Ten Roman Women You Should Know About

Aldegrever, Heinrich 1502-1555/61: Rhea Silvia...

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  1. Egeria, the nymph who gave Numa Pompilius the gifts of wisdom and prophecy, and who acted as his guide and counsel while he established the traditions of Rome. Give her libations of water or milk in a sacred grove and see what gifts of wisdom or prophesy she might give to you!
  2. Rea Silvia, first of the Vestal Virgins. Legendary mother of Romulus and Remus, by way of a visit from the god Mars. Yes, Romans had myths with immaculate conceptions in them too.
  3. Julia Domna, Empress of Rome.  Born in Syria around 170 B.C.E., she was wife to the Emperor Severus. A patron of learning and the arts, she also went on campaign with her husband during war time, earning her the title of “mater castrorum”–“mother of the camps”.
  4. Cornelia, mother of the Gracchi, often held up as the perfect example of Roman womanhood in ancient times. Besides giving birth to 12 children, she also used her social position to further her sons political careers, and went on to study in both Latin and Greek later in life. Her letters are some of the only surviving writing by Roman women.
  5.  Amazon and Achillia, two gladiatrix women honored in a relief carving in Halicarnassus after their retirement from the gladiatorial games
  6. Cornelia Metella, wife of Pompey Magnus. Said to be well-educated in geometry, music, and philosophy, she was a caring step-mother for Pompey’s children from his previous marriages.
  7. Livia Julia Augusta, Empress of Rome. Wife of Octavian, Julius Augustus Caesar, she was a power in her own right and well known for her forceful opinions.
  8. Clodia, best known as Catullus’s lover. Known for her beauty, wit, and wild ways, she inspired quite a lot of tortured poetry from Catullus before disapproving society and jealous rivals brought her down.
  9. Sulpicia, Roman poet and niece of Valerius Messalla Corvinus,  Roman statesman and legendary ancestor of the Hungarian aristocracy.
  10. Hypatia of Alexandria, premier woman scholar of Roman Alexandria.  Mathematician, Astronomer and philosopher, she was well loved and admired by her community until she was murdered in a political conflict with the Christian church.
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