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Introduction: Cornelia and her maternal legacy.

At De lingua latina 10.41, Marcus Terentius Varro, one of our major authorities on how Romans spoke and thought during the late republican period, offers the following analogy: "Among offspring the son is to the father as the daughter is to the mother, and in matters of time noon is to the day just as midnight is to the night" (ut in progenie quomodo est filius ad patrem, sic est filia ad matrem, et ut est in temporibus meridies ad diem, sic media nox ad noctem). Whether Varro's analogy likens men and their male children to daylight, and women and their female children to nighttime, is far from clear. But Varro clearly views Roman mothers as having something important in common with their daughters--a quality that daughters distinctively distill in the way that midnight captures the essence of nighttime--and more in common with their daughters than with their sons.

It is therefore noteworthy that the only extant appearance of the inchoative Latin verb matresco (to become like one's mother) occurs in tragic lines spoken not by a daughter, but by a son who wishes that he were more like his mother, at least in one particular respect. These lines, quoted and glossed by the later grammarian Nonius, survive as a fragment from an early Latin, Greek-style tragedy by the second-century B.C.E. playwright Pacuvius, curiously titled Dulorestes or "Orestes as a slave." (1) In this play, matresco, a verb that describes growing to resemble one's mother, is uttered by the enslaved title character in an optative subjunctive form: Utinam nunc matrescam ingenio, ut meum patrem ulcisci queam (Now if only I should be able to become like my mother in cleverness, so that I may be able to avenge my father).

It is significant, too, that the specific maternal trait this son desires to possess--ingenium (inborn cleverness, talent)--is a quality of mind, a quality that he deems desirable in decidedly manly undertakings, namely his efforts to retaliate for the slaying of his father. (2) Ironically so, for in the Greek tragedies on which Pacuvius bases his drama, Orestes' mother Clytemnestra employs her ingenium, the quality that her son wishes to possess, to slay his father Agamemnon, the very act her son seeks to avenge. (3)

Indeed, Pacuvius's choice of the verb matresco for this Greek literary scenario complicates Varro's simplistic representation of the resemblances between mothers and their female offspring, and the resemblances between fathers and their male offspring. Varro, after all, characterizes these resemblances as, like the difference between night and day, basic to the natural order of things, and as implicitly precluding important resemblances between parents and children of the opposite sex. Pacuvius not only depicts this maternal trait and the conduct it makes possible as valued by a young man struggling to vindicate his father's murder; he also portrays this young man's vengeance as proof that he is a courageous, dutiful male family member.

What is more, in characterizing this particular, albeit Greek and mythic, mother as engaged in clever conduct harmful to her menfolk, and as recognized by her son as worth emulating merely because of her display of inborn cleverness, Pacuvius also foreshadows numerous representations of mothers, Greek and Roman, mythic and actual, by a variety of classical Roman sources. As the essays in this collection illustrate, Roman mothers are often characterized as "action figures" rather than as passive presences, as possessing qualities shared and admired by male kinfolk, and as using their minds in ways that harm as well as help family members. So, too, these sources frequently portray the relationships between Roman mothers and their male children as complex and conflicted, and depict mothers themselves as offering strong resistance as well as support to the endeavors of their sons and of other kinsmen.

Inasmuch as most of these Roman sources come from elite backgrounds themselves, or take a particular interest in elite members of their milieu, or both, many of the mothers they depict come from privileged and influential families, fictional and historic. But the enslaved state, albeit temporary, of Pacuvius's Orestes is relevant to the representation of Roman motherhood as well: a variety of inscriptional and literary texts depict mothers--and feelings of and toward mothers--from less exalted backgrounds, chiefly slaves and former slaves. (4) And, just as Varro privileges the similarities between mothers and daughters in his analogy, so too diverse sources highlight this particular familial bond, according special attention to the nexus of mutual obligations binding kindred women of different generations. (5)

Yet in understanding how our Roman sources thought about mothers, and "thought with the category of mother," especially but not exclusively when writing about historical women of elite background, it is crucial to look at what is said about, and said by, a female figure roughly contemporary with Pacuvius--a figure whose actions, and whose image arguably influence these representations: the much-praised noblewoman Cornelia. (6) As the phrase "said by" implies, she is also one of the few Roman women whose actual words appear to have survived from, and survived through, the classical Roman period. With these words, she speaks in her own right, as a mother, exercising ingenium along with moral agency, leaving a legacy not only for the later Roman mothers who are represented as sharing her memorable traits, but also for women and men in the centuries to follow.

I would situate this legacy, which Cornelia in her role as a mother bequeathed to future generations, in two realms of thought and speech not ordinarily viewed as arenas of achievement for Roman women: rhetoric and politics. Further, I would define her maternal legacy as encompassing the following assumptions: that motivating one's children (or at least members of the next generation) to modify their public behavior is more effective than punishing them for noncompliance and insubordination; that an outspoken--and if necessary, a sorrowful and indignant--mode of persuasion is justified in motivational efforts of this kind; and that the feelings of others (especially other family members) should be given pride of place over absolute rights and principles when making decisions about public conduct. (7)

Before reflecting on this legacy from Cornelia to future generations, it is worthwhile to review how, and why, Romans of subsequent eras, as well as we of future generations, remember her. For one thing, Cornelia's pedigree could not have been more exalted. Roman history has lionized her father, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, who died in 184 B.C.E., when Cornelia was still a small child. His agnomen Africanus celebrates his victory over the Carthaginian general Hannibal at Zama in 202, three years after his first consulship and eight before his second. (8)

But Cornelia is primarily remembered as a mother, with the phrase mater Gracchorum, and specifically as a mother of two sons, Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus. Tiberius, the elder of the two, was assassinated by political foes during his tribunate in 133; Gaius, who then successfully ran for the tribunate and adopted his brother's radical positions in support of agrarian reform, was killed by his political foes in 121.

Technically the Latin phrase used to commemorate Cornelia should be mater Semproniorum Gracchorum, since the father of Tiberius and Gaius Gracchus was Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, consul in 177 and 163. He and Cornelia married in approximately 165. After his death, about twelve years later, Cornelia refused to remarry, even, according to Plutarch, when a future king of Egypt proposed. Instead, she devoted herself exclusively to the education of their children. (9)

Remembered, too, is the pride that Cornelia took in her sons, as related in a celebrated anecdote told by the first-century C.E. writer Valerius Maximus. Valerius writes that when a woman staying at Cornelia's villa on the Bay of Naples insisted on displaying her own extremely beautiful jewelry, Cornelia detained her in conversation until Tiberius and Gaius returned home from school. She then announced, "These are my jewels" (haec, inquit, ornamenta sunt mea, Paup. Praef. 4.4).

But Cornelia was also the mother of daughters. Such ancient sources as the younger Seneca, the elder Pliny, and Plutarch report that she bore twelve children, alternating boys and girls, Sempronii and Semproniae. (10) Although only one of these six daughters (and only two of these six sons) survived to adulthood, Cornelia's daughter, Sempronia, is also remembered by various sources for important reasons. Most significantly, she was married to her kinsman Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus, consul in 147 and 134. He, in turn, was remembered for his oratorical talents, his patronage of poets and philosophers, and his African conquests as well. His biological father Lucius Aemilius Paullus was the brother of Aemilia, Cornelia's own mother; he had been adopted by Cornelia's brother, and indeed paid off the dowries of Cornelia and her elder sister after Aemilia died in 162. (11)

Scipio Aemilianus may not, however, have endeared himself to Cornelia when, according to Polybius (31.26ff.), he then gave the expensive possessions that Aemilia had displayed at women's religious ceremonies not to Cornelia and her sister, but to his own impoverished mother (and, upon her death, to his own sisters). (12) If we are to trust Valerius Maximus 6.2.3, the conduct of Scipio Aemilianus after his brother-in-law Tiberius Gracchus was killed could not have endeared him to Cornelia and her daughter, either. Upon returning from a glorious military victory at Numantia, Scipio Aemilianus was asked by one of Tiberius Gracchus's supporters what he thought about his kinsman's death, and enraged both his addressee and the Roman assembly by saying that Gracchus had rightly been slain. The marriage between Scipio Aemilianus and Cornelia's daughter was childless and unhappy. When Scipio Aemilianus died mysteriously in 129, both Sempronia and Cornelia were, according to Appian, B Civ. 1.20, suspected of having killed him.

Like her mother Cornelia, Sempronia survived the violent deaths of both Gracchi, her two brothers. Sempronia also evidently outlived her mother, for Sempronia is said to have proven herself a worthy representative of her family when, as its sole surviving member, she was pressured to acknowledge one Equitius as Tiberius's son--and hence as a member of the Sempronian gens--by kissing him at a public assembly, but refused. Our source, again Valerius Maximus, praises her at 3.8.6 for constantia (loyalty to family) in her rejection of this impostor.

Memorably, Valerius Maximus begins his account of this episode with the question, quid femina cum contione? (What business does a woman have with a public assembly?), and the answer, si patrius mos servetur, nihil (If ancestral custom should be preserved, nothing). What is more, Valerius Maximus feels a need to apologize for remembering this woman, incongruously, in a narrative about the most serious deeds of men (gravissimis virorum operibus). To him, women such as Cornelia and her daughter do not belong in public, masculine spheres of activity, even when public events are merely written about, unless the crucial matter of familial legitimacy is involved.

It is my contention that Cornelia's engagement in Roman public life, and her strategies for sustaining that engagement, may not have involved speaking among males in assemblies, but were political and rhetorical nonetheless. I base this contention largely on the words of hers I mentioned earlier: a letter that she is said to have written (although many scholars have refused to believe her authorship), and a passage that no scholar to my knowledge has ever before suggested that she wrote. (13) I would, however, also adduce some other Latin literary texts that, to my mind, show the influence of both this letter and this passage, and support the argument that she wrote both (and indeed that the passage comes from the letter). To my mind, as well, these literary texts--speeches in Livy's history and Vergil's Aeneid delivered by well-born, albeit legendary mothers like Cornelia herself--belong to Cornelia's rhetorical and political legacy too, a legacy that, among other things, informs the later Roman representations of mothers that the essays in this volume explore.

Some of the problems that arise in authenticating both this letter and this passage center on representations of Cornelia's father, and on assumptions about how elite Roman mothers communicated with their male children; other problems involve the reliability, or absence, of evidence from ancient sources. (14) And they are by no means soluble problems: we cannot prove beyond all doubt that Cornelia wrote the letter, or the passage, much less that the letter contained the passage. Consequently, we also need to consider some implications of the possibility that she wrote neither the letter nor the passage. All the same, the mere attribution of this letter to Cornelia indicates that its style and sentiments were viewed as characteristic of her and, hence, that both the style and the sentiments, whatever their actual provenance, belong to her maternal legacy.

Let us turn first to this letter, and the difficulties entailed in its authentication. The letter deals with an event occurring in approximately 124 B.C.E., when Cornelia would have been in her sixties: Gaius Gracchus's decision to seek the tribunate. Two excerpts are found in the manuscripts of the first-century B.C.E. biographer and historian Cornelius Nepos, which identify them as Cornelia's own writing from Nepos's (now lost) book on historians who wrote in Latin. (15) The letter itself addresses Cornelia's younger son Gaius, testifies to the pain she suffered over the death of her elder son Tiberius, and attempts to deter Gaius from emulating Tiberius and causing her more pain.
  Verba ex epistula Cornelia Gracchorum matris ex libro Corneli Nepotis
  de Latinis Historicis excerpta.
    "Dices pulchrum esse inimicos ulcisci. Id neque maius neque
  pulchrius cuiquam atque mihi esse videtur, sed si liceat re publica
  salva ea persequi. Sed quatenus id fieri non potest, multo tempore
  multisque partibus inimici nostri non peribunt, atque uti nunc sunt
  erunt potius quam res publica profligetur atque pereat."
    Eadem alio loco.
    "Verbis conceptis deiurare ausim, praeterquam qui Tiberium Gracchum
  necarunt, neminem inimicum tantum molestiae tantumque laboris, quantum
  te ob has res, mihi tradidisse; quem oportebat omnium eorum quos
  antehac habui liberos partes tolerare atque curare ut quam minimum
  sollicitudinis in senecta haberem, utique quaecumque ageres, ea velles
  maxime mihi placere atque uti nefas haberes rerum maiorum adversum
  meam sententiam quicquam facere, prae-sertim mihi cui parva pars vitae
  superest. Ne id quidem tam breve spatium potest opitulari, quin et
  mihi adversere et rem publicam profliges? Denqiue quae pausa erit?
  Ecquando desinet familia nostra insanire? Ecquando modus ei rei haberi
  poterit? Ecquando desinemus et habentes et praebentes molestiis
  insistere? Ecquando perpudescet miscenda atue perturbanda re publica?
  Sed si omnino id fieri non potest, ubi ego mortua ero, petito
  tribunatum; per me facito quod lubebit, cum ego non sentiam. Ubi
  mortua ero, parentabis mihi et invocabis deum parentem. In eo tempore
  non pudet te eorum deum preces expetere, quod vivos atque praesentes
  relictos atque desertos habueris? Ne ille sirit Iuppiter te ea
  perseverare, nec tibi tantam dementiam venire in animum. Et si
  perseveras, vereor ne in omnem vitam tantum laboris culpa tua recipias
  uti in nullo tempore tute tibi placere possis."

  These words are excerpted from a letter of Cornelia, mother of the
  Gracchi, from the book of Cornelius Nepos about Latin Historians:

    "You will say that it is a beautiful thing to take vengeance on
  enemies [inimici]. To no one does this seem either greater or more
  beautiful than it does to me [neque maius neque pulchrius cuiquam
  atque mihi], but only if it is possible to pursue these aims without
  harming our country. But seeing as that cannot be done, our enemies
  [inimici again] will not perish for a long time and for many reasons,
  and they will be as they are now rather than have our country be
  destroyed and perish."
      And the second excerpt, from the same letter in a different
  passage, says:
    "I would dare to take an oath solemnly, swearing that, except for
  those who have murdered Tiberius Gracchus, no enemy [inimicus yet
  again] has foisted so much difficulty and so much distress upon me as
  you have, because of all these matters. You, who should have
  shouldered the responsibilities of all of those children whom I had in
  the past, and to make sure that I might have the least anxiety
  possible in my old age [senecta]. And that, whatever you did, you
  would wish to please me most greatly. And that you would consider it
  sacrilege to do anything of rather serious significance contrary to my
  feelings, especially as I am someone with only a short portion of my
  life left. Cannot even that time span, as brief as it is, be of help
  in keeping you from opposing me and destroying our country?
      What end will there finally be? When will our family stop behaving
  insanely? When will we cease insisting on troubles, both suffering and
  causing them? When will we begin to feel shame about disrupting and
  disturbing our country? But if this is altogether unable to take
  place, seek the office of tribune when I will be dead [mortua ero].
  As far as I am concerned, do what will please you, when I shall not
  perceive what you are doing. When I have died [mortua ero] you will
  sacrifice to me as a parent and call upon the god of your parent
  [deum parentem]. At that time will it not shame you to seek prayers of
  those as gods, whom you had abandoned and deserted when they were
  alive and on hand? May Jupiter not for a single instant allow you to
  continue in these actions or permit such madness to come into your
  mind. And if you persist, I fear that, by your own fault, you may
  incur such trouble for your entire life that at no time would you be
  able to make yourself happy." (16)


What is Cornelia saying here? In the first excerpt, she seems to voice agreement with Gaius in endorsing an abstractly defined mode of civic conduct: the principle of taking vengeance on personal enemies (inimici) in the political arena. But at the same time, she refuses to adhere to this principle rigidly and inflexibly, in all instances and at any cost. Rather, Cornelia states that such vengeance should not be pursued if it harms one's own country.

In the second excerpt, Cornelia first likens the behavior of Gaius to that of a personal enemy (inimicus). Other than those who murdered Tiberius Gracchus, she says, no personal enemy has made her life as difficult as he has. She then proceeds to fault Gaius for inadequacies on three fronts: failing to shoulder the responsibilities of his ten dead siblings, failing to minimize her anxieties in her old age, and failing to make an adequate effort to please and obey her. In other words, she expresses feelings of unhappiness over Gaius's dereliction of family duty, and in turn seeks to exploit his own family feelings. Then, by associating his opposition to her parental wishes with "destroying our country," Cornelia briefly returns to the earlier theme of limiting revenge on personal enemies to activities that do not harm one's nation.

But Cornelia immediately resumes the topic of family feelings: by accusing their entire family of acting in an emotionally inappropriate way, insanely, and by using a series of rhetorical questions to arouse her son's own emotions of shame and guilt. Only at this point does Cornelia indicate what her son has done to cause her such distress--deciding to run for tribune of the people--by asking him to postpone his campaign until she is dead and can no longer feel. What is more, after telling Gaius that when she is dead he will sacrifice to her, calling upon deum parentem, here translated "the god of his parent," she elicits feelings of shame from her son by again emphasizing his dereliction of family duty and his failure to respect kinfolk, such as herself, who will be worshipped as gods after death in their lifetimes. (17) Finally, after invoking Jupiter to stop her son in his course of action, she predicts emotional distress and personal difficulties for him if he persists in acting insanely.

How is Cornelia conveying her message to Gaius? Cornelia's strategy for dealing with her politically insubordinate son is hardly subtle and deferential. As I have noted elsewhere, her words and tone are angry, confrontational, demanding, egotistical, intimidating, explicitly shame-inducing, and implicitly guilt-inducing. (18) No one would ever call these outspoken remarks or their distraught tenor "ladylike" in English: that is, exquisitely sensitive to matters of propriety and decorum, refined and self-effacing, modest and reserved. It is for this reason, among others, that the authorship and authenticity of this letter have been challenged. If, some scholars assert, Cornelia was, as her high social position and considerable wealth would suggest, a true "lady," and especially if she was, as various sources attest, a devoted mother, could she have addressed her adult son about his political conduct in this arrogant and disturbing way? (19)

This is, let me emphasize, not the only reason why many scholars have challenged the authorship and authenticity of these excerpts. (20) Fortunately, other arguments for doubting that Cornelia wrote these excerpts are easier to address than those based on Cornelia's "personality." Some center on the reliability of Nepos: challenging Cornelia's authorship and authenticity on the grounds that he is the only surviving source who quotes this letter directly; and doubting the statement that the letter appeared in his lost book on Latin historians. (21)

In replying to the first of these arguments we might adduce the poetry of Catullus, who dedicates his first poem to Cornelius Nepos. After all, the only source that quotes most of his poetry is a single manuscript, fortunately copied when it surfaced in Verona soon after 1300, but now lost. (22) Yet no one doubts that Catullus wrote these poems. As for the second, since Nepos's book about historians who wrote in Latin is now lost as well, it seems counterproductive to question a statement that Cornelia's letter was quoted in it; indeed, this statement provides valuable ancient testimony as to what the lost book by Nepos did contain. Furthermore, both Cicero and Quintilian maintain that Cornelia wrote letters that influenced the eloquence of her two sons, letters that Cicero and Quintilian themselves were able to consult in their own day. Cicero's day, of course, ended in 43 B.C.E. (about nineteen years before Nepos's death), Quintilian's at some point in the 90s C.E. Presumably the letter twice excerpted in Nepos's manuscript was in this number. (23)

But how are we to respond to the more difficult challenge, this discomfort with Cornelia's personality in these excerpts? However unladylike, however unmaternal that certain modern scholars may find the language and tone of these excerpts from Cornelia's letter, the picture of Cornelia furnished is completely consistent with the portrait that our other ancient sources paint of her. It is a portrait of a prepossessing woman sufficiently independent to reject the marriage proposal of a foreign potentate (and valuable ally of the Roman state). A woman prepared to flaunt her male offspring as assets superior to another woman's costly finery. A woman capable of arranging to have her son-in-law (who was also her first cousin and adoptive nephew) slain for insufficient family loyalty. What is more, this portrait of Cornelia resembles Valerius Maximus's portrait of her own biological daughter Sempronia, who refused to succumb to the pressures of a mob and accept a stranger as her late brother's son and as her own Sempronian kinsman.

So, too, and as has also been observed, there are apparent echoes of this letter in those speeches by mature, maternal, well-born women in Livy and Vergil mentioned above, speeches that we might label Cornelia's "intertextual" daughters. (24) These echoes are best explained by the assumption that Livy and Vergil viewed Cornelia as the author of this letter. They are further accounted for by two additional assumptions: one, that Livy and Vergil expected at least some of their readers to be familiar with this letter; two, that they viewed Cornelia's modus operandi in this letter--with a noncompliant and insubordinate adult son, whose decisions about his conduct in the public sphere displease and enrage her--as characteristic of a well-born woman in her maternal position. In short, that they regarded this modus operandi as central to Cornelia's legacy.

Before examining these echoes, however, it is instructive to look at Cornelia's maternal mode of dealing with her noncompliant and insubordinate son from a gendered perspective and hence to comprehend more fully this legacy--that is, to compare the way in which she handles Gaius's noncompliance and insubordination with the way in which authors such as Livy himself portray certain legendary Roman fathers dealing with noncompliance and insubordination from their adult male offspring. Chief among these fathers are Lucius Junius Brutus, who supposedly exercised his patria potestas to execute his politically rebellious sons in 509 B.C.E., and Titus Manlius Torquatus, who allegedly put his son to death 150 years later for failing to adhere to military discipline.

Livy (8.7.15) scripts a stern speech for Torquatus. Torquatus admits to being emotionally stirred by inborn affection for children, as well as by his son's individual display of manly excellence (virtus). All the same, Torquatus orders his son bound to the stake and hacked to death with an axe, as Livy's Torquatus assigns greater importance to upholding, rigidly and inflexibly, a single, abstractly defined principle of civil conduct--the necessity of adhering to military discipline--than to the affective pull of family ties on him personally. He gives pride of place to his right, as both father and consul, to treat his son as he sees fit, as well as to this abstract principle. In so doing, Torquatus sets up a sharp either/or contrast between his own welfare and that of the Roman state, judging it necessary to sacrifice his son, to suppress his own family feelings, and to keep his country strong. (25)

But Cornelia's letter to her son, as we have seen, invokes both Gaius's family ties and her own. It emphasizes her own powerful feelings and those of Gaius towards her. She insists that attending to personal and familial relationships and responsibilities is ultimately more beneficial to the Roman state than disregarding them. Her motivational arguments to her son are, of course, closely linked with her female gender identity (as opposed to Torquatus's male gender identity). After all, she cannot punish her son in the same way that Torquatus legendarily did his son, for she wields no patria potestas and is ineligible to hold consular, or any, public office. Nor is it in her self-interest for her son to leave Rome, or even distance himself from their family. As a woman, particularly a widowed one, she is far more dependent on her male kin for her social identity and personal validation than would be a man like Torquatus.

Curiously, Cornelia's self-representation in terms of gender identity is somewhat complicated. There is no grammatical detail, such as an unambiguously feminine adjective or pronominal form, in the first excerpt of Cornelia's letter, and only two in the second, which even identify the author of the letter as a woman, namely the repeated use of the adjectival form mortua. Indeed, at one point Cornelia uses the masculine phrase deum parentem (parent-god), a parent who has died and become a god, a phrase that most scholars interpret as referring to herself (we will return to this phrase later). One might argue that Cornelia acts in a male-identified Roman fashion too, by competing with Gaius in the area of patriotism to disparage his defense of vengeance against enemies and by portraying the future without her parental guidance as a time of unrelieved misery for him. (26) But the apparent echoes of this letter in two subsequent Augustan writers, Vergil and Livy, who portray women in situations comparable to Cornelia's, would indicate that they viewed her as a role model for other females and often, if not always, a positive role model.

Livy 2.40, written between 27 and 25 B.C.E., around the time of Nepos's death, would seem to recall Cornelia's letter in the angry words delivered by the aged Veturia to motivate, as it were, her traitorous son Coriolanus to abandon his plans for invading Rome.
  Coriolanus prope ut amens consternatus ab sede sua cum ferret matri
  obviae complexum, mulier in iram ex precibus versa,
    "Sine, priusquam complexum accipio, sciam," inquit, "ad hostem an ad
  filium venerim, captiva materne in castris tuis sim. In hoc me longa
  vita et infelix senecta traxit, ut exsulem te, deinde hostem viderem?
  Potuisti populari hanc terram, quae te genuit atque aluit? Non tibi
  quamvis infesto animo et minaci perveneras ingredienti fines ira
  cecidit? Non, cum in conspectus Roma fuit, succurrit 'Intra illa
  moenia domus ac penates mei sunt, mater coniunx liberique?' Ergo ego
  nisi peperissem, Roma non oppugnaretur; nisi filium haberem, libera in
  libera patria mortua essem. Sed ego nihil iam pati nec tibi turpius
  nec mihi miserius possum nec, ut sum miserrima, diu futura sum: de his
  videris, quos, si pergis, aut immatura mors aut longa servitus
  manet ..."
    Apud Fabium, longe antiquissimum auctorem, usque ad senectutem
  vixisse eundem invenio ... Non inviderunt laude sua mulieribus viri
  Romani ...

  Coriolanus, almost as if he were insane, confused in his mind, having
  risen from his seat, was holding out his arms in embrace for his
  mother as she came to meet him. The woman, turned into anger from her
  entreaties, said,
    "Allow me, before I receive an embrace, to know whether I have come
  to an enemy of the state or to a son, whether I am a captive or a
  mother in your camp. Have a long life and a wretched old age dragged
  me into this situation, that I looked upon you as an exile, and then
  an enemy of the state? Have you been able to devastate this land,
  which bore and nurtured you? Didn't anger vanish from you--even though
  you had come with a hateful and threatening attitude--as you entered
  the boundaries of your country? Didn't the thought come into your
  mind, when Rome was in your sight, 'Within those walls are my house
  and household gods, my mother, wife and children?' Thus if I had not
  given birth, Rome would not be under siege; if I did not have a son, I
  would have died a free woman in a free country. But I am able to
  endure nothing either more shameful for you or more miserable for
  myself nor, as I am extremely miserable, am I about to be so for long;
  you will see about these people for whom--if you proceed on your
  course--either an untimely death or a long slavery remain ..."
    In the words of Fabius Pictor, by far the most ancient authority, I
  find that this man lived to old age ... Roman men did not begrudge
  women their own praise ... (27)


Like Cornelia in her letter, Livy's Veturia confronts her son through a series of rhetorical questions. She, too, refers to her own wretched old age with the noun senecta (rather than the more common word, senectus, which Livy uses later in the passage). By employing the conjunctions nec ... nec to negate a pair of comparative adjectives that govern personal pronouns in the dative case, Veturia recalls Cornelias's phrase neque maius neque pulchrius cuiquam atque mihi. She also likens her own son to an enemy, albeit a hostis (enemy of the state), rather than to an inimicus (personal, political foe). Most important, Livy has Veturia link what is politically consequential with what is best for a family and its feelings. She emphasizes the emotional pain her son's conduct has caused her personally, as well as underscoring her son's emotional ties and obligations to herself and other family members by mentioning, as Cornelia does not, her son's wife and sons.

By characterizing Rome itself as having given birth to and nurtured Coriolanus (with te genuit atque aluit), Livy even has Veturia equate her son's native land with herself, thus representing it, we might say, as his matria. To be sure, Livy's Veturia, whose guilt-evoking and shame-evoking tactics include blaming Rome's political woes on herself because she gave birth to her son, comes across as angrier and more confrontational than Cornelia. But her son's more outrageous political conduct warrants as much. Besides, Veturia, unlike Cornelia, proves successful in getting her son to do exactly what she wants.

Vergil's Aeneid, written soon afterwards, assigns the Latin queen Amata two speeches that echo Cornelia's letter. (28) One, at 7.359-72, is addressed to her husband Latinus, and protests his political decision to betroth their daughter Lavinia to Aeneas rather than their kinsman Turnus:
  "Exulibusne datur ducenda Lavinia Teucris,
  O genitor, nec te miseret nataeque tuique?
  Nec matris miseret, quam primo aquilone relinquet
  Perfidus alta petens abducta virgine praedo?
  At non sic Phrygius penetrat Lacedaemona pastor,
  Ledaeamque Helenam Troianas vexit ad urbes?
  Quid tua sancta fides? Quid cura antiqua tuorum
  Et consanguineo totiens data dextera Turno?
  At gener externa petitur de gente Latinis,
  Idque sedet, Faunique premunt te iussa parentis,
  Omnem equidem sceptris terram quae libera nostris
  Dissidet externam reor et sic dicere divos, 370
  Et Turno, si prima domus repetatur origo,
  Inachus Acrisiusue patres mediaeque Mycenae."

  "O father, is our Lavinia to be given to Trojan exiles, and do you
  lack pity for your daughter and people? And for her mother, whom that
  treacherous robber, seeking the high seas, will abandon at the first
  favorable breeze, with her daughter stolen away? Didn't Paris, the
  Trojan shepherd, infiltrate Sparta in the same way, and carry off
  Leda's daughter Helen to the Trojan cities? Where is your sacred word
  of honor? What about your longstanding concern for your own people,
  and your right hand, so often given in pledge to your kinsman Turnus?
  If a son-in-law for the Latin people is sought from a foreign nation,
  and that is a fixed condition, and the commands of your father Faunus
  compel you, I indeed think that any land that exists apart from our
  political control is foreign, and the gods decree as much. And if the
  first beginning of his family should be sought, Inachus and Acrisius,
  central to the history of Mycenae, are Turnus' ancestors."


Like Cornelia's letter, this speech demands that family ties and family feeling be given pride of place in forging political alliances. So, too, Amata fires off a series of rhetorical questions, makes an emotional appeal to her addressee that he consider her own emotional needs, and invokes divine authority.

The other speech, at 12.56-63, is addressed to Turnus himself. It urges him not to engage in single combat with Aeneas for Lavinia's hand.
  "Turne, per has ego te lacrimas, per si quis Amatae
  tangit honos animum (spes tu nunc una, senectae
  tu requies miserae, decus imperiumque Latini
  te penes, in te omnis domus inclinata recumbit),
  unum oro: desiste manum committere Teucris 60
  qui te cumque manent isto certamine casus
  et me, Turne, manent: simul haec invisa relinquam
  lumina nec generum Aenean captiva videbo."

  "Turnus, I beg you through these tears--if any respect for Amata
  touches your mind (for now you are the one hope and rest of my old
  sorrowful old age, the glory and power of Latinus are in your hands,
  our entire collapsing household rests on you) this one thing: stop
  from engaging in combat with the Trojans, whatever mishaps await you
  in this duel, also await me, Turnus: at the same time I will leave
  this hated life and I will not look upon Aeneas as my son-in-law as
  his captive."


Here, addressing her surrogate son Turnus, Vergil's Amata recalls Cornelia by lamenting her wretched old age (with the word senecta), and by raising the prospect of her own imminent death. She further resembles Cornelia in that her advice goes unheeded. Strikingly, at 7.357, Vergil characterizes Amata's indignant expression of family-first sentiments as speaking solito matrum de more (in the manner customary for mothers). He thus implies that her fierce display of emotion, insistence on sensitivity to the feelings of family members, and privileging of blood family ties over other political goals are typical features of maternal motivational speaking.

These Augustan literary portrayals of motivational speeches by elite women to actually or potentially insubordinate, or at least noncompliant, male kindred, and for the most part sons, resemble Cornelia's letter to her son Gaius in various regards. These resemblances would suggest that this style of speech, which is ultimately political as well as motivational, was closely associated at this time with the female gender. Owing to the affinities between these Augustan texts and Cornelia's letter, in fact, it is quite possible that this style of speech was regarded as characteristic of, and appropriate for, female characters because it was initially associated with Cornelia, a much-scrutinized and much-admired woman remembered for the sufferings she experienced because of her male kindred. And remembered as a mother first and foremost.

As we have seen, too, such efforts by women at dealing with an actually or even potentially insubordinate son certainly contrast with those attributed by Livy to Torquatus. Not only are these mothers' efforts motivational rather than punitive, but when defining what is best for the Roman state these women also accord priority to family ties and the feelings of family members over abstract political rights and principles. For Cornelia, in fact, the Roman state was her family's business, and her emotional ties to her country a form of familial as well as political sentiment. In Carol Gilligan's words, this form of female, political communication involves a "different voice," according priority to family ties and family feelings, in contrast to Roman paternal, legal, and principle-based public and familial discourse. (29)

This brings us to that passage that I--and to the best of my knowledge no one else--would like to suggest also comes from Cornelia's letter. Since it appears in the Rhetorica ad Herennium, a few words are in order about when, and by whom, this work was written. In his introduction to the Loeb Classical Library edition of the Ad Herennium, Harry Caplan rejects a scholarly tradition, dating back to late antiquity, which attributed the work to Cicero. Instead, Caplan, like other recent editors, would identify its unnamed auctor as an otherwise unknown individual writing between 88 and 82 B.C.E. Calling attention to this author's wide Latin literary learning, Caplan also notes that the Ad Herennium includes poets and historians along with celebrated orators as models in the field of style, and that not all of these models are named. (30)

Could one of these unnamed stylistic models--a passage quoted by the unnamed author to illustrate the figure of exclamatio or apostrophe (direct address) at 4.22--be a letter writer, and a female one at that? The passage first defines exclamatio as "expressing strong emotion--sorrow [dolor] or outrage [indignatio]--by an address to some person or city or place or thing." It then provides an illustration: Te nunc adloquor, Africane, cuius mortui quoque nomen splendori ac decori est civitati. Tui clarissimi nepotes suo sanguine aluerunt inimicorum crudelitatem (Now I address you, Africanus, the name of whom--though you are dead--is also a source of luster and glory to the state. With their own blood your most famous grandsons have nourished the cruelty of their personal enemies).

Obviously the dead addressee, Africanus, is Cornelia's father, and his grandsons her sons, the Gracchi. Although the verb aluerunt is in the perfect tense, it is possible that one of these grandsons is still alive. And the similarities between this fragment, and the excerpts from the letter by Cornelia quoted by Nepos, may provide evidence that this passage came from that same letter. In that case, of course, by calling upon her long dead father, Cornelia is at the same time calling attention to her special, privileged status as his offspring.

First and foremost, the address to Africanus shares with the excerpts of Cornelia's letter quoted by Nepos a tone of sorrow (dolor) and outrage (indignatio). Other resemblances--verbal and thematic--warrant mention as well. In the letter Cornelia repeatedly uses the term inimici--twice in the first excerpt, once in the second--to characterize her family's political opponents. While the excerpts from the letter thrice employ the term res publica rather than civitas, the letter is similarly concerned with the Roman state and its welfare. Cornelia's letter twice uses mortuus, the adjective applied to her father, when referring to her own prospective death (and, again, its feminine form, mortua, is the only internal indication that the first-person speaker in the two excerpts is a woman).

What is more, if the letter by Cornelia quoted by Nepos were also to have addressed her dead father, lamenting the potentially destructive and self-destructive conduct of her sons, one dead and the other still alive, we can better understand certain anomalous features of the letter: its references to Gaius's dead relatives, whose number Cornelia soon expects to join, and its invocation to Jupiter, seeing as Scipio is reported to have exploited his special relationship with Jupiter Optimus Maximus. (31)

Cornelia's words in this invocation to Jupiter, ne ille sirit Iuppiter te ea perseverare, in fact resemble those that Livy assigns to her father at 28.28, ne istuc Iuppiter optimus maximus sirit. As mentioned earlier, scholars generally interpret the statement that one day Gaius will call upon a deum parentem (god of your parent) as a reference to the dead Cornelia, despite the masculine accusative singular form deum. (32) If the letter also included the address to Africanus, however, it might refer to him instead. Or, if the word deum is genitive plural, as it is in the next sentence with eorum deum preces, it might mean "parent of the gods," and then refer to Jupiter himself, and again allude to the special relationship between this Roman paternal deity and Cornelia's father Scipio Africanus.

The speech assigned by Livy to Veturia also shares a striking detail with the address to Africanus quoted in the Ad Herennium: the use of the verb alere in the perfect tense. In both passages, it figuratively describes the relationship between the Roman state and men whose political conduct distresses, or has every right to distress, elder members of their family. In Veturia's speech, therefore, Livy may be echoing the address to Africanus and also the excerpts that Nepos quotes from Cornelia's letter, and does so because the address also comes from the same letter.

Perhaps my hypotheses about these two texts, whose style and sentiments constitute the core of what I judge to be Cornelia's maternal legacy, are incorrect. The letter excerpted in Nepos may not be by Cornelia, merely credited to her, while the address in the Ad Herennium may have a different origin entirely How would this change Cornelia's legacy?

The verbal and topical connections between these excerpts and the address to Africanus might still suggest a common, and epistolary, literary origin. If that hypothesis and Caplan's date for the Ad Herennium are correct, this letter would have been composed not long after Cornelia's death in the late second century B.C.E., presumably as an anti-Gracchan propaganda effort scripting words that Cornelia should have uttered to her younger son in sorrow and indignation. (33) But even so, what Cornelia is represented as saying in these excerpts, and the way in which she says it, are consistent with her behavior as reported in other sources. So, too, these excerpts resemble speeches assigned to women much like Cornelia by Livy and Vergil. At the very least, therefore, they represent a legacy associated with Cornelia and women who share her privileged, maternal situation.

It is possible, too, that the passage in the Ad Herennium, with its emotional invocation of Cornelia's dead father in complaining about her sons, has a literary origin separate from the letter excerpted by Nepos. A reasonable supposition, since the Ad Herennium does not indicate that the address to Africanus comes from a letter. Nor does it identify the speaker as Cornelia. Rather, both source and speaker are unnamed. In this case, the letter, if not by Cornelia, could have been composed long after 82 B.C.E. (and composed by a man); the source of the address to Africanus could be a public speech, delivered by a male of anti-Gracchan sympathies, most likely before the death of Gaius Gracchus in 121.

I hope, however, that my hypothesis merits serious consideration. The statement about the provenance of the excerpts in Nepos's manuscripts deserves to be taken seriously. The evidence of Cicero and Quintilian about Cornelia's letters and the evidence of other sources about Cornelia's personality should carry weight as well. My hypothesis helps us to explain the intertextual connections between the excerpts and the speeches of Livy's and Vergil's fictional Veturia and Amata, and also helps to account for the verbal and topical links between those excerpts and the address in the Ad Herennium. It also allows us to view both the style of maternal motivational rhetoric, rightfully as well as righteously indignant, and the political values expounded in this letter--which privilege family ties and family members' feelings over abstract rights and principles--as a legacy that befits everything else we know about Cornelia.

In analyzing the excerpts from the letter Nepos ascribes to Cornelia, I have likened this letter to speeches of fictitious women in Livy's history and Vergil's epic Aeneid, without commenting on the similarities and differences between a letter, presumably a written text, and speeches delivered orally. I should emphasize, therefore, that these speeches by fictional well-born mothers take place in private, domestic settings, not in the public assemblies where Valerius Maximus claims that Roman women do not belong. Nevertheless, both Cicero and Quintilian seem to regard Cornelia's letters as a female, and familial, equivalent of memorable public and political speeches, inspiring her sons' public and political eloquence, and--like such speeches--recorded for posterity. So, too, Livy and Vergil certainly portray the speeches of Veturia and Amata as functioning in the same familial communicative capacity as the letter that Nepos attributes to Cornelia.

Cornelia's maternal legacy, as I have defined it, is not ordinarily associated with ancient Rome. In his magisterial 1989 study Sources of the Self: The Making of the Modern Identity, the eminent political philosopher Charles Taylor asserted that defining one's political identity in relation to others, particularly family members, and their emotional needs, stems from progressive thinking in eighteenth-century Europe and America. This "new moral culture," in Taylor's words, "accords significance ... to the family"; it "makes feelings morally crucial, and makes much of their exploration and expression." We do well to remember that Cornelia's different voice is an ancient Roman voice as well as a maternal voice: an influential Roman model for communicating desires and values to one's children, and for one's children. (34)

The mothers that the essays in this volume discuss are represented in ways that both resemble and differ from the portrait of Cornelia we have just examined. Similarly, the desires and values attributed to these mothers, and the modes of communication that they are portrayed as employing, both perpetuate and diverge from what has been defined as her maternal legacy. Still, the diverse representations of mothers in Rome after Cornelia's lifetime--and in particular the representations of mothers immediately after her lifetime, during the first centuries B.C.E. and C.E.--illuminated by these essays testify to the power of that legacy.

The authors here focus on a variety of individual mothers, writers, and texts, and adopt different critical approaches. Each, however, situates these representations of mothers in the context of larger historical developments during the late republican and early imperial eras. While they also situate their observations in the context of recent and for the most part new historicist and feminist scholarship about Roman mothers, they do so by looking at texts that this recent scholarship has not closely examined, and by raising important questions about Roman literary and historical constructions of mothers. (35)

One such question is how to account for negative representations of mothers by ancient authors who elsewhere portray women in a positive light, as supportive and inspirational figures. Another is how Greek mythic maternal figures--both divine and human--are used to illuminate the emotions and behavioral options of historical Roman women. Other issues concern the intersections and interactions of different female family roles. What, for example, was the relationship between the role of mother and that of wife in the elite Roman family of the first century C.E.? Still another issue involves the challenges that our Roman literary sources themselves pose: how can they be most fruitfully analyzed in efforts to reconstruct the social attitudes and cultural assumptions underlying historical developments and literary representations?

The essays here originated as papers in a session devoted to Roman mothers at the centennial meeting of the Classical Association of the Middle West and South, in St. Louis, Missouri, on April 15, 2004. My own essay on Fulvia centers on motherhood as it was experienced and depicted by members of the Roman elite. In looking at Fulvia in her capacity as mother to her youngest child, Iullus Antonius, I focus mostly on the years after her death, which occurred when Iullus was only three years of age. But as Cornelia predicts that her son will pay her heed, in the form of "parental worship" after she is dead, so Fulvia seems to have been paid serious heed posthumously. For she apparently remained a vivid and influential presence not only to her youngest son, but also to her foe and kinsman by marriage--the man who would become Augustus Caesar and, more importantly, who would have her son raised in his household and married to the elder Marcella, the daughter of Augustus's own sister, Iullus's stepmother Octavia.

Regrettably, there is no evidence for any words that Fulvia spoke or wrote to Iullus. Nevertheless, she seems to have harbored major political ambitions for him as a member of a new Julian dynasty, and to have provided him with a model for both political accommodation and political opposition to Augustus's aims. And Fulvia is remembered as outspoken, and as concerned with feelings, her own if not those of her family, in the political sphere too. Such, at least, is the implication of Augustus's poem about her, quoted by Martial at 11.20, which assigns her a few words of her own, obscene yet responding to wounded pride, to justify the confrontational and destructive military encounter for which Augustus himself remembered her.

Barbara K. Gold, in her essay "How Women (Re)Act in Roman Love Poetry: Inhuman She-Wolves and Unhelpful Mothers in Propertius's Elegies," discusses how the portrayal of mother figures by the Augustan elegist Propertius uses motherhood as one lens for the exploration of the intersection between gender and ethical behavior in contemporary Rome. These representations include familiar historical and mythological personages, such as Augustus's own stepdaughter Cornelia, who numbered the mother of the Gracchi among her noble ancestors; the Greek mythic figures Thetis and Niobe; and the lupa, the legendary Roman shewolf who nursed the infants Romulus and Remus. Yet they also include lesser known or unknown figures and fictional characters such as Arria and Lucina. Through these representations, Propertius paints a more negative picture of mothers than the one we usually find in texts and documents from this period. Even in his characterization of such paradigmatically good mothers as Cornelia, who embodies all of the traditional Roman female virtues, Propertius presents a complex image that often undercuts what the woman has publicly exemplified, and most mothers in Propertius fall far short of an idealized model.

Mothers in Propertius, Gold contends, range from hapless to even dangerous figures (such as the lupa), who either are unable to bring aid to their children when it is needed (as in the case of Thetis and Octavia) or bring destruction upon them (as we see with Niobe, Cassandra, and Althaea). They are frequently theriomorphic, inhuman, and bestial, altogether different from the second-century B.C.E. maternal paradigm Cornelia. Far from motivating their children to accomplish praiseworthy objectives, mothers such as Arria, Niobe, and Medea--spurred on by greed or pride--send them to certain deaths. Thetis and Octavia fail miserably at communicating with their children; Tarpeia speaks with total lack of authority and appeals to the worst of role models, invoking Medea as her ideal. These women are driven not by family feeling, but by avarice, arrogance, and aggression. Nor are they prompted by a sense of their rights and privileges; Propertius's mothers reflect an anxiety about the frightening consequences of women's instability, an anxiety that is manifested in the uncertainty his poetry voices about women's actions towards their families and about the entire social order.

Donald Lateiner exhumes the Italian mothers legally related to the Augustan poet Ovid: Ovid's own mother; the mother of his legitimate child, as well as his other two wives; and his daughter, the mother of his grandchildren. After providing a synopsis of most mothers' troubling experiences and limited options in the predominantly man's world of Greek and Latin literature (even those men who whine elegiacally about their dominae), Lateiner analyzes seven assertive mothers of Hellenic narrative provenance in the Metamorphoses. In this work Ovid repackages already ancient stories of women married, raped, or seduced into motherhood, and often entirely robbed of it.

Ovid's new take layers more recently released Hellenistic impulses and Triumviral Italic assertiveness on traditional narratives. We read about Niobe's vacuous boasts of fecundity and imperial public appearances, Latona's pathetic requests for minimal public privileges and communal assistance, Procne's and Althaea's vicious behind-the-scenes intrigues over dynastic succession and royal "poisonings," and Juno's nastily covert, attempted aborting of Alcmena's pregnancy with servile counter-interference. Finally, we experience Hecuba's repeated lamentations and final maternal revenge responding to the official and unofficial carnage perpetrated on her royal if defeated family. As Lateiner's own mother, to whom he dedicates this paper, has often observed, even prestigious mothers rarely have glamorous lives. Ovid seems sympathetic to feminine personalities and to the pressures under which women labor. He portrays these women as struggling to maintain their dignity in the face of private pressures from family members and the public pressures of the community and the law, sometimes asserting their children's rights and needs, sometimes using them as pawns for their own advancement. Such struggles recall those of the earlier, historical Cornelia with, and on behalf of, her younger son Gaius Gracchus.

Lateiner's self-imposed limits, restricting his purview to the stories in the Metamorphoses, precluded discussion of the mother of all Roman mothers, namely a royal daughter, a virgin by legal decree, a victim of divine rape, a forcibly entombed prisoner of a greedy uncle, the mother of twins untimely ripped from her breast and doomed to execution by drowning (so Ovid, Fast. 3.51: amne iubet mergi geminos), one of whom, Romulus, after bestial nursing and foster mothering, killed her other child and then stole yet other unsuspecting women from their families. I am referring to Ilia, or Rhea Silvia the Vestal Virgin, deprived of every reasonable hope of a Roman woman, who has seen our own allegedly more enlightened generation reduce her to a mere blind entry in the Oxford Classical Dictionary. Not only did the mythical (oddly titled) mater Vesta bear no children, but the historical women who held this Roman priesthood uniquely filled by women and wore the stola and vittae of respected matronae and the hairstyle of an honored bride were excluded (for thirty childbearing years, minimum) from the pleasures and privileges, such as they were, of motherhood.

Men thus traded in the shiny token of female, virginal power. Silvia was dangerous traffic and, after the children were born, trashed (cf. a certain Promethion's sordid version in Plutarch, Rom. 2 = FGrH 817). Even Ovid, poet of unnatural existential states and compiler of rapery, omits Silvia from the Metamorphoses. At 3.11-48, in the Martian book of the Fasti, he reports the beautiful maiden's wearisome water-carrying and consequent overheated self-exposure (fessa ... aperto / pectore), Mars's notice and lustful gaze, her subsequent rape and pregnancy, and her sacrilegious birthing (at which the vestal hearth flame sunk in its own cinders!). Then she disappears, as so many mothers do in life and literature, although, as we see below, many shrink less in Roman lives.

Most of the examples used to illustrate the social role of the Roman mother, in earlier scholarship as well as in this collection, are drawn from the late republic and early empire; thus in her study of the Roman mother, Suzanne Dixon represents her as an upright disciplinarian and major influence within the family. Statius's poetry, discussed by Carole Newlands in her essay, provides important evidence for a later period, the end of the first century C.E. when, despite greater social and economic freedom granted women by this period--or perhaps because of it--in the matter of motherhood women seemed to have lost ground and authority. In Tacitus, Dial. 28-29, a text contemporary with Statius, Messalla laments woman's demise as educator of the young. The Cornelias of the second and first centuries B.C.E., educated, stern disciplinarians of their children, were a phenomenon of the past, at least in elite families. Mothers of Messalla's day had abandoned the time-honored role of watching over the house and children. Instead the infant was given to the care of a wet nurse and to other slaves who were responsible for the child's early nurture and rearing.

Certainly, in the later first century, mothers had genealogical importance. In addition to guaranteeing the validity of the family line, they could also improve it by conferring the benefits of distinguished ancestry. But the high incidence of divorce, remarriage, and early mortality meant that a Roman child did not have the close bond with the mother expected in today's nuclear family, but rather was often raised by a variety of relatives and slaves. By the early empire, many people then fulfilled the role of nurturing the Roman child, from slaves to wealthy men, and a variety of social factors meant that many mothers lacked integration into the traditional functions of the family.

Although Statius's epics, the Thebaid and the Achilleid, give unprecedented space to the maternal figure, there are no ideal mothers in his poetry. In the patriarchal world of epic, like that of elegy, mothers, no matter how loving, often seem not to have the child's best interests at heart, and this distrust of the mother as an emotional, unstable figure crosses over into the world of the Silvae. Not surprisingly, the Silvae reflect more directly than do the epics the change in the mother's role within imperial society. An ideal family is envisioned here as one in which the mother has been relegated firmly to the sidelines, an alternative family structure in which men usurp women's traditional role of child-rearing from the very beginning of the child's life. Statius's poetry suggests that perhaps instead of investigating in this period the figure of the Roman mother, we should think for the most part of Roman motherhood as a concept--one that is independent of gender. (36)

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Notes

(1) Pacuvius, Tragedies 139, quoted in Nonius 137, 5, where these words are glossed with 'matrescam,' matris similis fiam; see also the entry in OLD, s.v. matresco.

(2) For the connotations of ingenium, see OLD, s.h.v. Although it is derived from gignere (to bear living creatures), it literally means "inborn quality or character," and is associated in particular with natural mental powers; ingenium can also be used to describe contriving cleverness, not necessarily of a positive kind. It warrants attention, however, that later Roman authors use the term in praise of women engaged in intellectual activity. At Tr. 3.7.14, for example, Ovid refers approvingly to the ingenium of his young poetic protegee Perilla. Cf. L'Annee Epigraphique (1928) 73, where the elegiac epitaph of one Petale, the lectrix (female slave who read aloud) of the Augustan elegist Sulpicia, credits Petale with growing in intellectual talent (creverat ingenio). (For this inscription, see Epigraphische Datenbank Heidelberg, EDH-Nr. HD023608, <http://www.uni-heidelberg.de/institute/sonst/adw/edh/indexe.html> [July 6, 2006].) See the discussions in Stevenson 2005, 35-6 and 43-4.

(3) For Pacuvius's adaptation of the Greek tragedians, see Manuwald 2003, 28-41. It is worth noting that other fragments of Pacuvius's Dulorestes represent Orestes as voicing feelings of contempt and hatred toward his mother Clytemnestra: e.g., 122-3, quoted in Nonius 111, 7: mandat ne matri fuat/cognoscendi umquam aut contuendi copia (He stipulates that his mother never have an opportunity of recognizing or gazing upon him); and 138-40, quoted in Nonius 423, 27: quid quod iam, ei mihi. / piget paternum nomen, maternum pudet/profari? (Why now, to my sorrow, it distresses me to say my father's and shames me to say my mother's name?).

(4) E.g., the epitaph of the Greek slave woman Petale mentioned above in note 2 says natumque in terris Aglaon ediderat (She had given birth to a son, Aglaon, while on earth). Another early Latin text--Pacuvius, Hermiona 23, quoted in Nonius 3, 7--portrays the enslaved Andromache addressing Anchialus, her son by her captor Neoptolemus, son of her husband's slayer Achilles, and husband of the title character. Her words are poignant and powerful: obsecro te, Anciale, matri ne quid tuae advorsus fuas (I beseech you, Ancialus, do not become opposed to your mother in any way). See also Dixon 1988, 17-19 and 146-55.

(5) See Phillips 1978; Dixon 1988, 210-32. A speech from Pacuvius's tragedy Iliona, quoted in Cicero, Orat. 219, is also of relevance. Here the title character, daughter of the mythic Trojan king and queen Priam and Hecuba, recalls that she was pregnant when her mother gave birth to Polydorus in her "last labor" (partu postremo parit). In this story, Iliona rears, and evidently suckles, her own little brother, pretending that he is her son and that her own son Deiphilus is her brother. Her husband Polymestor, king of Thrace, later kills his own son, thinking him Polydorus; Polydorus, after he learns that his actual father Priam has been killed and his actual mother enslaved, conspires with his foster-mother sister to blind and kill Polymestor.

Tibullus's book 3, not discussed by either Phillips or Dixon, also provides valuable evidence for the importance of the bond between Roman mothers and daughters. In imagining his death, the author of 3.2, who identifies himself by the pseudonym Lygdamus, hopes that his beloved, called by the pseudonym Neaera, may come to his pyre "accompanied by the shared grief of her mother, one grieving for her son-in-law, the other her partner" (carae matris comitata dolore / maereat haec genero, maereat illa viro, 3.2.13-14). At 3.4, the same poet has the god Apollo characterize Neaera as "as dear to you as no daughter is to her mother" (tantum cara tibi quantum nec filia matri, 51) and himself characterizes Neaera's mother as "most kind, far beyond all other women" (et longe ante alias omnes mitissima mater, 93). Line 3.12.15 refers to the mother of the elegist Sulpicia as "extremely attentive [studiosa]" to her daughter.

(6) For the basic biographical information about Cornelia, see Badian 1996a; his entry, like that of A. E. Astin in the second edition of the OCD (1970), relies heavily on F. Muenzer's article, "Cornelius (407)," in RE 4.1 (1900), cols. 1592-5. See also Dixon 1988, 168-207; Hemelrijk 1999, 193-7; Hallett 2002a.

(7) For Cornelia as "motivational speaker," see Hallett 2002a and 2004. For the motivational goals of a Roman oratio, see Cicero, De Or. 2.29.128-9: una conciliandorum hominum, altera docendorum, tertia concitandorum (first the winning of people's support, second of apprising them of the facts, third of getting them motivated to act).

(8) For Cornelia's father, Publius Cornelius Scipio Africanus, and his dates, see Scullard 1970, as well as Hallett 1996.

(9) For Cornelia's husband, Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, see Badian 1996c. Dixon (1988, 22) assumes that the marriage proposal from a Ptolemy came late in Cornelia's life: "Cornelia (mater Gracchorum) was praised for rejecting wealthy suitors in her widowhood (Plut. Tib, Gr. 1.7) but her daughter was long since married by then and her sons dead." But as Plutarch describes Cornelia's refusal of this proposal immediately after noting the death of her husband, it would seem more probable that she made her decision relatively soon after she became a widow in the late 150S B.C.E.

(10) For Cornelia's twelve offspring, and the early deaths of nine, see Seneca, Marc. 16.3 and Helv. 16.6; Pliny, HN 7.57; Plutarch, Ti. Gracch. 1.2.

(11) For Scipio Aemilianus's life, see Astin 1967; Badian 1996b; for his payment of Cornelia's dowry, Polybius 31.26ff. and Dixon 1988, 47ff.

(12) For Scipio Aemilianus's bestowal of possessions that belonged to Cornelia's mother Aemilia on his own mother Papiria, and subsequently on his own sisters, see Dixon 1985. Polybius reports that such conduct won Scipio great admiration among elite Roman women at the time.

(13) For scholarly skepticism about Cornelia's authorship, see, e.g., Badian 1996a; Courtney 1999, 136 (prominently citing, inter alios, Horsfall 1987 and 1989, and Instinsky 1971); Hemelrijk 1999, 193-4 (citing, inter alios, Horsfall and Instinsky as well).

(14) See, e.g., the discussion of certain problems by Hemelrijk 1999, 193ff.: "The authenticity of these fragments has been hotly debated for more than a hundred and fifty years, but without conclusive results. The discussion has been complicated by emotional arguments about the supposed relation between a Roman mother and her son, the psychology of women and the behavior expected of a woman of Cornelia's standing ... The strongly dominant personality speaking from the letter and her political involvement agree with what we know of Cornelia from other sources, but ... the political attitude shown in this letter stands in striking contrast to the support Cornelia gave her sons according to most other sources ... if the letter, as we have it, is not by Cornelia but by an unknown forger of later date, how did it, falsely attributed to her, find its way into the works of Nepos?"

(15) As Hemelrijk (1999, 349 n. 38) emphasizes, the fragments are not found in all of the manuscripts of Nepos: "In the earliest surviving manuscript, the late twelfth century Wolfenbuettel Codex (also called the Codex Guelferbytanus, or A) ... the title added by the scribe who copied the fragments reads: 'Verba ex epistula Corneliae Gracchorum matris ex eodem libro Cornelii Nepotis excerpta' ... This manuscript was, probably indirectly, copied from the lost Codex Danielis written between the ninth and twelfth centuries (which did contain the Cornelia fragments), from which in the fifteenth century the other two main manuscripts, L (Leidensis) and P (Parcensis, lost in the first World War), were copied, and which was the basis of the Utrecht edition of 1542 (u). Of these manuscripts only A and the fifteenth century Italian codices deriving from A contain the Cornelia fragments; L has only the life of Atticus, P only that of Cato, and u none."

(16) I follow the Latin text and English translation provided in Hallett 2002a.

(17) See Horsfall 1989, 126: "Cornelia perhaps here ... expresses an expectation that she will be honoured after her death as a 'deus parens' in family cult, perhaps under the influence of Greek ideas."

(18) For the use of these adjectives to describe Cornelia's words and tone, see Hallett 2002a and 2004. Even Courtney, who refrains from commenting on the tone of the letter, notes (1999, 138) regarding ubi ego mortua ero ... ubi mortua ero: "The first occurrence stresses the involvement of Cornelia's feelings, so it needs the emphatic pronoun."

(19) For "ladylike," see The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, s.h.v. Horsfall (1989, 126) employs a synonym of sorts in countering those who find the language here unbefitting of a noblewoman: "Four successive questions begin massively with 'ecquando', 'whenever'. Unwomanly, it has been thought. But hardly a decisive argument against Cornelia's authorship."

Arguments based on present-day psychological and psychiatric assumptions about appropriate female conduct are problematic too. As Hemelrijk (1999, 350 n. 40) notes, von Stern, writing in 1921, believed in the letter's authenticity on psychological grounds. Yet Dixon (1988, 179) states that "the arguments [Cornelia] employs would today be deemed fit for psychiatric analysis."

(20) On these challenges, see the discussion of Hemelrijk 1999, 193-7. In response to the argument that "the political attitude shown in this letter stands in striking contrast to the support Cornelia gave her sons according to most other sources," Hemelrijk observes that "one or two testimonies [i.e., Plutarch and Diodorus] seem to suggest that she may have opposed her sons' policy." To counter those who are suspicious of the letter's style, Hemelrjk points out that for most scholars the language "points to a date at the end of the second century BC." There is also the argument advanced by Horsfall (1987, 231 and 1989, 41) that Nepos, in the words of Courtney (1999, 136), "contrary to his own practice and that of ancient historical writers in general" would be unlikely "to reproduce a document verbally" Courtney, however, acknowledges that "in this respect biography operates by different rules from those of history"; it is also to be emphasized that this letter is excerpted, not quoted in full, much as correspondence from Mark Antony is excerpted at, e.g., Suetonius, Aug. 69.2.

(21) See, e.g., Courtney 1999, 136: "The source from which this letter comes must give us pause. Why would Nepos quote it in a work with this title? We are not justified in simply rejecting our information." However, Horsfall (1989, 125) regards Nepos's statement about the provenance of the letter as "clearly mistaken information: the Gracchi were not historians and the scribe may have been misled by the MSS headings to Cato and Atticus." Hemelrijk (1999, 193) asserts that the excerpts most likely "come from Nepos' lost life of Gaius Gracchus which, apparently, was included among the 'Latin Historians.'"

(22) On this now-lost V(eronensis) and its descendants, see Tarrant in Reynolds 1983, 43-5.

(23) Cicero, Brut, 211 (Atticus is speaking): Sed magni interest quos quidque audiat cotidie domi, quibuscum loquatur a puero, quem ad modum patres paedagogi matres etiam loquantur. Legimus epistulas Corneliae matris Gracchorum; apparet filios non tam in gremio educatos quam in sermone matris (It is of great consequence whom and what each individual may hear each day at home, with whom he speaks from his boyhood, how fathers and tutors and also mothers speak. We read the letters of Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi; it is clear that her sons were reared not so much in the bosom as by the conversation of their mother).

Quintilian, Inst. 1.1.6: In parentibus vero quam plurimum esse eruditionis optaverim, nec de patribus tantum loquor. Nam Gracchorum eloquentiae multum contulisse accepimus Corneliam matrem, cuius doctissimus sermo in posteros quoque st epistolis traditus (I would truly wish that there be as much learning as possible on the part of parents, nor do I only speak about fathers. For we have recognized that their mother Cornelia had contributed much of the eloquence of the Gracchi, a woman whose most learned conversation has also been handed down to later generations by means of her letters).

(On these passages, see, e.g., Badian 1996a; Courtney 1999, 136; Hemelrijk 1999, 349. In response to the claim by Instinsky (and Badian) that the letters were no longer extant in Quintilian's day, Hemelrijk responds: "Quintilian ... is generally assumed to have derived this passage from Cicero ... but, to my mind, his rather vague statements as regards the transmission of the letters ... does not preclude the possibility that they had been preserved down to his own day."

(24) On the verbal and thematic affinities between Cornelia's letter and these Augustan literary texts, see Hallett 2002b and 2004, 32-8.

(25) For the parental priorities of Livy's Torquatus in contrast to those of Cornelia, see Hallett 2004, 26-31.

(26) So Hallett 2002a, 17 and 2004, 31. Hemelrijk (1999, 196) observes: "The letter shows no particular style or idiom that may be called characteristic of a woman," noting that Gratwick (1982, 147) calls her style "virile."

(27) For the date of Livy's book 2, see Briscoe 1996; for that of Nepos's death, see Spawforth 1996.

(28) For the date of the Aeneid, left unfinished when Vergil died in 19 B.C.E., see [Suetonius], Vita Verg. 35-6.

(29) See Gilligan 1982, 24-63, discussed in Hallett 2002a, 17 and 2004, 30-1.

(30) See Caplan 1954, xvi, xxvi.

(31) On this relationship, attested to by, e.g., Livy 22.53.11 and 28.28.11, and Aulus Gellius 4.18, 6.1.6, and 12.8, see Hallett 1996, 412-3.

(32) See in particular Farrell 2001, 58-65; also Courtney 1999, 138, who remarks: "These expressions [divi ... parentum and divos parentes] have no feminine, and in fact the singular too is unique; in the following sentence Cornelia passes into a generalising masculine plural."

(33) For this hypothesis, see, e.g., Courtney 1999, 136; Hemelrijk 1999, 195 and 351 n. 47.

(34) Taylor 1989, 305-20. The phrase "different voice" of course alludes to the title of Gilligan's influential study.

(35) Dixon (1988), for example, does not deal with Ovid's rich and complex portrayal of mothers in the Metamorphoses, nor with any of Propertius's depictions of mothers besides those in 2.7 and 4.11. So, too, she limits her discussion of mothers in Statius to Silvae 3.5 and 4.8, and only mentions Fulvia twice (to note that her son by Clodius benefited from a powerful stepfather, and to comment on her behavior at the trial of Milo for the murder of Clodius).

(36) Thanks to Jon Owens and the graduate students in classical studies at Bryn Mawr College for inviting me to present a version of this introduction for the 2004 Agnes K. L. Michels Lecture there in March 2004; my gratitude as well to Radcliffe Edmonds, Julia Haig Gaisser, and Lee T Pearcy for their comments at the Michels Lecture, and to Barbara Gold, Donald Lateiner, and Carole Newlands for their valuable suggestions on the final version.
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Publication:Helios
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Date:Sep 22, 2006
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