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Lecture 11

Textbook Readings for Lecture 11

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University of Toronto St. George
Regina Höschele

CLA219: Women inAntiquity Text 173 173. Women demonstrate and obtain repeal of the Oppian law. Rome, 195 BC (Livy, History of Rome 34.1, excerpts. Late 1st cent. BC-early 1st cent. AD. L) • In 215 BC, after its disastrous defeat by Hannibal at Cannae, Rome passed the Oppian law, an emergency measure which limited women’s use of expensive goods • 20 years later the law was repealed against the objections of many conservatives, here present- ed by the consul and champion of traditional values, Marcus Porcius Cato • Livy’s reconstruction of the debate over the law’s repeal devotes considerable space to ethical issues raised in legislation initiated in his own time by the emperorAugustus Marcus Fountains and Lucius Valerius, tribunes of the people (I.e., plebs), brought a motion to • repeal the Oppian law before the people • It was original installed by Gaius Oppius when he was tribune during the climax of the Punic War • The law dictated that no woman might own more than half an ounce of gold nor wear a multi- colored dress (which would be expensive to dye, no doubt), nor ride in a carriage in the city or in a town within a mile of it, unless there was a religious festival • Acrowd of men: some supporters, some opponents, filled the Capitoline Hill • Matrons whom neither counsel nor shame nor their husbands orders could keep at home, blockaded every street in the city and every entrance to the Forum • As the men came down the capitoline the women asked them for their luxuries back, reasoning that the republic was thriving and that everyone’s private wealth was increasing with every day. • The crow of women grew daily - some came from outlying towns and villages • Before long they dared to go up and speak tot he consuls, praetors and other magistrates • Only one could not be moved: Marcus Porcius Cato, who spoke in favor of the law: • He says that if each man had established that the right and authority of the husband should be held over the mother of his own family, there would be less difficult with women in gen- eral • Male freedom being conquered by female fury • If not for his respect for the finite and modesty of certain women in the mob (certainly not all! He says) restrained him he would have scolded them • “Are you more charming in public with other women’s husbands than your own” - why couldn't they just bother their husband’s at home? • Yet even at home it should not be the conce
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