History : May-Jun 2018
38 MAY/JUNE 2018 To avoid bloodshed, the Sabine women acqui- esced to marry their captors. The myth reflects how Rome expected women to submit and obey. As Rome moved from republic to empire, these old values would change—shaped by war, pros- perity, and politics. Daughters, Mothers, and Wives In public and private life, Rome was a man’s world. Roman families were run by the oldest living male, called the paterfamilias, or father of the family. He made private de- cisions for the family, managing their wealth and property and determining R evealing insights into ancient Roman attitudes toward women are found in one of the city’s origin stories. Romu- lus, founder and leader of Rome, knew the city needed families to survive and prosper, but it had no women. Romulus ap- proached the neighboring Sabine kingdom, but it declined to send Rome its daughters. Unde- terred, he crafted a plan: Romulus held a marvel- ous festival and invited the Sabines. During the festivities, he gave a signal to the Roman men, who seized the Sabine women and fought off their men. AGAINST THEIR WILL A detail from Nicolas Poussin’s 1637-38 painting “The Rape of the Sabine Women” (above) depicts the brutal legend of how Rome boosted its female population. Louvre Museum, Paris PHAS/GETTY IMAGES MOTHERS, HEROINES, RULERS 450 b.c. 146 b.c. Rome’s legal code, the Law of the Twelve Tables, is compiled. Tablet V places women under the control of male heads of the household, setting the tone for many centuries to come. The Punic Wars with Carthage result in Rome’s mastery of the Mediterranean. Cornelia, daughter of Scipio Africanus the Elder and mother to the Gracchus brothers, is held up as an example of an ideal modest Roman matron. BRIDGEMAN/ACI THE GODDESS VESTA BLESSES A MARRIAGE ON A RELIEF FROM THE SECOND CENTURY A.D.