WGST 21.01/CLST 11.12. Slaves, Wives and Concubines: Did Roman Women Have a History? (SOC/CI)
at 10A hour
This course is about the heterogeneous lived experience of women (slaves, freed slaves, lawful wives, daughters, prostitutes) during the Roman Republic and Empire. Roman women built and immortalized themselves and their families in funerary and civic monuments, endowing institutions like schools, and sometimes had coins bearing their portraits.
We explore the larger institutional frameworks that gave meaning to their lives, and within this framework we investigate their life choices over time. Topics include:
- the roles of women as wives in law, social practice, and ideology;
- working women (slave, freed, free), and intersections of status, class, and gender;
- representations of consensual and non-consensual sex in Latin literature and Roman law;
- ancient views of female biology and women’s capacity as human beings;
- the careers of successful women, their strategies for success, and cultural evaluation of their achievements;
- ritual experiences and religious authority of Roman and Christian women.
Readings include Plautus, Casina; Cicero, Speech on Behalf of Caelius Rufus; Ovid, Amores (selections); Tacitus, Annals (the careers of the empress Agrippina and the British queen Boudicca); Soranus, Gynecology (selections); The Martyrdom of S. Perpetua; Justinian's Digest (selections).
Readings in primary evidence will allow students to think carefully and systematically about categories of evidence and their interpretation. Readings in secondary literature will familiarize students with modes of historical argument and historiography. Course readings and course work develop an understanding of history—and the study of history— as a tool for understanding cultural discourses about women, what they are, or are supposed to be.
Please contact Roberta Stewart for more information!