Women in Ancient Rome by Paul ChrystalThe history of women in ancient Rome is fascinating and exhilarating. It gives a unique insight into one of the worlds most dynamic, successful super-power civilisations and, at the same time, illuminates any number of admirable, exciting, evil, slatternly and dangerous women fighting to be heard and seen against insurmountable odds in a world run by men for men. Silent is a word that is sometimes used to describe these women, because of the paucity of first-hand evidence from women for their lives; silent can also be used to describe how the typical Roman male liked his women. Some women though broke that silence and forged an identity of their own in a largely suspicious, paranoid, patronising, critical world. It is those women whom we meet in this intriguing book. Paul Chrystal examines aspects of the Roman womans lifestyle: her evolving role in the family; the assertive, brave, pernicious and outrageous women in the public arena; we learn about womens education and of artistic, cultured women; we meet women soothsayers, witches and ghosts; we examine the role of women in religion and in the mystery cults; women as health professionals; womens medicine; womens sexuality; women as mistress, prostitute and pimp.
The Role of Women in the Roman World
Ancient Rome was a macho society, often misogynistic, where women did not enjoy equal citizen rights. That said, if we look hard at the history, we discover some women who made their mark, either working within their prescribed gender roles as wives, lovers, mothers, sisters or daughters, or exercising so much political, religious or, even in a few cases, military power that they smashed those roles altogether and struck out on their own. These women navigated this challenging terrain and left a major mark on the course of events. Without acknowledging these, the story of Rome becomes a purely masculine one, which does not capture the whys and wherefores behind many of the leaders and soldiers who rose to power in the first place. Some of their names may be familiar, like Livia, Boudicca and Saint Helena.
Freeborn women in ancient Rome were citizens (cives), but could not vote or hold political office. Because of their limited public role, women are named less.
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Freeborn women in ancient Rome were citizens cives ,  but could not vote or hold political office. But while Roman women held no direct political power, those from wealthy or powerful families could and did exert influence through private negotiations. As is the case with male members of society , elite women and their politically significant deeds eclipse those of lower status in the historical record. Inscriptions and especially epitaphs document the names of a wide range of women throughout the Roman Empire, but often tell little else about them. Some vivid snapshots of daily life are preserved in Latin literary genres such as comedy , satire , and poetry, particularly the poems of Catullus and Ovid , which offer glimpses of women in Roman dining rooms and boudoirs, at sporting and theatrical events, shopping, putting on makeup , practicing magic , worrying about pregnancy — all, however, through male eyes. The one major public role reserved solely for women was in the sphere of religion : the priestly office of the Vestals. Forbidden from marriage or sex for a period of thirty years, the Vestals devoted themselves to the study and correct observance of rituals which were deemed necessary for the security and survival of Rome but which could not be performed by the male colleges of priests.
Women in Ancient Rome did not have equal legal status with men. By law, Roman girls and women were almost always under the jurisdiction of a male, whether a paterfamilias, a husband, or a legally appointed guardian. Over the course of her life, a woman might pass from the control of one male to another—most typically, from father to husband. Despite their inferior legal status, Roman mothers were expected to be strong figures within the household, to play an important role in supervising the upbringing and education of children, and to maintain the smooth day-to-day running of the household. Above all, the Roman wife was expected to be self-effacing and to provide strong support for, but not any challenge to, the paterfamilias. Roman women in poor families often had to work hard, just like the men in the family.