Roman women in public and private sectors Justin Reyes
Roman sources such as Pliny, the funeral eulogy of Turia, and the article by Judith Hallett illustrate the lives of Roman women in Imperial Rome. Although manyof these sources were written by men they are the only sources that provide us witha glimpse of the Roman women during the imperial years of Rome. Since thesesources were written by men, we only get an idealized perspective of the Romanwomen instead of real factual account. Yet scholars are very dependent on thesesources to provide an account of the role of Roman women in the public and privatesector. For example, Letters from Pliny the younger describe Roman women ascompletely devoted to their husband and the funeral eulogy of Turia gives us theglimpse of marriage and divorce. The role of Roman women in the public sector wasvery limited, but through marriage Roman women were highly influential in thissector. In private, Roman women were devoted wives, daughters, and to theirhousework.Marriage was an honored institution that brought a family economic, political,and social benefits in the public sector. Since it was Roman law that no Romanwomen could vote or run for public office, Roman sought to influence the publicsector through marriage. At the time marriage was highly regarded and started atan early age. This is illustrated in Pliny letter to Aefulanus Marcellinus where Plinystates “She was already engaged to marry a distinguished young man, the day forthe wedding was fixed, and we had received our invitations”. It may be noted thatthe girl that Pliny writes about in his letter was only 13 years old. Even at an earlyage, Roman mothers played matchmaker and were already planning for theirdaughters to wed. Often Roman women disregarded the emotional or physicalappeal that you often find in modern marriages when arranging marriage. InsteadRoman women sought distinguished men with noble family ties that can bring theirfamily wealth and influence. Judith P. Hallett makes this evident in “Perspectives onRoman women” when she states “While begetting legitimate offspring toperpetuate the family was the most valued of these functions, it was far from theonly one. The creation of alliances between families, and the benefits that suchalliances brought to these families’ quest for public distinction and material gain,loomed no less consequentially”(Hallett 6). Through these family ties Romanwomen sought to counter their limited role in the public sector by heavilyinfluencing distinguished and often political men through the marriage of theirdaughters. This in turn brought the economic, political, and social security.Although Roman women were crafting in their role as matchmaker, Roman womenin private according to the sources were to be highly devoted to their husbands andfathers.