Online: HelRAW: Helena López Gómez 8.11.2021

The Helsinki Research on the Ancient World (HelRAW) is a monthly research seminar. HelRAW is organized by the SpaceLaw project together with the Digital Grammar of Greek Documentary Papyri (PapyGreek) project.

8.11.2021 at 17.15 (UTC+2)
Meeting ID: 636 4057 1500
Passcode: 478268

Helena López Gómez (University of Santiago de Compostela): Womanly and unwomanly behaviour in the Julio-Claudian household. Creating a role for the Roman Empress.

After 31 BCE, Octavian started shaping a new Regime. As the new regime imitated Republican tradition, the family of the political leader was intended to occupy an important space in the city’s life and, within the household, women were the protagonist. As a result, women of the imperial family were destined to develop a relevant function. Even if at the beginning of the period it seemed that Octavian’s women (Octavia and Livia) could have played a role all anew and out of Roman tradition (due to some events in 35 BCE), the truth is that, after the 27 BCE settlement, the role imperial women developed was deeply engrained in Roman mores. The principal female characters (Octavia, Livia and Julia) received a place in the public spotlight and their main duty was to represent typical womanly virtues. Following these principles, they ended up developing some functions that became the base for the role of the Roman Empress.

Nevertheless, this worked during Augustan times and part of Tiberius reign, but from Caligula onwards, we find women that, following the ancient authors’ depictions, had nothing in common with their predecessors due to their unwomanly habits and morals, all contrary to tradition. Some were just described as lust-driven creatures, but another common depiction from this moment on is the Roman Empress as a power-hungry female. However, it can be perceived that all these “bad-empresses” shared some traits related to their vital processes and families. My opinion is that, behind these accounts and shared traits, a certain development in the role of the Roman Empress can also be perceived. In this session, I will put forward a theory that explains how, even if in a different fashion from Augustan principles, those women also contributed to the shaping of the role of the Roman Empresses that Flavians and Antonines will inherit.

Helena López Gómez is currently a member of GEPN-AAT from the University of Santuago de Compostela. She does research in Ancient Roman Institutions, Roman Political History and Women’s History. She got her PdH with the thesis “The officium of Roman Emperor: the influence of the model of Augustus”, and is currently doing research on Roman Empresses of the High Empire.