roman women

Join Dr. Kathryn Welch on this 5-hour elective PD course as she takes you on a journey through the life of women in Rome, Pompeii and Herculaneum and the life of Agrippina the Younger. Explore the social, legal and political life of women and discover how this applies this background to what we know of women in the Vesuvius cities, before turning our attention to the women of Imperial Rome and the first generations of the imperial house.

Finally, Kathryn will offer two detailed lectures on our evidence for the life and career of Agrippina II via a study of Tacitus and a study of her visual imagery (coins, statues and other representations). By putting the pieces together, we offer you the opportunity to plan an overall program for your class as well as being the first in the know to exciting new scholarship that challenges the traditional view of the place of women in Rome and how we read their lives.

$360 (+GST)

In this course you will learn

Part 1: Understanding Roman Women.

This lecture will outline the economic and social context for Roman women and especially how some (but not all) could determine their economic circumstances in ways that until recently were out of reach for many European women. Our special focus will be on the married woman and her prominence in the religious and social life of her community, especially if she was wealthy and well-connected.

Part 2: The Women of Pompeii and Herculaneum

The unique body of evidence that comes to us from the Vesuvius region allows a fascinating glimpse of women of all levels of society. While Eumachia and Mamia of Pompeii are reasonably well known, however, the equally impressive women of Herculaneum such as Viciria Archas and Vibidia Saturnina are not – and should be. But there is more. The documents from the area potentially show women engaged in a variety of business activities but commentators have traditionally preferred any explanation than the obvious one (that this was normal) to explain away their activity.

Part 3: Who was Livia?

In the first century CE, Rome, having emerged from prolonged civil war, had to come to grips with a new system of government that we call the principate. The concentration on one family (or one amalgamation of several families) cast a spotlight on its women, the first and most prominent of whom is Livia. This talk will track Livia’s life from her marriage to Tiberius Claudius Nero to her death in 29 CE – by then the wife and mother of Rome’s first principes, Augustus and Tiberius. Doing so will allow us to track the changing situation of women against the background of an unstable political and social context. We will see that Livia had a much more positive reputation in her lifetime and even directly after her death than we automatically assume. Far from being the illicit “power behind the throne” she was expected to be (and was) prominent in Rome and across the empire. The younger Agrippina took her for a model but what seemed to work for Livia was sharply criticised in Agrippina. Better knowledge of Livia not only allows us to reassess our information on the women of the “Julio-Claudian” dynasty, but also to test our own assumptions (along with Tactitus’s) about the younger Agrippina.

Part 4: Agrippina in Words and Pictures

What are we to make of Tacitus’ treatment of Agrippina? And can we balance the image the historian draws of her in words with the dazzling array of visual material. This last session will reread both texts and images in detail in the light of the previous sessions in order to see how she was similar to or different from her predecessors.

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About dr. kathryn

A/Prof Kathryn Welch is an honorary associate professor from the University of Sydney where she taught Ancient History between 1991 and 2021 with an emphasis on the Roman Republic and the early empire. Before that, she spent six years as an Ancient History teacher at Kogarah High School, but she has never lost her connection with students and teachers as a popular presenter at conferences and professional learning days. Dr Kathryn is also co-director of the Pompeii Cast Project with Dr. Estelle Lazer. Her current research interest is in constructing syllabuses and modes of study in order to test the assumptions embedded in the minds of ancients and in our own time.