executed in the morning!”

cleopatra I will sleep with anyone.gif

6b. Prudence Jones, Cleopatra: A sourcebook (2006: 260):

“Alexander Pushkin [in Egyptian Nights, 1825] revived a little-known anecdote about one of Cleopatra’s pastimes. The 4th c. AD historian Sextus Aurelius Victor is the only source for this story. As he puts it, Cleopatra was “so lustful that she often prostituted herself, and so beautiful that many men bought a night with her at the price of their lives.” [De Vir. Ill. Urbis Romae 86.2] The tale may be no more than stock invective, however; Diodorus Siculus relates the same anecdote about the Babylonian queen Semiramis.”

6c. Helen King (@fluff35), “Cleopatra and the vibrator powered by bees.” Mistaking histories. Aug. 8 2017.

“One of the most far-fetched myths about ancient sexuality, repeated online but also in print, is that Cleopatra invented the vibrator. Some sites date this event to ‘circa 54 BC’ while others go for 45 BC: there’s nothing like a date to make a story look more convincing.

Now, there’s obviously one little problem here: the power source. How do you have a vibrator without electricity? In a particularly unconvincing part of a very dodgy but much-cited book, Rachel Maines’ The Technology of Orgasm (1999: you can read more about my issues with this book here and it has recently been challenged even more extensively here), water power was suggested as an alternative source for vibrators in the Roman world. Hmmm. The Cleopatra story goes in a different direction: it claims that this device was either an empty gourd or a papyrus box, and it was powered by bees.”

6c. Horace, Odes 1.37. Translated by Niall Rudd (2004). 

Now let the drinking begin! Now let us thump the ground with unfettered feet! Now is the time, my friends, to load the couches of the gods with a feast fit for the Salii!

Before this it was sacrilege to bring the Caecuban out from our fathers’ cellars, at a time when the queen, along with her troop of disgustingly perverted men, was devising mad ruin for the Capitol and death for the empire—a woman so out of control that she could hope for anything at all, drunk, as she was, with the sweet wine of success.

But her frenzy was sobered by the survival of scarcely one ship from the flames; and her mind, crazed with Mareotic wine, was brought down to face real terror when Caesar pursued her as she flew away from Italy with oars, like a hawk after a gentle dove or a speedy hunter after a hare on the snowy plains of Thessaly, to put that monster of doom safely in chains.

Determined to die more nobly, she showed no womanly fear of the sword, nor did she use her swift fleet to gain some hidden shore. She had the strength of mind to gaze on her ruined palace with a calm countenance, and the courage to handle the sharp-toothed serpents, letting her body drink in their black venom. Once she had resolved to die she was all the more defiant—determined, no doubt, to cheat the cruel Liburnians: she would not be stripped of her royalty and conveyed to face a jeering triumph: no humble woman she.

7a. Elizabeth Taylor, Cleopatra (1963): 

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7b. Shelley P. Haley, “Black Feminist Thought and Classics: Re-membering, Re-claiming, Re-empowering.” 1993: 29.

“I had disliked discussing Cleopatra; I had been uncomfortable and ill at ease. Why? I began to see and am still arriving at seeing that Cleopatra is the crystallization of the tension between my yearning to fit in among the classicists and my identity politics. I clouded this tension by professing that the Ptolemies of the first century B.C.E were Greco-Egyptian. To me, “Egyptian”, “Greco-Egyptian”, “Greek”, “Roman” had been cultural designations. I refused, rather self-righteously, I admit, to colorize the question as my grandmother had done, along with my students, and most recently Newsweek (“Was Cleopatra Black”: September 23, 1991). What I resisted was the act that my culture is colorized: Black literature, Black music, Black art, Black feminism. Gradually, by reading my history and Black feminist thought, I perceived that Cleopatra was a signifier on two levels. She gives voice to our “anxiety about cultural disinheritance” (Sadoff 1990: 205), and she represents the contemporary Black woman’s double history of oppression and survival.”

8. Al-Mas’udi, Prairies of Gold, 10th c. CE Arabic. Excerpt from Prudence Jones (2006: 271). Translated by Camilo Gomez-Rivas.

Ptolemy [XII Auletes, king of Egypt] was succeeded by his daughter, Cleopatra. Her reign lasted twenty-two years. She was wise, tried her hand at philosophy and was a close companion to wise men. She has works, both bearing her name and ascribed to her, of medicine, and science, known by those versed in medicine.

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I, Claudia.

Identifications
— Catullus
— Clodia
— Lesbia

“Bad Kid Catullus” (2017):

review of bad kid catullus.jpeg

1. Catullus poems:

  • Lesbia is a married woman: 83.
  • Poems declaring love for Lesbia: 2, 3, 5, 7, 13, 51, 85, 87, 107, 109.
  • Poems comparing her to other women: 43, 86.
  • Poems about their fights: 36, 83, 92, 104.
  • Poems criticizing her for cheating on him: 8, 68, 70, 72, 75, 76.
  • Poems of strong abuse against her: 11, 37, 58, 79.
  • Poems about her other lovers: 37 (Egnatius), 91 (Gellius), 79 (her own brother??)
  • Catullus’ poems also describe a love affair with a man named Juventius: 15, 21, 24, 48, 81, 99.

2a. Catullus (1st c. BCE), poem 2. Translated by Peter Green.

Sparrow, precious darling of my sweetheart,
always her plaything, held fast in her bosom,
whom she loves to provoke with outstretched finger
tempting the little pecker to nip harder
when my incandescent longing fancies
just a smidgin of fun and games and comfort
for the pain she’s feeling (I believe it!),
something to lighten that too-heavy ardor —
how I wish I could sport with you as she does,
bring some relief to the spirit’s black depression!

2b. Roman wall painting from the House of the Golden Bracelet (close-up on a nightingale). Pompeii, 1st c. BCE or CE. Image: mtholyoke.edu.

myholyoke-birdie-e1518457527248.png

2c. Catullus (1st c. BCE), poem 3. Translated by Peter Green.

Mourn, Cupids all, every Venus, and whatever
company still exists of caring people:
Sparrow lies dead, my own true sweetheart’s sparrow,
Sparrow, the pet and darling of my sweetheart,
loved by her more than she valued her own eyesight.
Sweet as honey he was, and knew his mistress
no less closely than a child her mother;
nor from her warm lap’s safety would he ever
venture far, but hopping this and that way
came back, cheeping, always to his lady.
Now he’s travelling on that dark-shroud journey
whence, they tell us, none of the departed
ever returns. The hell with you, you evil
blackness of Hell, devouring all that’s lovely–
such a beautiful sparrow you’ve torn from me!
Oh wicked deed! Oh wretched little sparrow!
It’s your fault that now my sweetheart’s eyelids
are sore and swollen red from all her weeping.

2d. Left: a tintinnabulum from Pompeii, 1st c. CE (Inv. 27839). Image: Marie-Lan Nguyen (CC-BY 2.5) via wikimedia. Right: phallic amulets from Roman Gaul. Image: wikimedia.

 

 

2e. Nicolai Abildgaard, (1809) “Catullus and Lesbia after the death of her sparrow.” Image: Wikimedia

Nicolai_Abildgaard_-_Catullus_og_Lesbia_-_1809.jpg

3a. Catullus (1st c. BCE), poem 5. Translated by Peter Green.

Let’s live, Lesbia mine, and love — and as for
scandal, all the gossip, old men’s strictures
value the lot at no more than a farthing!
Suns can rise and set ad infinitum —
for us, though, once our brief life’s quenched, there’s only
one unending night that’s left to sleep through.
Give me a thousand kisses, then a hundred,
then a thousand more, a second hundred,
then yet another thousand then a hundred —
then when we’ve notched up all these many thousands,
shuffle the figures, lose count of the total,
so no maleficent enemy can hex (inuidere) us
knowing the final sum of all our kisses.

3b. Cicero (56 BCE) Pro Caelio 33-34 (trans. Berry):

But I should like to ask her first whether she would prefer me to deal with her in a stern, solemn, old-fashioned way or in a relaxed, easy-going, modern way. If she chooses the severe mode of address, then I must call up from the underworld one of those bearded ancients — not with the modern type of goatee beard that she takes such pleasure in, but the rough type such as we see on antique statues and masks — to castigate the woman and speak in my place (for otherwise she might become angry with me!). Let me therefore summon up a member of her own family — and who better than the famous Caecus [=Appius Claudius Caecus, censor 312 BCE]? He, at any rate, will be the least shocked at her, since he will not be able to see her!

[34] If he appears, this is, I am sure, how he will treat her, this is what he will say: “Woman! What do you think you are doing with Caelius, a man much younger than yourself, with someone from outside your own family? Why have you been either such a friend to him that you lent him gold or such an enemy that you were afraid of poison? Did you not notice that your father, or hear that your uncle, your grandfather, your great-grandfather, your great-great-grandfather and your great-great-great-grandfather were all consuls? And were you not aware that you were recently the wife of Quintus Metellus, that illustrious and valiant lover of his country, who only had to step out of his front door to surpass virtually every one of his fellow citizens in excellence, fame, and standing? Coming from such a distinguished family yourself, and marrying into one so illustrious, what reason did you have for lining yourself so closely to Caelius? Was he a blood-relation, a relation by marriage, a friend of your husband? He was none of these.

What, then, was the reason — unless it was some reckless infatuation? And if you were not influenced by the masks of the men in our family, did my own descendant, the famous Quinta Claudia [204 BCE], not inspire you to rival our family’s glory in the splendid achievements of its women? Or were you not inspired by the famous Vestal virgin, Claudia, who at her father’s triumph [143 BCE], held him in her arms and so prevented him from being pulled down from his chariot by the hostile tribune of the plebs? Why was it your brother’s vices that influenced you, rather than the virtues of your father and ancestors, virtues that have been repeated down the generations from my own time not only in the men but particularly in the women of our family? Did I destroy the peace treaty with Pyrrhus [280 BCE] so you could strike the most disgraceful sexual bargains on a daily basis? Did I bring water to the city [Aqua Appia, Rome’s first aqueduct] for you to foul with your incestuous practices? Did I build a road [Via Appiaroad from Rome to Brundisium] so that you could parade up and down it in the company of other women’s husbands?

3a. Catullus (1st c. BCE), poem 7. Translated by Peter Green.

You’d like to know how many of your kisses
would be enough and over, Lesbia, for me?
Match them to every grain of Libyan sand in
silphium-rich Cyrene, from the shrine of
torred oracular Jupiter to the sacred
sepulchre of Battus; reckon their total
equal to all those stars that in the silent
night look down on the stolen loves of mortals.
That’s the number of times I need to kiss you,
That’s what would satisfy your mad Catullus —
far too many for the curious to figure,
or for an evil tongue to work you mischief!

3b. On silphium and Cyrene:

Riddle (1997) Eve’s Herbs, pp44-45: “On the basis of ancient descriptions and pictures, modern botanists identify silphium as a species of giant fennel (genus ferula), because of the shape of its leaves. The pungent sap from its stems and roots was used as cough syrup, and it gave food a richer, distinctive taste. Its true value was not as a medicine or a condiment, however. When women took silphium by mouth, they supposed that they would not get pregnant….The famous poet Catullus asks how many kisses he and Lesbia may share. Why, he answers, as many times as there are grains of sand on Cyrene’s silphium shores. That is, Catullus told his lover that they could make love for as long as they had the plant.”

 

cyrene-silphium.jpgCyrene was so famous for silphium that the plant became its emblem, see the right hand image of the above coin of Magas of Cyrene (c. 300-282/275 BCE). Image: wikimedia.

silphium-assassins-creed.jpg
Screenshot from Assassin’s Creed: Origins (Ubisoft), tweeted by me (@opietasanimi, 18 Nov. 2017) “standing” in a silphium field in 49-47 BCE Cyrenaica.

4. Catullus (1st c. BCE), poem 51. Translated by Peter Green. [Go back to week 6]

In my eyes he seems like a god’s co-equal,
he, if I dare say so, eclipses godhead,
who now face to face, uninterrupted,
watches and hears you

sweetly laughing — that sunders unhappy me from
all my senses: the instant I catch sight of
you now, Lesbia, dumbness grips my <voice, it
dies on my vocal

cords>, my tongue goes torpid, and through my body
thin fire lances down, my ears are ringing
with their own thunder, while night curtains both my
eyes into darkness.

Leisure, Catullus, is dangerous to you: leisure
urges you into extravagant behavior
leisure in  time gone by has ruined kings and
prosperous cities.

5a. Catullus (1st c. BCE), poem 32. Translated by Peter Green.

Please please please, my darling Ipsithilla,
oh my delicate dish, my clever sweetheart,
please invite me home for the siesta —
and, supposing that you do invite me, make sure
no one happens to bolt and bar your shutters,
and that you don’t, on a whim, decide to
go off out: just stay home and prepare for
us nine whole uninterrupted fuckfests.
Fact is, if you’re on, ask me at once, I’ve
lunched, I’m full, flat on my back and bursting
up, up, up, through undershirt and bedclothes!

5b. 

6. Catullus (1st c. BCE), poem 58. Translated by Peter Green.

Caelius, Lesbia — our dear Lesbia, that one,
that Lesbia whom alone Catullus worshipped
more than himself, far more than all his kinfolk —
now on backstreet corners and down alleys
jacks off Remus’ generous descendants.

7. Catullus (1st c. BCE), poem 85. Translated by Peter Green.

I hate and I love. You wonder, perhaps, why I’d do that?
I have no idea. I just feel it. I am crucified.

7b.

 

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Roman women.

Identifications
— Lex Oppia
— Cornelia
— Laudatio Turiae

1a. Sarah Pomeroy, Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves (1975: 179, 177): 

“After the defeat of Hannibal in 201 B.C., Rome swiftly recovered. Men were allowed to display their prosperity. They wore purple, and their horses could be magnificently equipped. But the Oppian Law remained in effect, curtailing displays by women. The law was an irritant, despite some hints that it was not strictly enforced at all times. In 195 B.C. the repeal of this law was proposed, and women demonstrated in the streets…[p177] The women who gathered in 195 B.C. to demand the abrogation of the Oppian Law which had been in force for twenty years staged the first women’s demonstration..”

1b. Women in the Classical World, p260:

“the Lex Oppia restricted women’s finery and withdrew their privilege of riding in carriages; the law, unreported in the urgencies of the military narrative, only arouses the historians’ interest in peacetime when a move was made to repeal it (in 195 B.C.).”

1c. Livy, History of Rome (1st c. BCE/CE), 34.1. Roman women march in protest in 195 BCE for the repeal of the Lex Oppia (Oppian Law), passed 215 BCE.

Among the troubles of great wars, either scarcely over or yet to come, something intervened which, while it can be told briefly, stirred up enough excitement to become a great battle. Marcus Fundanius and Lucius Valerius, the tribunes of the people, brought a motion to repeal the Oppian law before the people [195 BCE]. Gaius Oppius had carried this law as tribune at the height of the Punic War, during the consulship of Quintus Fabius and Tiberius Sempronius [215 BCE].

The law said that no woman might own more than half an ounce of gold nor wear a multicoloured dress nor ride in a carriage in the city or in a town within a mile of it, unless there was a religious festival. The tribunes, Marcus and Publius Junius Brutus, were in favour of the Oppian law and said that they would not allow its repeal. Many noble men came forward hoping to persuade or dissuade them; a crowd of men, both supporters and opponents, filled the Capitoline Hill.

The matrons, whom neither counsel nor shame nor their husbands’ orders could keep at home, blockaded every street in the city and every entrance to the Forum. As the men came down to the Forum, the matrons besought them to let them, too, have back the luxuries they had enjoyed before, giving as their reason that the republic was thriving and that everyone’s private wealth was increasing with every day. This crowd of women was growing daily, for now they were even gathering from the towns and villages. Before long they dared go up and solicit the consuls, praetors, and other magistrates; but one of the consuls could not be moved in the least, Marcus Porcius Cato [censor 184 BCE], who spoke in favour of the law:

‘If each man of us, fellow citizens, had established that the right and authority of the husband should be held over the mother of his own family, we should have less difficulty with women in general; now, at home our freedom is conquered by female fury, here in the Forum it is bruised and trampled upon, and, because we have not contained the individuals, we fear the lot …

‘Indeed, I blushed when, a short while ago, I walked through the midst of a band of women. Had not respect for the dignity and modesty of certain ones (not them all!) restrained me (so they would not be seen being scolded by a consul), I should have said, “What kind of behaviour is this? Running around in public, blocking streets, and speaking to other women’s husbands! Could you not have asked your own husbands the same thing at home? Are you more charming in public with others’ husbands than at home with your own? And yet, it is not fitting even at home (if modesty were to keep married women within the bounds of their rights) for you to concern yourselves with what laws are passed or repealed here.

Our ancestors did not want women to conduct any — not even private — business without a guardian; they wanted them to be under the authority of parents, brothers, or husbands; we (the gods help us!) even now let them snatch at the government and meddle in the Forum and our assemblies. What are they doing now on the streets and crossroads, if they are not persuading the tribunes to vote for repeal? Give the reins to their unbridled nature and this unmastered creature, and hope that they will put limits on their own freedom; unless you do something yourselves, this is the least of the things imposed upon them either by custom or by law which they endure with hurt feelings. They want freedom, nay licence (if we are to speak the truth), in all things.

‘If they are victorious now, what will they not attempt? … As soon as they begin to be your equals, they will have become your superiors …’

[Read the rest of Cato’s speech, plus Valerius’s response.]

2. Cornelia, 2nd c. BCE. Daughter of Scipio Africanus, wife of Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, mother of the “Gracchi” brothers (Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus).

2a. Angelica Kauffmann, Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi, Pointing to her Children as Her Treasures, c. 1785. Virginia Museum of Fine Arts.

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2b. Victoria C. Gardner Coates (2011: 55-56): “Kauffmann deliberately set out to break into the exclusively male realm of monumental history painting in the second half of the eighteenth century…Achieving them was a tall order as women did not have ready access to the scholarly and artistic training necessary to become a successful painter of complex, historical subjects. But thanks to an unusually rigorous classical education, Kauffmann was familiar with the ancient texts that customarily provided themes for such paintings, and she compensated for her lack of life-drawing experience by closely studying classical sculpture…[S]he became one of only six ‘history painters’ among the thirty-six founding members of the Royal Academy of Arts in London.”

3a. Valerius MaximusMemorable Deeds and Sayings (1st c. CE), 4.4:

Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, had a Campanian matron as a guest in her house, who showed her jewellery, the finest in existence at that period. Cornelia kept her in talk until her children came home from school, and then said, “These are my jewels.”

4. Livy, History of Rome (1st c. BCE/CE), 38.57. Cornelia’s marriage (180s? 170s? BCE).

The story goes on that the senate, which chanced to dine that day on the Capitoline, had risen up and begged that during the banquet Africanus should betroth his daughter to Gracchus. When the contract had been duly made at this public ceremony and Scipio had returned home, he told his wife Aemilia that he had arranged a marriage for their younger daughter. When she, being irritated, as a woman would naturally be, that he had not consulted with her about the daughter of both of them, had added that not even if he were promising her to Tiberius Gracchus should the mother have been excluded from the deliberation, Scipio, they say, rejoicing at their harmony of opinion, replied that it was to Gracchus that he had betrothed her. However much at variance are these accounts of so great a man, they have seemed worthy of presentation.

5a. Cicero, On Divination (1st c. BCE), 1.36. Tiberius’ death (c. 154 BCE).

What do you say of that well-known incident of Tiberius Gracchus, the son of Publius? He was censor [169 BCE] and consul twice [177 BCE; 163 BCE]; besides that he was a most competent augur, a wise man and a preeminent citizen. Yet he, according to the account left us by his son Gaius, having caught two snakes in his home, called in the soothsayers to consult them. They advised him that if he let the male snake go his wife must die in a short time; and if he released the female snake his own death must soon occur. Thinking it more fitting that a speedy death should overtake him rather than his young wife, who was the daughter of Publius Africanus, he released the female snake and died within a few days.

5b. Lararium. Wall fresco from Pompeii, House VII.6.3. Mid-1st century CE. Naples, National Archaeological Museum. Image: Ann Raia, 2010 (via vroma.org).

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6. Fragments (?) of Cornelia’s letter to her son. Transmitted by Cornelius Nepos (in *his* fragments…), 1st c. BCE.

Fragment 1: You will say that it is glorious to take vengeance on one’s enemies. That seems to no one greater and more glorious than it does to me, but only if it can be done without injury to one’s country. But inasmuch as that cannot be, long and surely shall our enemies not perish but remain as they now are, rather than that our country should be ruined and perish.

Fragment 2: I would not hesitate to take oath in set terms that except for the murderers of Tiberius Gracchus no enemy has caused me so much annoyance and trouble as you have because of these events—you who ought, as the only survivor of all the children that I have had in the past, to have taken their place and to have seen to it that I had the least possible anxiety in my old age; you, who ought to have wished that all your actions should above all be agreeable to me, and should consider it impious to do anything of great importance contrary to my advice, especially when I have so brief a portion of my life left. Cannot even that brief span aid me in preventing you from opposing me and ruining your country? Finally, where will you make an end? Will our family ever cease from madness? Will it ever be possible to observe moderation? Shall we ever cease to insist on causing and suffering trouble? Shall we ever be ashamed of embroiling and harassing our country? But if any change is impossible, sue for the tribunate after I am dead; do whatever you like, so far as I am concerned, when I shall no longer be aware of it. When I am no more, you will offer funerary sacrifices in my honour, and invoke the god of our family. Are you not ashamed at that time to ask for the prayers of those as gods, whom you abandoned and deserted when they were alive and present with you? May great Jupiter forbid you to persist in that course or to allow such madness to enter your mind. But if you do persist, I fear that through your own fault you may bring such trouble upon your whole life that you can never make peace with yourself.

7a. Fragment of the opening lines of Laudatio Turiae. Rome, Terme Diocleziano, (National Museums). Image: Barbara McManus (2004), via vroma.org.

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7b. So-called Laudatio Turiae, 10-9 BCE = ILS 8393. 

Left hand column.

(27) Marriages as long as ours are rare, marriages that are ended by death and not broken by divorce. For we were fortunate enough to see our marriage last without disharmony for fully 40 years. I wish that our long union had come to its final end through something that had befallen me instead of you; it would have been more just if I as the older partner had had to yield to fate through such an event.

(30) Why should I mention your domestic virtues: your loyalty, obedience, affability, reasonableness, industry in working wool, religion without superstition, sobriety of attire, modesty of appearance? Why dwell on your love for your relatives, your devotion to your family? You have shown the same attention to my mother as you did to your own parents, and have taken care to secure an equally peaceful life for her as you did for your own people, and you have innumerable other merits in common with all married women who care for their good name. It is your very own virtues that I am asserting, and very few women have encountered comparable circumstances to make them endure such sufferings and perform such deeds. Providentially Fate has made such hard tests rare for women.

Right hand column.

(2a) You provided abundantly for my needs during my flight and gave me the means for a dignified manner of living, when you took all the gold and jewellery from your own body and sent it to me and over and over again enriched me in my absence with servants, money and provisions, showing great ingenuity in deceiving the guards posted by our adversaries.

(6a) You begged for my life when I was abroad[5]-it was your courage that urged you to this step-and because of your entreaties I was shielded by the clemency of those against whom you marshalled your words. But whatever you said was always said with undaunted courage.

(31) When you despaired of your ability to bear children and grieved over my childlessness, you became anxious lest by retaining you in marriage I might lose all hope of having children and be distressed for that reason. So you proposed a divorce outright and offered to yield our house free to another woman’s fertility. Your intention was in fact that you yourself, relying on our well-known conformity of sentiment, would search out and provide for me a wife who was worthy and suitable for me, and you declared that you would regard future children as joint and as though your own, and that you would not effect a separation of our property which had hitherto been held in common, but that it would still be under my control and, if I wished so, under your administration: nothing would be kept apart by you, nothing separate, and you would thereafter take upon yourself the duties and the loyalty of a sister and a mother-in-law.

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Woman as symbol: early Rome.

Identifications
— Etruscan women
— Ilia/Rhea Silvia
— Sabine Women
— Lucretia

1. The Etruscans. Map: wikimedia.

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“Historically, the Etruscans were the people who inhabited the roughly triangular region on the west coast of Italy bounded by the rivers Tiber and Arno. Although they apparently called themselves ‘Rasenna’ (Dionysius of Halicarnassus 1.30.3), they were known to the Romans as Etrusci or Tusci, and to the Greeks as Tyrrhenians or Tyrsenians, names that survive in the language of modern geography (Tuscany, the Tyrrhenian Sea. Etruscan civilisation reached its cultural zenith in the period from the 8th to the 5th century BCE, when powerful city-states emerged. These are conventionally divided into a southern group: Veii, Caere, Tarquinii, Vulci; a northern group: Volaterrae, Populonia, Vetulonia, Rusellae; inland: Arretium, Cortona, Perusia, Clusium, Volsinii.” (Cornell 1995: 45)

1a. Lucy Shipley, “To be a Woman,” in The Etruscans: Lost Civilizations (2017) p99:

“Indeed, the reputation of Etruscan women was so strong that their independence is one of the few features of Etruscan society that remains widely known – it is a key part of the Etruscan myth. Women are regularly represented in Etruscan imagery, enthroned alongside men in images on ceramics and decorative terracottas. Female faces and bodies feature in the friezes that decorated great Etruscan buildings. In tomb paintings, women are shown dining with men, equally gorgeously attired, seated on the same couches. These scenes are made eternal in sarcophagi and cinerary urns, on which women recline with their partners or alone. They share the same food, the same access to alcohol, the same luxuries as their men, and seem to have enjoyed equal respect as ancestors too. Inscriptions from tombs name their occupants, connecting them not only with their father, but with their mother and her family as well, recognizing the importance of the female line of descent.”

1b. “Sarcophagus of the Spouses,” 6th c. BCE. Villa Giula (Rome). Terracotta sarcophagus of a husband and wife from Cerveteri, reclining on a couch. Images: italianways.com.

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1c. “Sarcophagus of the Spouses,” 6th c. BCE. Louvre, Paris. Painted terracotta sarcophagus of a husband and wife from Cerveteri, reclining on a couch. Image: Louvre.

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1d. Painted Etruscan terracotta sarcophagus (c. 150 BCE) of a woman named Seianti Hanunia Tlesana, holding a mirror. British Museum. The skull and other bones  from the sarcophagus were found to belong to a woman who was probably about 50yo at the time of her death. Images: British Museum.

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2. Attic black-figure amphora (6th c. BCE). Aeneas, carrying his father, Anchises, with his son ahead of him. Escape from Troy. Aphrodite/Venus, Aeneas’ mother, stands behind him. Image: Getty villa.

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3a. Dionysius of Halicarnassus (1st c. BCE), Roman Antiquities 1.77:

Ilia, going to a grove consecrated to Mars to fetch pure water for use in the sacrifices, was ravished by somebody or other in the sacred precinct…Most writers relate a fabulous story to the effect that it was a spectre of the divinity to whom the place was consecrated [=Mars]; and they add that the event was attended by many supernatural signs, including a sudden disappearance of the sun and a darkness that spread over the sky, and that the appearance of the spectre was far more marvellous than that of a man both in stature and in beauty. And they say that the ravisher, to comfort the maiden (by which it became clear that it was a god), commanded her not to grieve at all at what had happened, since she had been united in marriage to the divinity of the place and as a result of her violation should bear two sons who would far excel all men in valour and warlike achievements. And having said this, he was wrapped in a cloud and, being lifted from the earth, was borne upwards through the air. This is not a proper place to consider what opinion we ought to entertain of such tales…

Ilia = ‘of Troy/Ilium’
Rhea = Greek rheō (ῥέω) ‘to flow’
Silvia = ‘of the forest’

3b. Fragment of Ennius‘ Annals*, 2nd c. BCE.
*transmitted by Cicero, On Divination 1.40 (1st c. BCE).

…when roused terrified from sleep the old woman brought the lamp with trembling limbs, and in tears Ilia told this story. “Daughter of Eurydica, whom our father loved, the force of life is now leaving my whole body. For a handsome man appeared to me and snatched me away through pleasant willows, river banks, and places unknown. So alone, my sister, afterwards I seemed to wander and slowly to track you and to search for you and to be unable to grasp you in my heart. No path kept my feet steady. Then I dreamt my father [=Aeneas] spoke to me with these words: “Daughter, you must first endure miseries, then your fortune will rise from the river.” Once father had said this, my sister, he suddenly disappeared and did not offer himself to view, although I desired it in my heart, although I often stretched my hands to the blue expanses of heaven, tearful, and with pleading voice called to him. Then sleep left me sick at heart.

3c. Jackie Elliott, “The Voices of Ennius’ Annals” (2007: 49):

“Aeneas’ ‘comforting speech’ provokes only tears and a deeper longing and sense of abandonment. The passage thus demonstrates the uselessness of the male and imperialistic perspective to Ilia. Reflecting this, Ilia’s corporeality in the passage contrasts strikingly with the ellipse of Mars and with Aeneas’ elusiveness.”

3d. Roman relief depicting Mars’ “seduction” of Ilia. 1st-3rd c. CE. Vatican Museum. Image: Warburg Institute Iconographical Database.

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3e. Timothy Cornell, The Beginnings of Rome (1995: 58): 

“Controversy centred around such matters as the parentage of the twins [=Romulus + Remus]. In most accounts their father was the god Mars; but other versions had been circulated, the most interesting of which asserted that their mother had been impregnated by a spark from the hearth — a motif which has many parallels in Italic myth.”

4a. Livy, History of Rome (1st c. BCE/CE), 1.4

But neither gods nor men protected the mother herself or her babes from the king’s cruelty; the priestess [= Ilia] he ordered to be manacled and cast into prison, the children to be committed to the river. It happened by singular good fortune that the Tiber having spread beyond its banks into stagnant pools afforded nowhere any access to the regular channel of the river, and the men who brought the twins were led to hope that being infants they might be drowned, no matter how sluggish the stream….In those days this was a wild and uninhabited region. The story persists that when the floating basket in which the children had been exposed was left high and dry by the receding water, a she-wolf (lupa), coming down out of the surrounding hills to slake her thirst, turned her steps towards the cry of the infants, and with her teats gave them suck so gently, that the keeper of the royal flock found her licking them with her tongue. Tradition assigns to this man the name of Faustulus, and adds that he carried the twins to his hut and gave them to his wife Larentia to rear. Some think that Larentia, having been free with her favours, had got the name of “she-wolf” [lupa = “prostitute”, lupanar= “brothel”] among the shepherds, and that this gave rise to this marvellous story.

4b. Tomb of the Statilii on the Esquiline, north wall (1st c. BCE). Romulus and Remus are abandoned on the banks of the River Tiber. Image: The Warburg Institute Iconographic Database.

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4c. Mosaic depicting the She-wolf with Romulus and Remus. Aldborough (UK), c. 300-400 CE (Leeds City Museum). Image: Carole Raddato.

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5a. Livy, History of Rome (1st c. BCE/CE) 1.9

Rome was now strong enough to hold her own in war with any of the adjacent states; but owing to the lack of women a single generation was likely to see the end of her size, since she had neither prospect of posterity at home nor the right of intermarriage with her neighbours. So, on the advice of the senate, Romulus sent envoys round among all the neighbouring nations to solicit for the new people an alliance and the privilege of intermarrying. Cities, they argued, as well as all other things, take their rise from the lowliest beginnings. As time goes on, those which are aided by their own manliness [virtus] by the favour of the gods achieve great power and renown. They said they were well assured that Rome’s origin had been blessed with the favour of the gods, and that their manliness [virtus] would not be lacking; their neighbours should not be reluctant to mingle their stock and their blood with the Romans, who were as truly men as they were. Nowhere did the embassy obtain a friendly hearing…

This was a bitter insult to the young Romans, and the matter seemed certain to end in violence. Expressly to afford a fitting time and place for this, Romulus, concealing his resentment, made ready solemn games in honour of the equestrian Neptune, which he called Consualia. He then ordered that the spectacle be announced to the surrounding peoples, and his subjects prepared to celebrate it with all the resources within their knowledge and power, that they might cause the occasion to be noised abroad and eagerly expected. Many people — for they were also eager to see the new city — gathered for the festival, especially those who lived nearest…

The Sabines, too, came with all their people, including their children and wives. They were hospitably entertained in every house, and when they had looked at the site of the city, its walls, and its numerous buildings, they marvelled that Rome had so rapidly grown. When the time came for the show, and people’s thoughts and eyes were busy with it, the preconcerted attack began. At a given signal the young Romans darted this way and that, to seize and carry off the unmarried women [virgines]. In most cases these were taken by the men in whose path they chanced to be. Some, of exceptional beauty, had been marked out for the chief senators, and were carried off to their houses by plebeians to whom the office had been entrusted…

The games broke up in a panic, and the parents of the young women fled sorrowing. They charged the Romans with the crime of violating hospitality, and invoked the gods to whose solemn games they had come, deceived in violation of religion and honour. The stolen girls were no more hopeful of their plight, nor less indignant. But Romulus himself went amongst them and explained that the pride of their parents had caused this deed, when they had refused their neighbours the right to intermarry; nevertheless the daughters should be wedded and become co-partners in all the possessions of the Romans, in their citizenship and, dearest privilege of all to the human race, in their children; only let them moderate their anger, and give their hearts to those to whom fortune had given their persons.

A sense of injury had often given place to affection, and they would find their husbands the kinder for this reason, that every man would earnestly endeavour not only to be a good husband, but also to console his wife for the home and parents she had lost. [1.10] His arguments were seconded by the wooing of the men, who excused their act on the score of passion and love, the most moving of all pleas to a woman’s heart…

[1.13 — after war between the Romans + the Sabines] Then the Sabine women, whose wrong had given rise to the war, with loosened hair and torn garments, their woman’s timidity lost in a sense of their misfortune, dared to go amongst the flying missiles, and rushing in from the side, to part the hostile forces and disarm them of their anger, beseeching their fathers on this side, on that their husbands, that fathers-in-law and sons-in-law should not stain themselves with impious bloodshed, nor pollute with parricide the suppliants’ children, grandsons to one party and sons to the other.

“If you regret,” they continued, “the relationship that unites you, if you regret the marriage-tie, turn your anger against us; we are the cause of war, the cause of wounds, and even death to both our husbands and our parents. It will be better for us to perish than to live, lacking either of you, as widows or as orphans.” It was a touching plea, not only to the rank and file, but to their leaders as well. A stillness fell on them, and a sudden hush. Then the leaders came forward to make a truce, and not only did they agree on peace, but they made one people out of the two. They shared the sovereignty, but all authority was transferred to Rome. In this way the population was doubled, and that some concession might after all be granted the Sabines, the citizens were named Quirites.

VIRTUS = gives us “virtue” but literally meant “manliness”
Latin vir = “man”
VIRtus = MANliness

5b. Pablo Picasso, “Rape of the Sabine Women” 1963. MFA, Boston. Image: MFA. Read this Guardian piece by Rhiannon L Cosslett on how this painting may be read in context of #metoo movement.

6a. Stephanie Jed, Chaste Thinking (1989: 45): 

“I intend the expression ‘chaste thinking’ as a figure of thought constituted at the join of two conflicting lexical families of terms, one representing the impulse of touch and the other, the impulse to be cut off from contact. These lexical families include, on the one hand, words related to touching or the absence of touching — tangible, contaminate, contact, integrity, intact, etc., and, on the other hand, words related to cutting — chastity, castigate, caste, and Latin carere (“to be cut off from, to lack.”). The narrative of the rape of Lucretia and the subsequent liberation of Rome from tyranny, I will argue, brings together these two conflicting series into a seemingly necessary relation of consequentiality, which, thus, sustains the figure of chaste thinking.”

6b. Livy, History of Rome (1st c. BCE/CE) 1.57-59:

The royal princes sometimes spent their leisure hours in feasting and entertainments, and at a wine party given by Sextus Tarquinius at which Collatinus, the son of Egerius, was present, the conversation happened to turn upon their wives, and each began to speak of his own in terms of extraordinarily high praise. As the dispute became warm Collatinus said that there was no need of words, it could in a few hours be ascertained how far his Lucretia was superior to all the rest. ‘Why do we not,’ he exclaimed, ‘if we have any youthful vigour about us mount our horses and pay your wives a visit and find out their characters on the spot? What we see of the behaviour, of each on the unexpected arrival of her husband, let that be the surest test.’ They were heated with wine, and all shouted:

‘Good! Come on!’ Setting spur to their horses they galloped off to Rome, where they arrived as darkness was beginning to close in. From there they proceeded to Collatia, where they found Lucretia very differently employed from the king’s daughters-in-law, whom they had seen passing their time in feasting and luxury with their acquaintances. She was sitting at her wool work in the hall, late at night, with her, maids busy round her. The palm in this competition of wifely virtue was awarded to Lucretia. She welcomed the arrival of her husband and the Tarquins, whilst her victorious spouse courteously invited the royal princes to remain as his guests. Sextus Tarquin, inflamed by the beauty and exemplary purity of Lucretia, formed the vile project of effecting her dishonour. After their youthful frolic they returned for the time to camp.

[1.58] A few days afterwards Sextus Tarquin went, unknown to Collatinus, with one companion to Collatia.  He was hospitably received by the household, who suspected nothing, and after supper was conducted to the bedroom set apart for guests. When all around seemed safe and everybody fast asleep, he went in the frenzy of his passion with a naked sword to the sleeping Lucretia, and placing his left hand on her breast, said, ‘Silence, Lucretia! I am Sextus Tarquin, and I have a sword in my hand; if you utter a word, you shall die.’ When the woman, terrified out of her sleep, saw that no help was near, and instant death threatening her, Tarquin began to confess his passion, pleaded, used threats as well as entreaties, and employed every argument likely to influence a female heart.

When he saw that she was inflexible and not moved even by the fear of death, he threatened to disgrace her, declaring that he would lay the naked corpse of the slave by her dead body, so that it might be said that she had been slain in foul adultery. By this awful threat, his lust triumphed over her inflexible chastity, and Tarquin went off exulting in having successfully attacked her honour. Lucretia, overwhelmed with grief at such a frightful outrage, sent a messenger to her father at Rome and to her husband at Ardea, asking them to come to her, each accompanied by one faithful friend; it was necessary to act, and to act promptly; a horrible thing had happened. Spurius Lucretius came with Publius Valerius, the son of Volesus; Collatinus with Lucius Junius Brutus, with whom he happened to be returning to Rome when he was met by his wife’s messenger.

They found Lucretia sitting in her room prostrate with grief. As they entered, she burst into tears, and to her husband’s inquiry whether all was well, replied, ‘No! what can be well with a woman when her honour is lost? The marks of a stranger Collatinus are in your bed. But it is only the body that has been violated the soul is pure; death shall bear witness to that. But pledge me your solemn word that the adulterer shall not go unpunished. It is Sextus Tarquin, who, coming as an enemy instead of a guest forced from me last night by brutal violence a pleasure fatal to me, and, if you are men, fatal to him.’

They all successively pledged their word, and tried to console the distracted woman, by turning the guilt from the victim of the outrage to the perpetrator, and urging that it is the mind that sins not the body, and where there has been no consent there is no guilt ‘It is for you,’ she said, ‘to see that he gets his deserts: although I acquit myself of the sin, I do not free myself from the penalty; no unchaste woman shall henceforth live and plead Lucretia‘s example.’ She had a knife concealed in her dress which she plunged into her, heart, and fell dying on the floor. Her father and husband raised the death-cry.

[1.59] Whilst they were absorbed in grief, Brutus drew the knife from Lucretia‘s wound and holding it, dripping with blood, in front of him, said, ‘By this blood – most pure before the outrage wrought by the king’s son — I swear, and you, oh gods, I call to witness that I will drive hence Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, together with his cursed wife and his whole brood, with fire and sword and every means in my power, and I will not suffer them or any one else to reign in Rome.’

 

6c. The enduring emblem of Lucretia… 

 

  • Philippe Bertrand, “Lucretia”, 1704 or earlier. Image: Metropolitan Museum.
  • Johann Peter Pichler, “Tarquin and Lucretia”, 1792. Image: Metropolitan Museum.
  • Titian, “Tarquin and Lucretia”, 1571. Fitzwilliam Museum. Image: Wikimedia.
  • Artemisia Gentileschi, “The Rape of Lucretia”, 1645-1650, Neues Palais, Potsdam. Image: Wikimedia.
  • Rembrandt, “Lucretia”, 1666. Minneapolis Institute of Art. Image: Wikimedia.

Translation of Ennius’ Annales (1.34-50 Skutsch = Cic. Div. 1.40)  David Wardle 2006, with adaptations. For parallel Latin and English trans. see Warmington pp 14-16.

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lecture

Women poets II.

Identifications
— Erinna
— Moero
— Anyte
— Hedyle
— Nossis

1. Erinna, 4th c. BCE. The 10th c. CE Suda lists four possible origins for Erinna: Teos, Lesbos, Rhodes, and Telos.

1a. Red-figure hydria, c. 440 BCE in the British Museum. Image: British Museum. The central, seated woman spins, holding a distaff in her left hand.

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1b. Erinna no. 42* (Balmer): “The Distaff” (Alakata):
*transmitted by Oxyrhynchus papyrus, PSI IX 1090 (c. 200 CE).

the rising moon…

…falling leaves…

waves spinning on a mottled shore….

…and those games, Baucis, remember?
twin white horses, four frenzied feet — and one Tortoise
to your hare: ‘Caught you,’ I cried. ‘You’re Mrs Tortoise now.”
But when your turn came at last to catch the catcher
you raced on far beyond us, out from the great shell
of our smoke-filled yard…

…Baucis, these tears are your embers
and my memorial, traces glowing in my heart,
now all that we once shared has turned to ash…
…as girls
we played weddings with our dolls, brides in our soft beds,
or sometimes I was mother allotting dawn wool
to the women, calling for you to help spin out
the thread…
… and our terror (remember?) of Mormo
the monster — big ears, and tongue, forever flapping,
her frenzy on all fours and changing shapes — a trap
for girls who had lost their way…
…But when you set sail
for a man’s bed Baucis, you let it slip away,
forgot the lessons you had learnt from your ‘mother’
in those far-off days — no, never forgot; that thief
Desire stole all memory away…
…My lost friend,
here is my lament: I can’t bear that dark death-bed,
can’t bring myself to step outside my door; won’t look
on your stone face, won’t cry or cut my hair for shame…
but Baucis, this crimson grief
is tearing me in two…

1c. Greek jointed dolls from the MFA, c. 4th c. BCE. Left to right: 92.261690.18901.788318.460.

1d. Oxyrhynchus papyrus, PSI IX 1090 (c. 200 CE) containing Erinna’s “Distaff.” Rediscovered 1928 (see Balmer 1996: 57).

PSI IX 1090 BML inv. 18106 Erinna.jpg

 

2. Moero, Byzantium. c. 300 BCE. Map: Byzantium, image: Pleiades projectScreen Shot 2018-10-29 at 6.32.28 PM.png

2a. Josephine Balmer, Women Classical Poets (1996: 64):

“An ancient source records that she was the wife of one Andromachus, who may have been the author of an etymological dictionary, and the mother of Homerus, a tragic poet [=Suda on “Myro”]. She is known to have written hexameter verse, hymns, lyrical and elegiac poetry, although only two epigrams survive in the Greek Anthology, as well as a ten-line extract from what appears to be an epic poem on the mythology of the Greek god Zeus. Although she was honoured with a statue in antiquity, and the male epigrammatist Meleager referred to her poems as ‘lilies’, even those modern scholars sympathetic to classical women’s poetry find it difficult to praise her work. Her epigrams have been described as ‘affected’, while her hexameter poem on Zeus has been seen as ‘commonplace’ and ‘of no great originality.’ Such judgements seem rather hasty.”

2b. Moero no. 47* (Balmer): “The Childhood of Zeus”:
* transmitted by Athenaeus (c. 200 CE), The Learned Banquet (491b).

Lord Zeus was once fostered in Crete
far from the blessed gods
safe from his father’s searing sight.
And his strength slowly grew.
Deep in a timeless cave he dwelt
tended by trembling doves
and suckled on sweet ambrosia
from soft ocean streams;
a great eagle
always eager
gnawed nectar from a rock
for the bird to bear in his beak
a beaker for wise Zeus.
Triumphing over father Cronos
far-thundering Zeus
made the eagle an immortal
his intimate on high.
And those timorous trembling doves
he treasured too above
set them in heaven’s skies
our seasons’ timeless harbinger.

+ Athenaeus (c. 200 CE), The Learned Banquet (490e): The variation in the name, by which the Pleiades are referred to as Peleiai and Peleiades, occurs in many poets. The first to correctly grasp what the Homeric lines mean was Moero of Byzantium, who said in her poem entitled Mnemosyne that the Pleiades bring Zeus his ambrosia. The literary scholar Crates appropriated her interpretation and published it as if it were his own argument.

2c. Moero no. 47* (Balmer): “A Temple Offering”:
*transmitted in the Greek Anthology (6.119).

Hang there, beneath Aphrodite’s golden pillars,
temple grapes, heavy with the wine-god’s heady sap;
your mother-vine is curled around her lover branch,
won’t hold your head again between her scented leaves.

3. Anyte, Tegea in Arcadia. c. 300 BCE. Map: Tegea, image: Pleiades project.

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3a. Josephine Balmer, Women Classical Poets (1996: 67):

“Anyte’s subjects include the traditional laments for the dead, particularly of mothers for their daughters, and temple offerings, as well as more innovative pastoral scenes, animal poetry and memorials for dead pets. Such apparently whimsical concerns have upset male scholars and feminist revisionists alike.”

3b. Anyte no. 50* (Balmer): “Philainis”:
* transmitted in the Greek Anthology (7.486).

Over and over at this small tomb, Cleina weeps in sorrow,
a mother lamenting her daughter,
the final race which death has won.
Again and again she calls to you, her dearest Philainis,
you sailed away but not to marriage
across green-gloaming Acheron.

3c. Anyte no 58* (Balmer): “Aphrodite by Sea”:
*transmitted in the Greek Anthology (9.144).

This place is sacred to the goddess.
Here her constant pleasure
is to watch the sea as it shimmers from the shore,
and ensure the comfort of sailors;
all around the ocean
trembles as it gazes on her statue, oil-smooth.

3d. Anyte no 61* (Balmer): “A Lost Puppy”:
*transmitted by Pollux (5.48).

You met your fate like those great dogs of old
by the curling roots
of a coward’s bush; Loci, of Locri,
swiftest of pups — especially to bark,
into your light paws he sank harsh poison
that speckle-necked snake.

4. Hedyle, Athens. 3rd c. BCE. “The only extant Athenian woman poet” (Balmer 1996: 80).

4a. Hedyle no 71* (Balmer): “Scylla”:
*transmitted by Athenaeus The Learned Banquet (7.297a).

“I brought you shells, Scylla, from clear coral reefs
and king-fisher chicks, still learning how to fly —
those halcyon days to come. All these I gave
without faith, without hope.”
At Glaucus’ grief
Sirens wept, his fellow dwellers of the deep;
and they swam in sorrow from their rocky shore
by simmering Etna.

4b. Hyginus (1st c. BCE and CE), Fabulae 199. cf. Ovid Metamorphoses 13.904ff. and 14.66ff. 

They say that Scylla, the daughter of the river Crataeis, was a spectacularly beautiful young woman. Glaucus loved her, but Circe daughter of the Sun loved Glaucus. Since it was Scylla’s habit to bathe in the sea, Circe daughter of the Sun poisoned the waters out of jealousy. When Scylla went into the water, dogs sprouted from her loins and she became savage. yet she got her revenge for the injuries done to her: she robbed Ulysses of some of his crew as he sailed by.

4c. Fragment of an Apulian (South Italian) red-figure bell krater (c. 375-350 BCE). Depicting Scylla with a woman’s upper body, a fishy lower body, and a ring of dogs’ heads around her waist. Image: Getty.

86.AE.417 Scylla.png

 

5. Nossis, Locri. 3rd c. BCE. Map: Locri, image: Pleiades project.

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5a. Nossis no 72* (Balmer): “The Flowers of Love”:
*transmitted in the Greek Anthology (5.170).

Nothing is sweeter than love. Nothing.
All other delights, all pleasures come
poor second
— the honey I have spat from my lips.

Listen. Nossis speaks: whoever falls
from Cypris’ favour can never know
such flowers
— roses opening, coming into bloom.

5b. Nossis no 77* (Balmer): “Melinna”: 
*transmitted in the Greek Anthology (6.353).

Melinna herself stands recreated here:
looks down on us and smiles, soft and sweet;
the image of her mother — living proof
that child is equal to her parent.

5c. Nossis no 83* (Balmer): “Nossis’ Farewell”:
*transmitted in the Greek Anthology (7.718).

Stranger, if you should sail to Mytilene, city of fair song,
enticed by Sappho’s fragrant garland, its heady bloom,
say only this: that the land of Locri gave me life,
long-treasured by the Muses and by Her.
One more thing: My name is Nossis.
Now go.

 

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