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CLA219H1 Lecture Notes - Poppaea Sabina

Course Code
Melanie Racette- Campbell

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December 2, 2010
Left-over notes from last week…
More scope for courtesans to act more publically in the Hellenistic period, tied to
the increasing freedom of men
»Could become more wealthy, etc. but generally weren’t as politically active as
queens were
»More of the anecdotes about them were of witty sayings, etc.
Rare for a hetaira to transition from mistress to wife
»Makes sense, they’re conceptually categorically different
Before Hellenistic period, existed in both literature and real life
»Come to their highest prominence in both these areas in the Hellenistic Period
In classical age
»Began as generally negative figures, associated with greed and bodily pleasure
in literature
»Not generally characterized as individuals, were more just the ‘stock type’ of
a hetaira
In later classical period (about 4th century BC), attained greater individuality in
literature, and occasional portrayal of courtesans as having skills more than just
purely sexual (as being good, charming, beautiful)
In Hellenistic age, while negative portrayals of greedy and destructive hetaira
certainly still exist, we see the good hetaira stereotype appearing in literature,
especially New Comedy
»The Good Hetaira is generally virtuous and likeable, despite men’s prejudice
in the plays towards them, and may even act in ways that benefit the
respectable women in the plays, even when it’s no in their own best interests
to do so
»The old men in these plays (fathers) often see courtesans as threats to social
order and family stability, and some of them, are, temporarily, but at ends of
these plays, everyone returns to stable families, good resolutions, etc
Hetaira sometimes are shown to bring about this resolution
One thing about these hetaira is that because they’re not respectable women, they
can actually do more on stage than good virtuous/virginal girls
»May even act as proxys for respectable women in plays
Ex: play by Menander, when a hetaira helps to understand the identity of a
recovered baby

Only pages 1-3 are available for preview. Some parts have been intentionally blurred.

Ex: courtesan giving up something that would have been advantageous to
her so that a citizen marriage can be possible
In contrast to the well-developed characters of courtesans in comedies, in
epigrams at this time, the courtesans are less individual and more a generic part of
their literature
»Generally associated with the symposium
»Exploration of emotions
»Occasionally there are epigrams that are supposedly speaking for an epigram
The few that do talk about how she has been betrayed by her man—
interesting especially in a genre that usually focuses on the (bad) nature of
women in this respect
As early as the 3rd century BCE, courtesans were associated with Athens
Courtesans as entertainers and transmitters of culture—not just a light entertainer,
she can engage with and transform serious literature like tragedy and epic
Besides transforming preexisting literature, Hellenistic hetaira were said to have
written erotic and symposic literature
In literature, they appear to exist on somewhat of an equal footing with the men of
their lives
Hetaira rarely involved in public life, but moreso private, but one where women
and men could banter back and forth and have (equal) friendships

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(This week’s notes)
Women of the Roman Imperial House
Noblewomen in late Republic had gained unpresidented freedom and independence,
or some of them had
In their sexual freedom, practical control of their own resources, and access to
divorce, they were potentially more liberated than women in Europe or North
America were potentially 100 years ago
These freedoms awoke anxieties in many men at the time
Believed women’s freedom would inevitably lead to bad behaviour, extravagance,
crime, and lead to murder, burglary, etc.
Women were believed to lack self-control, which justified keeping them under the
control of others
»Women like Clodia and Simpronia were used as examples
On a whole, the vast majority of wealthy Roman women did use their money to
support their families, mainly their husbands and sons
The combination of these two ideas, corruption, and lack of self control, and
promotion of male relatives can be seen in the women and empresses of the Imperial
family at a much larger scale than would be seen in any noble women of the Late
Historical Background…
In 44 BC, Julius Caesar, after making himself essentially the sole ruler of Rome, is
After his death, and the chaos, a group of three men form the Triumvirate, who’s
main goals were to avenge Caesar’s death and to restore civility to Rome, and to
make themselves richer and more powerful in the process: Marc Antony (one of
Caesar’s generals), Marcus Amelius Lepidus (another of Caesar’s right-hand men),
Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (Julius Caesar’s great nephew, and adopted son)
At the time of Caesar’s death, Antony and Lepidus were more powerful than
Octavian at the time, who was just a teen at the time
After Caesar, the empire was divided, with Lepidus in the west (essentially becoming
a third wheel to the Triumvirate), Octavian in Rome, and Antony in the East
Lepidus quickly became insignificant, but a fierce rivalry grew between Antony and
Antony married Octavian’s sister, in 40 BC, in an attempt to cement their relationship
Later, in the 30’s BC, Antony basically abandons Octavia for a more profitable
relationship with Cleopatra
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