Wild Wo

Like slaves, Aristotle argued, women are deficient by nature. Freeborn women possess virtues appropriate to women, but their gender incapacitates them (Arist. Pol. i26oa4). Many ancient authors accepted and promoted this view, asserting that women need special protection and surveil-lance.128 A few second-century moralists did argue that women should be educated in the virtues, especially the virtue most appropriate to women, sophrosyne. "It is necessary that a woman be chaste and self-controlled," Musonius Rufus stated (3.15).129 Sophrosyne, "moderation," when applied to a woman carried the primary meaning "chastity," that is, sexual fidelity to one's husband.130 Musonius Rufus explained, "she must, I mean, be pure in respect to unlawful intercourse, pure in other improper pleasures, not be a slave to the passions [me doulevein epithymias], or fond of strife, or extravagant, or excessive in adornment. These are the works of a female sophron" (3.15).131 A "good woman" stays at home, is quiet, beautiful, thrifty, and spins wool.132 In his criticism of the corruption of his age, Juvenal harkened back to a time when Latin wives were kept chaste. In those days, poverty kept a woman busy with toil and her hands were chafed from spinning (6.285-90).133 Pudicitia (chastity) has, unfortunately, fled and disappeared. This stereotype—a good woman stays at home, is chaste, and spins wool—prevailed even among the philosophers and moralists who supposedly took up the cause of women. Why should a woman be trained in virtue? Musonius Rufus concluded, "the teachings of philosophy exhort a woman to be content with her lot and to work with her own hands" (3.25).134

Given this definition of a "good woman," it is perhaps not surprising that when a woman was a target of abusive speech, she was regularly accused of violating sophrosyne,/pudicitia in some way. She was described as the opposite of the female sophron:135 she adorns herself with expensive, ostentatious clothing, perfumes and cosmetics; her passions are insatiable; she seeks unlawful intercourse with whomever she can, wherever she can; she is talkative or ugly or loud; she spreads rumors; she participates in reprehensible religious rituals; she, a freeborn woman, behaves like a prostitute, courtesan, actress, or musician.136 So, Demosthenes associated Aeschines' mother with prostitution. She was not just a prostitute, Demosthenes claimed, she sought sexual gratification constantly, even in a public latrine (Dem. De cor. 129-30). Furthermore, she participated in suspect religious rites, bringing her enthusiastic son along (De cor. 258—60).137 A Hellenistic epitaph accused an anonymous woman of playing the whore: "your sleepless, heavy eyes betray you, and the ribbon binding the crowns in your hair, and the ringlet shamelessly torn out, and your limbs shaking from unmixed wine. Go away, common whore, the party-loving lyre and the finger-rattling beat of castanets are calling you" (Anth. Pal. 31).138 In this epitaph, the role of prostitute and musical performer were equated, a tendency in abusive rhetoric.139 According to Suetonius, the one woman Caligula really loved, Caesonia, was known for her reckless extravagance and wanton behavior (Calig. 25.3). In his sixth satire, Juvenal offered a number of examples of good women gone bad. Eppia, a senator's wife, ran off with a gladiator (6.82—113). Emperor Claudius' wife Messalina, Juvenal asserted, crept out at night in a disguise to take her place in a brothel, taking on an assumed name, baring gilded nipples, receiving all comers for a fee, staying through until morning when, with her lust still unsatisfied, she returned to her imperial pillow (6.114—132; compare Cass. Dio 60.31.1).

Wives are having intercourse with slaves, Juvenal proclaimed. They lord it over their husbands; they attempt to fight in the arena like men; they think nothing of performing like a musician hired for a banquet; and they adorn themselves with costly jewelry and layers of cosmetics (6.345-50; 246-58; 384; 457-73).140

These attacks against women can be placed within a tradition of representation in which women could figure as signifiers in discussions about men and the larger society. The honor due a city, an emperor, or an individual man depended, in part, upon the chastity of the women they were expected to control. Conversely, corruption of city or empire was exemplified by the licentious behavior of these same women.141 Particularly interesting examples of this phenomenon are found during the early empire, a period characterized by a "rhetoric of conjugal unity" and a new criminalization of sexual licentiousness, directed primarily at the adulteries and fornications of elite women.142

At the turn of the first century b.c.e., the emperor Augustus instituted a set of laws that changed legal considerations of marriage for several centuries, the lex Julia de maritandis ordinibus (18 b.c.e.), the lex Julia de adul-teriis coercendis (17 b.c.e.), and the lex Papia Poppaea (9 c.e.). These laws, a striking innovation, set a precedent that was not lightly discarded.143 The Lex Julia made adultery a crime, defining adultery as sex between a married citizen woman and a man other than her husband.144 A father, a paterfamilias with a daughter in his "power" (patria potestas),145 who caught this daughter in the act of adultery was entitled to kill the daughter and her lover at once (D, Papinian; D, Ulpian).146 A husband could also kill the adulterer, but only if he discovered the pair in his own house or if the adulterer was a pimp, an actor, a freedman of the household, or a slave (D, Macer).147 Deliberate adultery (,adulterium) or fornication (stuprum) with a freeborn woman or man was criminalized for Roman men as well. All sex outside of marriage was a crime for free Roman women, though, whereas for men concubinage with a woman of lesser status, as well as sexual involvement with his own slaves, continued to be acceptable practices (D 24.7.1, Ulpian; D 24.7.5, Paul; D 32.49.4, Ulpian; D 48.5.35, Modestinus).148 The preservation of status was also a concern of the legislation. Senators, their sons, grandsons, and great-grandsons were forbidden to marry freedwomen, actresses, or the daughters of actors and actresses (D 23.2.44, Paul). A senator's daughter who behaved like a prostitute or an actress could marry a freedman since she "has behaved so disgracefully" that she has no honor left (D 23.2.47).149

Several suggestions regarding Augustus' intentions in promulgating these laws have been offered. Garnsey understands them as social legislation designed to rehabilitate marriage and encourage the raising of freeborn children.150 To Raditsa, the Augustan marriage laws sought to increase Italian stock and reaffirm a sense of Roman identity at a time when power was increasingly being consolidated into the figure of the emperor.151 According to Rouselle, these provisions were designed to prevent Roman men from marrying beneath them.152 McGinn argues that these laws attempted to reaffirm social status by setting up the Roman matron as the polar opposite of the meretrix (prostitute).153 Augustus himself stated that he intended to revive exemplary ancestral customs (RG 8.5). Yet Augustus was "certainly far from the truth" when he claimed that he was reviving old customs. Censors, charged with the duty of preserving Roman mores, may have disapproved of men who seduced other men's women, "but the task of keeping women in order was mostly delegated to their husbands and menfolk."154

What could Augustus have meant to imply when he took on the duty of "keeping women in order"? One possibility is that he sought to make the following point: whereas Rome was in chaos prior to his ascension, a chaos exemplified by the poor state of (feminine) morals, he brought a new order based, in part, on the restoration of the old virtues. The criminalization of the vices stuprum and adulterium signaled his seriousness in this regard. Situating the Augustan marriage legislation within the tradition of rhetorical invective, Edwards offers this sort of interpretation. She notes the frequent mention of adulterous and extravagant women in descriptions of the corruption of Roman society.155 Edwards also sites the Bacchanalian scandal, as characterized by Livy, as an instance where uncontrolled female sexuality became an emblem of both political and religious deterioration.156 Thus, by promulgating his innovative marriage laws, Augustus "may be seen as making a claim, in accordance with the conventions of Roman invective, that the Roman republic failed because its governing class was composed of men who were not men enough to control their


own wives. 157

Further examples can be found to support Edwards's reading. As we have already seen, Cicero associated his enemies with licentious aristocratic women, indicating their corruption by describing the depravity of "their" women (e.g., Cic. Cael. 49). The satires of Juvenal, though written some one hundred years after the Augustan marriage legislation, continued the same theme. The deplorable condition of Rome was represented by the flight of pudicitia from the city, exemplified by the untamed, insatiable sexual exploits of Roman aristocratic matrons.158 Horace makes the equation even more explicit, focusing on Rome's sexual immorality in his indictment of pre-Augustan Rome: "O most immoral age! First you tainted marriage, the house, and the family. Now from the same source flows pollution over fatherland and people" (Hor. Carm. 3.6). By contrast, Horace proclaimed, the Augustan moral revival has restored the city to its proper virtue. Thanks to Augustus, "the pure house is no longer sullied by adultery. Law and custom have tamed unclean lust. Mothers are proud of legitimate children. Punishment follows on the heels of guilt" (Hor. Carm. 4.5). The statement "punishment follows on the heels of guilt" probably refers explicitly to the marriage legislation.159

The behavior of daughters, mothers, and wives, therefore, could reflect on both men and city. The goodness of Rome was displayed by the purity of its freeborn women. A good husband or father was shown to be so by the proper behavior of his wife or daughters. Thus, men could be shamed by other men for neglecting to control the women in their lives or, conversely, men could derive honor by convincing others that they ruled over harmonious households.160 Edwards is not the first scholar to argue that discussions, or, in this case, legislation, about women can often be directed, to some degree, at the men with whom these women were associ-ated.161 The mention of a woman's sexual licentiousness in the context of fourth-century Athenian discourse, for example, could bring shame upon her husband, son, or father. "To preserve honor, a man had the duty both to himself and to his kin to ensure seemly behavior on the part of the women in his kyrieia."162 Plutarch claimed that in the good old days of Athens, a daughter who failed to preserve her chastity could be sold into slavery by her father, for she would have violated both herself and her family (Sol. 23).163 Similarly, Roman rhetorics that described the concordia of a household served "as a means by which aristocratic families could broadcast the moral character of their menfolk."164 Propaganda associated with the empress Livia and her opposite, Cleopatra, offer a paradigmatic example of representations of women intended to shame or promote "their" men during early empire.

Antony, we have already noted, was depicted as being everything his enemy Octavian was not: effeminate, cowardly, haphazard in his application of justice, and unable to control his passions, his lusts so detestable that they were unmentionable by modest, respectable people.165 Augustus, on the other hand, was depicted as the restorer of the mores maiorum and the greatest exemplum166 of proper Roman self-control, simplicity, modesty, and courage.167 Though Antony degraded himself with his Egyptian "wife,"168 Augustus made the better choice. His wife Livia was a shining example of Roman female virtue, or so the coins and statuary produced in her honor suggested.169 During Augustus' "moral revival," a revival accomplished not only through legislation but also by means of ambitious building projects,170 Livia dedicated a sanctuary of Concordia containing portraits of the imperial family as a model of marital harmony.171 Antony and Cleopatra, on the other hand, were remembered as emblematic of what happens when Rome is seduced by luxury and the corrupting influence of foreign ways.172 Cleopatra was not a wife at all, but a royal whore. Augustus and his proper Roman wife were portrayed as models of traditional Roman values, Antony and Cleopatra as the horrific opposite.173

Representations of the behavior of a Livia or a Cleopatra can be intended to communicate information not only about their personal virtue or vice but also about the suitability of the men with whom they were associated. Livia, the proper Roman matron, illustrates the virtue of her husband, Augustus, an emperor who restored virtue to Rome and brought concordia to both his own household and the empire.174 This is not to say that Livia did not work to promote her own political success as well as the success of her husband,175 but rather to note that representations of her, whether put forward by her, her husband, or the Senate, which had voted to honor her, carried a message that went beyond her own personal honor and position. Prior to her defeat and suicide, Cleopatra had also been honored in coin issues and honorific statuary praising her wisdom, devotion, and conjugal love (Plut. Ant. 86.9; Sen. Suas. 1.6).176 Yet after her downfall, she was not only dishonored, she became a symbol for the dishonor of Antony.177

Julia, the daughter of Augustus, offers another important example of female infamy during this period. Julia, together with her daughter, also named Julia, were "guilty of every form of vice," including adultery, and thus Augustus banished them (Suet. Aug. 65.1). Augustus, the very author of the legislation that demanded their punishment, was forced to relegate his own daughter and granddaughter to an island. Suetonius reports that he even contemplated putting his daughter to death (Aug. 65.2).178 Seneca records this incident in the following way:

The deified Augustus banished his daughter, who was shameless beyond indictment of shamelessness, and made public the scandals of the impe rial house—that she had been accessible to scores of paramours, that in nocturnal revels she had roamed about the city, that the very forum and the rostrum, from which her father had proposed a law against adultery, had been chosen by the daughter for her debaucheries, that she had daily resorted to the statue of Marsyas, and, laying aside the role of adulteress, there sold her favours, and sought the right to every indulgence with even an unknown paramour.

Whatever Julia's actual behavior may have been,180 it is worth noting that Seneca's description of her was strikingly similar to Juvenal's description of the empress Messalina and even to Demosthenes' claims about Aeschines' mother. All three prostituted themselves, and still their lusts remained unsatisfied. Julia and Aeschines' mother did so in public, Julia at a statue181 and Aeschines' mother in a public latrine. Julia and Messalina both wandered about at night seeking sexual satisfaction, or so their detractors claimed. Whatever we are to make of the behavior of the Julias, they, like Cleopatra, came to represent another female type: Roman royal femininity gone bad.182

Representations of Cleopatra, Livia, and the Julias were intended, at least in part, to send messages about men. Individual men could be evaluated according to their success at controlling women; cities could be evaluated in similar terms. We have already observed that pre-Augustan Rome was described by Horace as overrun with adulterous women. Following the rise of Augustus, Horace claimed, chastity was restored; Rome had finally mastered "her" women. Juvenal made the opposite claim; he satirized the corruption of Rome by describing the fornications of Rome's "good women" in exquisite detail, including those of the empress Mes-salina. Lucian, in his characterization of Rome as an ideal place for hedonists, remarked that the city was awash in its adulteries (Nigr. 15-16), an interesting contrast to Horace's assertions regarding the restoration of Roman chastity. According to the logic of this discourse, "good" cities are populated by "proper" women who preserve their chastity and defer to their husbands, but "bad" cities are overrun with adultery and fornication (e.g., Plut. CatMai. 8.2-3).

Therefore, accusations of sexual misbehavior lodged against women are found in numerous sources and could serve a variety of purposes. Such accusations could malign not only the women so accused but also their men, who, according to the conventions of Greco-Roman gender relations, were expected to control them. As Plutarch put it, "a man must have harmony in his household to produce harmony in the city or in the agora or among his own friends" (Mor. 144c). Women, deficient by nature, required the protection and supervision of men. Without supervision, they may fall into vice, succumbing to their voracious sexual appetites and shaming their families in the process.183 Women who were controlled and controlled themselves, exhibiting the sophrosyne/pudicitia appropriate to their gender and their station, brought honor to themselves, their families, their cities, and their nation. Indeed, true heroines of sophrosyne could even be described in "masculine" terms.184 They were "like men" in virtue, but the virtue they displayed was a virtue particular to them, chastity.185 "Bad" women shame their families, their city, and themselves by engaging in adultery and fornication; they adorn themselves with expensive perfumes and cosmetics; and they seek to satisfy their insatiable lusts at every opportunity.

0 0

Post a comment