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Public Life

167. Women who risked their lives to save their husbands'. Rome, 43 B.C. (Appian, Civil War 4.39-40, 2nd cent A.D. G)

According to the historian Appian, writing in Greek in the second century A.D., the proscriptions following the assassination of Julius Caesar elicited remarkable examples of wives' devotion to their husbands.

Acilius managed to escape from the city without being detected, but when a slave told the soldiers where he was, he persuaded them by a promise of greater financial reward to send some of their number to his wife with a special tokens that he gave them. When they came she gave them all her jewellery so that they would do what they promised, without knowing whether they would, but she was not disappointed in her loyalty. The soldiers hired a ship for Acilius and sent him to Sicily.

Lentulus' wife asked him if she could accompany him in his escape and kept an eye on him for this purpose, but he did not wish her to share the danger with him, he managed to escape to Sicily without her noticing. When Pompey appointed him praetor there he let her know that he was safe and serving as praetor. When his wife knew where in the world he was, she got away from her mother (who she knew was watching her) and escaped with two slaves. She travelled with the slaves in difficult and rough conditions, like a fellow-slave, until she sailed from Rhegium[1] to Messina, landing in the evening. She discovered without difficulty where the praetor's tent was, and found Lentulus living not as a praetor should, but on a pallet and with dishevelled hair and wretched food because he was longing for his wife.

(40) Apuleius' wife threatened to inform on him if he escaped without her. So he unwillingly took her along, and successfully avoided suspicion in his escape because he was travelling openly with his wife and male and female slaves.

Antius' wife wrapped him in a bag of bed coverings and gave the bag to hired porters, and he managed to get from, his house to the sea, from where he escaped to Sicily.

Rheginus' wife hid him in a sewer at night, which the soldiers had not been prepared to enter by day because of the stench, and the next night she disguised him as a charcoal-seller and had him drive a donkey carrying the charcoal. She herself went on a short distance ahead, being carried in a litter. When a soldier at the city-gates became suspicious of the litter and searched it, Rheginus became apprehensive and ran up and like a wayfarer told the soldier not to harass women. After the soldier had addressed him angrily, as if he were a charcoal-seller, he recognised Rheginus (he had been with him on campaign in Syria) and said, 'Please go ahead, general, for that is the title that I still ought to use for you'.

Coponius' wife asked Antony for her husband's freedom; she had been chaste before that, and now cured one misfortune by another.


Notes:

1. Reggio Calabria.