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In: Women and the Roman City in the Latin West


Spoken and unspoken rules, fuelled by what was deemed ‘natural’ and therefore proper, dictated the performance of men and women in Rome’s civic society. Travel was one of the social practices that catapulted women into the ‘public’ domain. The so-called domiseda, the wife who stayed at home, seemed to be more in agreement with Roman society’s gendered ideas of the ‘proper’ Roman way of life. In this contribution, I will assess the value that ancient writers attached to, on the one hand, the wife who accompanied her husband during the Republican civil wars out of Rome and, on the other hand, the wife who stayed behind. I will illustrate that picturing women as the embodied link between the displaced elite men of Rome and their patria is a common thread in literary discourse, from Republican to early or mid-imperial writers, in history, biography, exemplary literature, or oratory. Contrary to what one might expect, stay-behind wives were not considered more in accordance with society’s moral compass than the wives who joined their husbands abroad.

In: The Public Lives of Ancient Women (500 BCE-650 CE)
In: Mnemosyne
In: Mnemosyne