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There are many shocking examples of sexual assaults on women recorded throughout Roman history. The of cases highlights the extreme inequality prevalent in Roman society. Countless instances of harrowing sexual assaults on women have been documented by Roman historians, poets and orators. Evidence of such assaults dates from the earliest periods of Roman history to the latest. This is perhaps unsurprising in a society which attributed to women a much lower status than that of men. Roman women were viewed as minors by law. They held a position on a par with that of children and only marginally higher than that of slaves.
They were under the control of men throughout their lives, from their father during childhood to their husband during marriage. Ordinary women have, therefore, largely been omitted from Roman history. But, as we shall see, when they are deemed worthy of a role, it is often as a victim of sexual violence. The rape of the Sabine women is viewed as an important episode in early Roman history. It has, therefore, attracted much attention from ancient and modern historians, poets and artists.
The most notable ancient source is Titus Livius, known to us today as Livy. Interestingly, Livy presents the rape of the Sabine women as an act of necessity rather than one of violence. However, the future of the city depended on the growth of its population. Rome, at this time, was a settlement almost entirely populated by men. Romulus therefore asked neighbouring tribes if they would send their women to live with Roman men.
Unsurprisingly, each tribe declined. Romulus then decided to try another approach. He held festival games in honour of Neptune and invited all Women for sex Rome surrounding tribes, including the Sabines. Once everyone was distracted by the spectacle, the Roman men sprung an attack on the Sabine women.
Livy notes that the Sabine women were outstandingly beautiful, as if providing a reason Women for sex Rome their particular misfortune. He also attempts to soften the episode by adding the detail that the men claimed they had abducted the women as an act of love and passion. Later, we are told, the Sabine women apparently intervened to prevent bloodshed between their vengeful fathers and the Roman men. A begrudging truce followed shortly after.
He states that due to the abduction of the Sabine women, the newly powerful city of Rome continued to flourish. Romulus could then proclaim himself the first king of Rome. The Roman poet Ovid gives us an entirely different angle on the rape of the Sabine women. In his book of love poetry, The Art of Lovehe gives advice to young male lovers.
In Book 1, he explains various methods of flirting with women in public places. Women who attend the games-festivals are apparently open targets. Ovid suggests that men select their prey from afar and then move in for the kill, like an eagle hunting a dove. In order to give authority to his advice, he likens this approach to that taken by the early Romans who abducted the Sabines. The behaviour of the founding fathers of Rome is presented as an excuse for men to pursue sexual desire. This sexual desire is pursued regardless of whether it is mutual or consensual.
The female voice is nowhere to be heard. As the rape of the Sabine women introduced the beginning of the monarchy in Rome, the rape of Lucretia alled its end. While camped for battle, a group of young officers dined heavily one night. The men began to discuss who had the most virtuous wife. Collatinus declared that his wife, Lucretia, would surely win. So, to test his assertion, the men rode to their homes, unannounced, to see what their wives were doing while their husbands were absent. Each man found his wife dining with her friends and thoroughly enjoying herself.
Content with being proved correct, Collatinus invited the group to stay the night at his house. Livy tells us that this was when Tarquinius was seized with a lustful desire for the chaste Women for sex Rome. Lucretia, unaware of his motives, met him with politeness and hospitality. Tarquinius was permitted to rest overnight before his return journey. She resisted forcefully so Tarquinius threatened her. He said that he would kill her and a slave and leave their bodies naked in the bed side by side.
Then, consumed with shame, she stabbed herself in the heart and died. By the time he reached Rome a small army followed in his wake, eager to get rid of their corrupt king. This small army eventually managed to overthrow the king and bring an end to years of the monarchy. Lucretia fast became a symbol of feminine virtue, known as pudicitia. Her example stood in opposition to the corruption and arrogance of the monarchy.
The traditional date for the beginning of the Republican era in ancient Rome is BC. This era saw greater equality in Rome in the move away from the absolute rule of the kings. Rome was now ruled by elected consuls, who held their post for a limit of one year.
One important law made it mandatory for all new laws to be made available to the public rather than hidden away. The Decemvirior Board of Ten Men, was set up to oversee these publications. But the Decemviri soon began to abuse their power and people grew angry with the levels of Women for sex Rome within the Board. In BC, one member of the Decemviria patrician named Appius Claudius, attempted to sexually assault a young plebeian woman, Virginia.
Appius persuaded one of his friends to make a legal plea that Virginia was actually his slave. The friend was to claim that she had been stolen from him by the man claiming to be her father. In the court case that followed, the judge hearing the case was none other than Appius himself. Further changes were later implemented which gave more rights to the plebeian class.
Virginia, therefore, like Lucretia before her, became a symbol of freedom for the people of Rome. By the time of the Roman Empire the laws on sexual assault had been established. However, legalities concerning women and sex were famously rife with double standards. The first emperor, Augustusintroduced a series of laws on criminal sexual activity, known as stuprum.
These stated that men were allowed to have sex with prostitutes but not with a widowed or unmarried patrician woman. Women, on the other hand, were not allowed to have sex with anyone outside of marriage. Rape was prosecuted under the law of iniuria criminal injustice or vis violence. A violated woman could not bring charges herself. Instead this fell to the man who had legal authority over her, such as her father or husband. Punishments for those convicted of rape varied according to the circumstances. Rapists could face death or a large fine. In some cases, they were forced to marry the victim without a dowry.
The Emperor Constantinewho ruled between AD andmade some notorious changes to the laws regarding the rape of virgins. In his laws, he made a distinction between those who were apparently willing and unwilling to be raped. If a girl was found to be willing, then she was burned to death. If she was found to be unwilling, then she suffered a less severe punishment.
However, it was noted that even those who were unwilling should have shouted louder for assistance. Thankfully, such draconian approaches had changed by the time of Justinian I. Justinian ruled the Eastern Empire between AD and He set out to reform the Roman legal system and introduced a series of new laws, known as the Justinian Codex. One of these laws stated that women who were violated by force and against their will would not be held liable. Moreover, the law explicitly stated that such a woman should not lose her social reputation. Vesta was the Roman goddess of the hearth and the fire.
Inside her shrine in the Roman Forum was a sacred flame which was never to be extinguished. The Romans believed that, if the flame did die out, then something terrible would happen to the city.
The Vestal Virgins were an exclusive college of six priestesses. Their most important role was to tend to the flame of Vesta.
Vestal virgins took a vow of chastity, which lasted for their full term of office, 30 years. A Vestal who broke this vow was punished by being buried alive. The man who violated her was sentenced to death by whipping. As we have seen, sexual violence against women punctuated important episodes of early Roman history.
It is therefore perhaps not surprising that the foundation of Rome itself was built upon the rape of a Vestal Virgin — Rhea Silvia. Numitor was overthrown by his brother Amulius who, subsequently, forced Rhea to become a Vestal Virgin. Rhea was a great beauty who soon attracted the attention of the god of war, Mars.
When she rejected him, Mars raped her and she later gave birth to twin boys. These boys were called Romulus and Remus. Amulius ordered the twins to be thrown into a river, but the boys washed up safely on the shore. In the legend that follows, Romulus and Remus were raised first by a she-wolf and then by a local shepherd.
The boys grew up strong and skilful in war, like their father. Before long, they overthrew Amulius and restored Numitor as king. Later, they established a settlement of their own, which was to grow into the mighty city of Rome. Sex was not considered a taboo topic in ancient Roman society. It was discussed much more openly than in Western culture today. This fact is illustrated in the many examples of erotic frescoes and mosaics that have been discovered within Roman houses.
This is also clear from textual evidence, in particular, declamatio texts. Declamatio texts were intended as educational exercises for young men to practise their debating skills. The texts would provide details of legal cases and students would then devise arguments for and against the defence. Interestingly, sexually violent crimes against women were a recurring subject of these texts. As a result, we can learn more about the victims and circumstances of sexual assault in ancient Rome. The majority of the victims mentioned in the texts are girls and young women of marriageable age.
In ancient Rome, this was the age of 13 upwards. Many of the episodes begin with the crime of kidnapping. The most shocking details involve girls being Women for sex Rome as sex slaves and those who were victims of gang rape.Women for sex Rome
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In bed with the Romans: a brief history of sex in Ancient Rome