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Judy Hallett (,
Classics 320, University of Maryland

A. Elite Roman women and Public Speech

For the traditional representation of elite Roman daughters and female blood kin as evincing and perpetuating the outstanding qualities of their fathers and other male blood relations, especially those qualities which brought these men public recognition, see the discussion of Hallett, Fathers and Daughters in Roman Society: Women and the Elite Family. Princeton l984, 338 ff. and "Women as 'Same' and 'Other' in the Classical Roman Elite", Helios 16.1 (l989) 61 ff.. For daughters as evincing and perpetuating their fathers' sermo, style of speech, see:

Cicero, Ad Quintum Fratrem 1.3.3 Quid quod eodem tempore desidero filiam? qua pietate, qua modestia, quo ingenio! effigiem oris, sermonis, animi mei

Why at the same time do I miss my daughter? What family devotion, what modesty, what intellect! She is the very image of my physical being, my style of speech, my mind?"

Brutus 211-212 Auditus est nobis Laeliae C.F. saepe sermo: ergo illam patris elegantia tinctam vidimus et filias eius Mucias ambas, quarum sermo mihi fuit notus....

"We have often heard the speech of Laelia, daughter of [the distinguished orator] Gaius Laelius: thus we have seen that she has been imbued with her father's elegance, as well as her two daughters named Muciae, whose conversation is known to me..."

Valerius Maximus 8.3.3 [early lst century BCE] repraesentata enim patris facundia impetravit ut maior pars imperata pecuniae his remitteretur. revixit tum muliebri stirpe Q. Hortensius verbisque filiae aspiravit...

"With her father's eloquence of speech brought back again, she brought it about that the greater part of the money demanded was returned to these women. Then Q. Hortensius lived again in the female line and breathed in his daughter's words."

B. Literary Interests and Education of Elite Roman Women

1. Sempronia

Sallust, Bellum Catilinae 25 [written around 40 BCE about an event of 63 BCE] Sempronia...litteris Graecis et Latinis docta...Sed ei carior semper omnia quam decus atque pudicitia fuit; pecuniae an famae minus parceret, haud facile discerneres...Verum ingenium eius haud absurdum; posse versus facere, iocum movere, sermone uti vel modesto vel molli vel procaci; prorsus multae facetiae multusque lepos inerat.

"Sempronia...learned in Greek and Latin literature[able to play the lyre and dance more elegantly than was necessary for a respectable woman]...But everything else was more precious to her than her than propriety and sexual restraint; you would have a hard time distinguishing whether she spared her money or her reputation less...But she possessed a not laughable intelligence, she was able to write verses, utter a clever jest, use modest or delicate or sexually provocative speech; in particular there were many amusing remarks and much charm in her.

On Sempronia, see T.P. Wiseman, Cinna the Poet and other Roman Essays (Leicester 1974) 153 and 158

"D[ecimus] Brutus' own mother was the Sempronia made famous by Sallust's portrait as a woman more depraved and irresponsible than befitted her years. She was a friend and supporter of Catiline and she may have had a proud radical tradition in her own family...Doubtless [Postumia] was another of those over-emancipated noblewomen of whom Decimus' mother and Clodius' sisters are the best-known examples...[H]er children at least were no strangers to the literary culture on which Sempronia and the Clodiae so prided themselves."

2. Clodia, wife of Q. Caecilius Metellus Celer (consul 60 BCE) = Catullus' Lesbia?

Apuleius, Apologia 10: Eadem igitur opera accusent C. Catullum quod Lesbiam pro Clodia nominarit, et Ticidam similiter quod quae Metella erat Perillam scripserit, et Propertium, qui Cynthiam dicat Hostiam dissimulet, et Tibullum, quod ei sit Plania in animo, Delia in versu.

Thus by the same principle they would accuse C. Catullus because he allegedly called a woman Lesbia instead of Clodia, and Ticidas similarly because she who was Metella he allegedly wrote about as Perilla, and Propertius, because he calls a woman Cynthia and disguises Hostia, and Tibullus, because Plania was in his heart, Delia in his poetry.

Suetonius, De Grammaticis 10: "'Sallust was in particular aided in [his penchant for archaism] by Ateius Praetextatus, a renowned Latin grammarian, later a critic and teacher of declaimers, and finally called Philologus by himself.' Ateius himself wrote...that he had been the teacher of many and brilliant young men, among whom were the brothers Appius and Claudius/Clodius Pulcher, whose companion he was in their provinces...

De Rhetoribus 5: "Sextus Clodius of Sicily, a professor of both Latin and Greek eloquence, of bad eyesight and sarcastic, would say that he had worn out a pair of eyes during his friendship with Mark Antony the triumvir; and of Antony's wife Fulvia, of whom one cheek was rather swollen, he said, 'she tempts the point of my pen,' nor for this reason was he less but rather more pleasing to Antony..."

And cf. Wiseman, 146: "The Claudii had three young men on the verge of brilliant careers who wold be a source of lucrative commissions [to the Greek poet Thyillus] for years to come. So would their sisters, and Clodia Metelli was herself an amateur of poetry (citing Cicero, Pro Caelio 64, which refers to her as a poetria).

Cicero, Pro Caelio 64: Velut haec tota fabella veteris et plurimarum fabularum poetriae quam est sine argumento, quam nullum invenire exitum potest.

"As if this entire little drama--the work of a female poet who is old and the author of innumerable literary works, how it is without plot, how it is able to find no conclusion."

3. Pompey's wife (either Julia, daughter of Julius Caesar, or Cornelia), prior to 52 BCE

Suetonius, De Grammaticis 14: Curtius Nicias haesit Cn. Pompeio et C. Memmio; sed cum codicillos Memmi ad Pompei uxorem de stupro pertulisset, proditus ab ea, Pompeium offendit; domoque ei interdictum est.

[The professor of literature] Curtius Nicias was attached to Gnaeus Pompeius and Gaius Memmius; but when he had brought a note from Memmius to Pompey's wife proposing a sexually disgraceful act, betrayed by her, he offended Pompey; he was forbidden access to Pompey's house.

Plutarch, Pompey 55: Pompey now entered Rome and married Cornelia, a daughter of Metellus Scipio (consul 52 BC). She was not a virgin, but had recently been left a widow by her first husband Publius, the son of Crassus, who had been killed in Parthia. The young woman had many charming qualities apart from her youth and beauty. She had a good knowledge of literature, or playing the lyre, and of geometry; and she was a regular and intelligent listener to lectures on philosophy.

4. [Caecilia] Metella, daughter of Q. Caecilius Metellus Celer (cos. 60 BCE) and Clodia; wife of P. Lentulus Spinther

cf. Wiseman, 111: "Did Lesbia have any children?...Clodia Metelli is described as 'materfamilias' in the pro Caelio...A much better indication comes from Cicero's correspondence, in 45 BC, about the purchase of a suitable suburban site for the shrine he proposed to put up to his daughter Tullia, who had recently died. One of the horti he had in mind belonged to a wealthy lady named Clodia, who was out of Rome at the time but liked the place so much that she was unwilling to sell. Clodia Metelli was wealthy and had horti on the Tiber bank opposite the Campus Martius, carefully chosen--as Cicero had maliciously put it in 56--at the place where the young men went to swin. The identity of the gardens, and the Clodiae, has been deduced from Cicero's train of thought in one of his letters. 'You seem to be in some doubt about Clodia', he writes to Atticus,'is it about when she is coming back or whether the place is for sale? But what is this I hear about Spinther divorcing his wife?' P. Lentulus Spinther did in fact divorce his wife that month, and her name was Metella. 'It doesn't depend on Lentulus,' Cicero had remarked twelve days earlier about one of the sites he wanted, perhaps Clodia's. The inference was convincingly made by Professor Shackleton Bailey that Clodia and Lentulus Spinther were connected in Cicero's mind because Spinther's wife Metella was the daughter of Metellus Celer and the Clodia of the pro Caelio. She was probably in her twenties at the time of the divorce."

and Wiseman, 188: "It was probably about 53 BC that the daughter of Q. Metellus Celer and Clodia married P. Lentulus Spinther...This able young aristocrat was the son of a man whose politics must have appealed more to the conservative Metellus Celer than to Clodia and her brothers. Perhaps the betrothal of their daughter was one of the reasons for Clodia's 'civil war' with Metellus in the year before his death (cf. Cicero, ad Atticum 2.1.5, 'But I hate that woman [Clodia] poorly suited to consular rank. She is indeed full of uprisings and she wages war with her husband, not only with Metellus but also with Fabius...')

...In 45...part of the city's gossip was [Spinther's] divorce from Metella because of her infidelity with P. Dolabella. This liaison had been going on at least since 47, when Dolabella as tribune was pursuing a radical programme of debt-abolition, with a statue of Clodius to remind him of his popularis predecessors--much to the fury of Cicero, to whose daughter Dolabella was then married. Metella's husband was committed to the Pompeian cause, as was L. Metellus, her cousin, whose presence in Italy Caesar declared he would not tolerate. After the destruction of Pompey at Pharsalus in 48, the family needed all the help it could get, and it would be an appropriate moment for Metella to make advances to one of Caesar's most promising young men, who no doubt even then had hopes of the consulship to which the dictator was going to promote him in 44.

It is likely that Metella had had her contacts in the Caesarian camp even before this. In late 47 or early 46 a Roman Knight called L. Ticida, sailing with a convoy of supplies for Caesar's army in Africa, was captured and put to death by Metellus Scipio. He was probably the poet Ticida, a writer who, like Catullus and Propertius, celebrated his mistress under a pseudonym: he called her Perilla, but her real name was Metella.

It was evidently a name famous in the writings of the poets of that generation. When Ovid named for his own justification the erotic authors who had preceded him, he invoked Catullus, Calvus, Ticida, Memmius, Cinna, Anser, Cornificius, Valerius Cato,

et quorum libris modo dissimulata Perillae
nomine, nunc legitur dicta, Metelle, tuo

and those who once disguised as 'Perilla' the woman
who now bears in their books Metellus' name.

Who were these nameless poets? One well-known name otherwise missing from Ovid's roll-call was Furius Bibaculus, twice mentioned in the company of Ticida and Valerius a Caesarian propagandist [he] would fit in with Ticida and Dolabella...

Her last known lover was M. Clodius Aesopus, son of Aesopus the famous tragic actor, who was supposed to have dissolved a pearl from Metella's ear as an exercise in calculated extravagance; his father had left him twenty million sesterces (Horace, Sat.II 3.239 and scholiasts...Porphyrion's note on the Horace passage...quoting the poet Maevius...describes Metella as Aesopus' wife; the word must have been used ironically...). Money as well as influence was useful to Metella's family. They could no longer finance themselves from the spoils of empire, and if they were now prepared to forget their aristocratic pride and engage in the despised pursuit of banking, an actor's wealth would be grist to the mill as well.

No more is hear of Metella. The rest of her story, like the poetry she inspired, is lost to us..."

5. Propertius' Cynthia (Hostia)

Propertius 2.3 (19-22: et quantum, Aeolio cum temptat carmina plectro,/par Aganippeae ludere docta lyrae;/ et sua cum committit scripta Corinnae,/carminae Erinnes non putat aequa suis)

and 3.20.8 splendidaque a docto fama refulget avo

brilliant renown gleams from your learned grandfather

6. Attica, daughter of Titus Pomponius Atticus, first wife of Marcus Agrippa (51 BCE- ; married 37 BCE)

Suetonius, De Grammaticis 16: Quintus Caecilius Epirota, Tusculi natus, libertus Attici equitis Romani, ad quem sunt Ciceronis epistulae, cum filiam patroni nuptam M. Agrippae doceret, suspectus in ea et ob hoc remotus, ad Cornelium Gallum se contulit vixitque una familiarissime, quod ipsi Gallo inter gravissima crimina ab Augusto obicitur. Post deinde damnationem mortemque Galli scholam aperuit...

Quintus Caecilius Epirota, born at Tusculum, a freedman of Atticus, a Roman knight, to whom Cicero wrote letters, when he was teaching the daughter of his patron--the wife of Marcus Agrippa--was suspected of inappropriate conduct toward her and for this reason removed from his post; he went over to Cornelius Gallus and lived together with him in a most intimate way, which was held against Gallus himself by Augustus among the most serious charges. After Gallus was condemned and died, he opened up a school...

7. Sulpicia, daughter of Servius Sulpicius Rufus and Valeria, sister of M. Valerius Messalla Corvinus (consul 31 BCE).

*On Sulpicia's father and his putative dates, see Ronald Syme, "A Great Orator Mislaid", Classical Quarterly 31 (l981) 421-427, who cites:

Ovid, Tristia 2.441-442 nec minus Hortensi, nec sunt minus improba Servi

carmina. quis dubitet nomina tanta sequi?

"No less naughty were the poems of Hortensius, no less naughty the poems of Servius. Who would hesitate to follow such names?"

Pliny, Epistles 5.3.5 (on his insufficiently respectable little poetic efforts, versiculi severi parum), and other authors of playful literary works, lusus: sed ego verear ne me non satis deceat, quod decuit M. Tullium, C. Calvum, Asinium Pollionem, M. Messalam, Q. Hortensium, M. Brutum, L. Sullam, Q. Catulum, Q. Scaevolam, Servium Sulpicium, Varronem, Torquatum, immo Torquatos, C. Memmium, Lentulum Gaetulicum, Annaeum Senecam et proxime Verginium Rufum, et si non sufficiunt exempla privata, divum Iulium, divum Augustum, divum Nervam, Tiberium Caesarem?

Munzer, RE IV A, 862 and Shackleton Bailey on Cicero, Ad Atticum 5.4.1 (Servius Sulpicius' death "not long after" 43 B.C.) vs. Horace, Satires 1.10. 85 ff. (evidence that the Pro Aufidia was delivered by Sulpicia's father, in the period 39-32 B.C.): Pollio, te, Messalla, tuo cum fratre simulque/vos, Bibule et Servi, simul his te, candide Furni.

ILS 3103, for Sulpicia Ser. f., who married a Cassius. See Munzer RE IV A, 878 f. (identifying her as the amita of our Sulpicia).

*For the family of Sulpicia's mother Valeria, see Wiseman 128 ff., who makes her the half-sister of L. Gellius Publicola, consul in 36 BC. Catullus attacks this Gellius in 91.5 for lusting after his own mother and sister, presumably this Valeria. This Gellius' grandmother was married to Lucius Philippus, son of a Claudia who was the aunt of Catullus' Lesbia.

See also Wiseman, "Sirmio, Sir Ronald and the Gens Valeria," Classical Journal 88.3 (l993) 223-229. He notes that Sir Ronald Syme had "picked up something""on the important question of the relationship between the Valerii Catulli of Verona [Catullus' family] and the patrician Valerii Messallae [the family of Sulpicia's mother]. He conjectures that the daughter of M. Valerius Messalla Corvinus (i.e. the poet Sulpicia's first cousin) married her daughter to an L. Valerius Catullus, grandson or great-nephew of Catullus the poet.

* For Sulpicia's brother, see now James Butrica, "Lygdamus, nephew of Messalla?", Liverpool Classical Monthly 18.4 (April 1993) 51-53: "The poet who called himself Lygdamus, author of the elegies to 'Neaera' which constitute 3.1-6 in the Corpus Tibullianum, remains an enigma; he is the only Roman erotic poet who conceals his own identity as well as his beloved's behind a pseudonym, and he indicates his year of birth with a line identical to one used by Ovid in the Tristia...[He] was long assumed to be Tibullus, but ever since J.H. Voss first challenged this identification at the end of the eighteenth century, various candidates have been advanced...This paper proposes a new candidate, Ser. Sulpicius Postumius...

[Postumius] identified as one of the two adiutores assigned to Messalla when he undertook the newly created office of curator aquarum in 11 BC; since Frontinus styles [Postumius] praetorius, he had presumably held the office of praetor...His mother was Messalla's sister Valeria, his father Ser. Sulpicius Rufus; he was therefore brother of the poet Sulpicia and Messalla's nephew (and probably, like Sulpicia, his ward as well). Lygdamus belonged to a wealthy Roman family and gives his year of birth as 43 BC, a date consistent with having held the praetorship by 11...His connection with Messalla's family would explain the presence of his agreeable but amateurish poetry alongside his sister's epigrams in the Corpus Tibullianum. In addition, the identification allows us to explain not only his choice of pseudonym but also the fact that he used one at all...No contemporary reader of Latin love poetry could fail to be reminded of the slave Lygdamus who figures in Propertius 3.6, 4.7 and 4.8. Perhaps the name was intended as a sort of literary allusion, to mark the writer as a humble imitator of the master poet Propertius, or to hint at the lover's status as his mistress' 'slave', but it could also have been chosen to hint at Postumius' own praenomen Servius by reproducing the name of a slave (servus) who figured prominently in the work of a contemporary love poet. Lygdamus would thus obey the 'rule' that the pseudonyms of Latin elegy are metrical equivalents of the names they conceal, but would be unique in basing his upon a praenomen rather than a nomen...Moreover his status as a member of an aristocratic family would explain why he concealed his identity at all. The elegists who wrote under their own names (Sulpicia included) were people who did not seek the kind of public career expected from a young man of Postumius' background, and so had nothing to lose by baring their own identities...If Lygdamus was indeed Ser. Sulpicius Postumius, then he belonged to a family in which erotic poetry had perhaps become a tradition...Postumius and his sister could represent a third generation of amateur love poets in the gens Sulpicia."

8. Perilla, addressed in Ovid, Tristia 3.7

For Ovid's stepdaughter, see:

Tristia 1.3.97-98 nec gemuisse minus, quam si nataeque meumque/vidisset structos corpus habere rogos.

[My wife is said to] have not groaned less than if she had seen heaped up funeral pyres holding my body and that of her daughter.

5.5. 19-20 illa domo nataque sua patriaque fruatur/--erepta haec uni sit satis esse mihi.

[May my wife on her birthday] enjoy her home, and her daughter, and her native country,--let it be enough that she has been snatched from me alone.

Epistulae Ex Ponto 4.8.11-12 nam tibi quae coniunx, eadem mihi filia paene est,/et quae te generum, me vocat illa virum.

90 pro socero paene precare tuo

[to Suilius] For she who is your wife, the same woman is almost my daughter/and she who calls you son-in-law calls me husband.

to beg on behalf of someone almost your father-in-law.

9. Augustus' daughter Julia (39 BCE-AD 14)

Macrobius, Saturnalia 2.5 Vultis aliqua et filiae eius Iuliae referamus?....cum alioquin litterarum amor multaque eruditio, quod in illa domo facile erat...cumque conscii flagitiorum mirarentur quo modo similes Agrippae filios pareret, quae tam vulgo potestatem corporis sui faceret, ait: numquam enim nisi navi plena tollo vectorem.

Do you want me to relate some things about Augustus' daughter Julia too?...anyhow, since she possessed a love of literature and much intellectual knowledge, which was easy to obtain in that household...when those aware of her sexually disgraceful escapades marveled at how she bore offspring resembling [her husband] Agrippa, she --who made the possession of her own body such a widely-distributed favor--said: I never take aboard a passenger unless I have a full cargo.

Suetonius, De Grammaticis 19: Scribonius Aphrodisius, Orbilii servus atque discipulus, mox a Scribonia Libonis filia, quae prior Augusti uxor fuerat, redemptus et manumissus, docuit quo Verrius tempore, cuius etiam libris "De Orthographia" rescripsit, non sine insectatione studiorum morumque eius.

Scribonius Aphrodisius, the slave and student of Orbilius, soon bought and set free by Scribonia, daughter of Libo, who had been the earlier wife of Augustus, taught at the same time as Verrius, about whose books "On Spelling," he wrote a critique, not without an attack on his scholarly efforts and personal habits.


C. New Texts at Vindolanda: The Sapphic and Sulpician female literary tradition in the letter from Claudia Severa to Sulpicia Lepidina; the quote from Vergil, Aeneid 9. 473

Alan K. Bowman and J. David Thomas, "New Texts from Vindolanda", Britannia 18 (l987) 125-142.

With linguistic commentary by J.N. Adams.

Inv. no. 85/57: i

cl. severa lepidinae [suae


iii idus septembr[e]s soror ad diem

sollemnem natalem meum rogo

libenter facias ut venias

ad nos iucundiorem mihi


[diem] interventu tuo factura si

[venie]s vacat

cerial[em t]uum saluta aelius meus

et filiolus salutant vacat

sperabo te soror

vale soror anima

mea ita valeam

karissima et have

Back sulpiciae lepidinae

[flavi]i cerialis

[a se]vera

Translation: 'Claudia Severa to her Lepidina greetings. On the third day before the Ides of September (11th), sister, for the day of the celebration of my birthday, I give you a warm invitation to make sure that you come to us, to make the day more enjoyable for me by your arrival, if you come.

Give my greetings to your Cerealis. My Aelius and my little son send their greetings.

(2nd hand) 'I shall expect you, sister. Farewell, sister, my dearest soul, as I hope to prosper, and hail.'

(3rd hand) 'To Sulpicia Lepidina, (wife) of Flavius Cerialis, from Severa.'

For animae meae addressed by a woman to another woman, see Peregrinatio Aetheriae 19-19 [sic]

For female blood kin at female birthday parties, see Ovid, Tristia 5.5 and Tibullus 3.12 (Incertus Auctor de Sulpicia)15 praecipit et natae mater studiosa quod optet (the mother eagerly instructs her daughter what to wish for). For Cerinthus' birthday party, see also Tibullus 3.11 (Incertus Auctor?)

Inv. no. 85/137

front: salutem

rogo..g vacat

rogo frater karissim


TA UBEM (I.e. Aeneid 9. 473 Interea pavidam volitans pennata per urbem/nuntia Fama ruit matrisque adlabitur auris/Euryali).

Translation:'Greetings, I seek...I seek, dearest brother

'Meanwhile [winged Rumor] flying through the frightened [city rushes, and slips to the ears of Euryalus' mother'].