Women in Ancient Rome
In Roman times women were treated differently depending on their
class, and family background. However Roman women off all social
classes were expected to assume, that they were merely possessions of
their fathers and then of their husband.
Many Romans told a story (below) about a woman named Cornelia, a Roman
woman of the second century BC:
An upper-class women from Campania was staying with Cornelia, a mother
of the Gracchi brothers. She continually boasted about her jewels
which were the most beautiful to be seen at that time, Cornelia kept
her talking until her children returned home from their lessons, then
she said to the women: "these are my jewels"
Valerius Maximus (1st Century. AD)
Historians do not have any evidence of this story ever actually
happening, however what matters is that Romans repeated this story to
show how Roman mothers should think and act towards their children.
Cornelia was the daughter of a Roman Hero, Scipio Africanus, who had
defeated Hannibal; she was the wife of a Roman aristocrat, Tiberius
Sempronius Gracchus; and she was the mother of the Gracchi brothers,
Tiberius and Gaius, who tried to defend the rights of the ordinary
Roman people against the Roman aristocracy in the late second century
Everyone remembered Cornelia as the ideal Roman womanhood. After her
death, a bronze statue was made in her honour, with the inscriptions,
"Cornelia, daughter of Africanus, mother of the Gracchi".
Cornelia became famous due to her relationship to the men in her
family as a daughter, wife, and mother. But not for what she achieved
on her own behalf,
suggesting that the only way women would be respected or acknowledge
in a good way is if they were respected and liked by the men in their
In AD 14, the Emperor Augustus, on his death bed, is reported to have
told his wife, Livia;
'always remember whose wife you have been'.
Freeborn Roman women were never allowed to forget that people always
regarded them as someone's daughter, wife or mother, but never as an
individual who has their own rights.
Roman daughters, much like Greek daughters, were always in the custody
of the oldest male in her family and had to obey their rules. (The
paterfamilias) the head of the household. In the Roman law, the
paterfamilias was so important and powerful that he had the right over
everyone's life in his family.
The daughters name as simply the name of her fathers but in a feminine
form, there was nothing personal in a daughter's name. If the father
was called (Marcus Tullius Cicero) the daughter would be simply be
called Tullia. If however more than one daughter was born in that
family then to prevent confusion she would be called Tullia the
younger, or Tullia the second, and so on.