Honors Bachelor of Arts

Document Type


Faculty Advisor

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Shannon Byrne; HAB Course Director: Dr. Thomas Strunk




Although often neglected in Roman literature, women play important roles where they do appear. This is especially true in Livy's history called the Ab Urbe Condita or "From the Founding of the City" and Tacitus' work the Annals. For reasons I will clarify more in my presentation, Livy uses women as examples. Some are examples that the readers should follow. Lavinia, Lucretia, and the Sabine women all exemplify something good. Lavinia is noble in her aim, Lucretia is a model for chastity, and the Sabine women show the value of harmony. Livy also presents women who are bad examples. Tullia is overcome by the vice of ambition, and this eventually leads to the end of the monarchy in Rome. Tarpeia shows what happens when women are influenced by nefarious men. Livy also includes women that are impossible to categorize, like Tanaquil. She influences the men around her and is very outspoken. This is due to her Etruscan heritage. Because she is not Roman, it is unfair to judge her based on Roman values. In contrast, Tacitus uses women to characterize the men with whom they associate. Most women make the emperors look bad. Livia weakens the character of Augustus and puts Tiberius on the throne. Agrippina the Younger tells Claudius what to do and is so influential that prisoners paid respects to her as if she were an emperor. Octavia is killed by Nero after she is accused of adultery. She was innocent of the crime, and Nero comes off as a tyrant for her murder. Agrippina the Elder is both good and bad. She is portrayed as the noble wife of Germanicus. Their relationship makes Germanicus look good. However, she is also used to make Tiberius seem weak and angry. By looking at the way the authors use women, their motives come to light. Livy uses women as examples of the virtues that made Rome powerful and the vices that were causing it to decline. Tacitus does everything he can to show how bad the emperors were, and therefore he uses women to help him do that.

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 License.



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