16 Joshel, Sandra. 2002. “The Female Body and the Body Politic: Livy’s Lucretia and Verginia”

[Page numbers in this text appear at the top of their pages.]

Brutus, while the others were absorbed in grief, drew out the knife from Lu­cretia’s wound, and holding it up, dripping with gore, exclaimed, “By this blood most chaste until a prince wronged it, I swear, and I take you, gods, to witness, that I will pursue Lucius Tarquinius Superbus and his wicked wife and all his children, with sword, with fire, aye with whatsoever violence I may; and that I will suffer neither them nor any other to be king in Rome!”   -Livy 1.59.1, LCL1

Reality, robbed of its independent life, is shaped anew, kneaded into large, englobing blocks that will serve as the building material for a larger vista, a monumental world of the future …. Empires can be built only on, and out of, dead matter. Destroyed life provides the material for their building blocks. -Klaus Theweleit, Male Fantasies


Pretext: The Conditions of a Reading

I read Livy’s history of Rome’s origins, its earliest struggles with neighboring states, and the political events that formed the state that conquered an empire. The historian writes within an immediate past he regards as decadent, a fall from the glorious society of ancestors who made empire possible; he stands at a point where his Rome is about to be reinvigorated by a new imperial order\ Raped, dead, or disappeared women litter the pages. The priestess Rh􀀲a Silvia, raped by the god Mars, gives birth to Rome’s founder, Romulus, and leaves the story. The women of the neighboring Sabines are seized as wives by Romulus’s wifeless men. When the Sabine soldiers come to do battle with the Romans, the Roman girl Tarpeia betrays her own menfolk by admitting their foes into the citadel. She is slain by the enemy she helped. By contrast, the Sabine women place their bodies between their kin and their husbands, offering to take on the violence the men would do to each other.


Later, a young woman, named only as sister, is murdered by her brother Horatius because she mourns the fiance he killed in single combat. “So perish every Roman woman who mourns a foe!” he declares, and their father agrees that she was justly slain. Lucretia, raped by the king’s son, calls on her menfolk to avenge her and commits suicide. The men overthrow the monarchy. Verginia, threatened with rape by a ty rannical magistrate, is killed by her father to prevent her violation. The citizen body ousts the magistrate and his colleagues. In these stories of early Rome, the death and disappearance of women recur periodically; the rape of women be­comes the history of the state. 2

I read Klaus Theweleit’s study of Freikorps narratives, written by “soldier males” who would become active Nazis. They write of World War I, of battling Reds, of living in a time they experience as chaotic 􀀛nd decadent in a Germany fallen from former greatness. Dead, disappeared, and silent women litter their texts. Sexually active working-class and communist women are slain brutally; chaste wives and sisters are made antiseptic, are killed tragically, or do not speak.
And I read Livy and Theweleit in the United States in the summer of 1987, at a time when the title of a recent Canadian film evokes what is often not explicit-The Decline of the American Empire. A time of concern about American power abroad and American life at home. The war against drugs and the battle against uncon­trolled sex. Betsy North, Donna Rice, and Vanna White litter the TV screen, newspapers, and magazines. Betsy, silent and composed, sits behind her ramrod­straight husband, stiff and immaculate in his Marine uniform. Donna Rice appears in private, now public, photographs with Gary Hart; she has nothing to say. He gives up his candidacy for the presidency, guilty of extramarital sex. Vanna White turns letters on the popular game show “Wheel of Fortune.” She does speak. “I enjoy getting dressed as a Barbie doll,” she tells an interviewer. An image on our TV screens gotten up like a doll that simulates a nonexistent woman named Barbie, she is rematerialized by her dress in some sort of fetishistic process: “Speaking of Vanna White, a polyester magenta dress, one worn by the celebrated letter-turner, is on display at a Seattle espresso bar, where fans may touch it for 25 cents” (Boston Globe, June 9, 1987).

I look here at gender relations and images of women in Livy’s history of early Rome, focusing on his tales of Lucretia and Verginia, but I do so within my own present. Freikorps narratives and the current mediascape are _the “conditions of my narrative,” to borrow a phrase from Christa Wolf. I am not equating Rome, Fascist Germany, and the United States of the 1980s; nor am I making the images of women in their histories and fictions exactly analogous. By juxtaposing images, I raise questions about the representations of gender within visions of building and collaps­ing empires. As Theweleit suggests of fascism, the Roman fiction should be under­stood and combated not “because it might ‘return again,’ but primarily because, as a form of reality production that is constantly present and possible under determin­ate conditions, it can, and does, become our production” (1987: 221). Whether our own fictions include tales similar to Lucretia’s and Verginia’s with names changed or whether, as academics, we dissect Livy’s tales, we retell the stories, bringing their gender images and relations into our present (cf. Theweleit 1987: 265-89, 359).


Livy and the Conditions of His Narrative

Livy (64 B.C.-A.D. 12) lived through the change from aristocratic Republic to Principate, a military dictatorship disguised in republican forms. For more than a century before Livy’s birth, Rome’s senatorial class had ruled an empire; by the time of his death, Rome, its political elite, and the empire were governed by one man. He grew up during the civil wars that marked the end of the Republic, and his adult years saw the last struggle of military dynasts, Octavian and Antony, and the reign of the first emperor, the victor in that struggle. Raised in a Padua known for its traditional morality, Livy was a provincial; he did not belong to the senatorial class and was uninvolved in politics, although he did have friendly relations with the imperial family (Ogilvie 1965: 1-5; Walsh 1961; Syme 1959; see J. Phillips 1982: 1028, for bibliography).

Livy wrote the early books of his history after Octavian’s victory over Antony and during the years in which Octavian became Augustus princeps-in effect, emperor (J. Phillips 1982: 1029, for the debate on the precise date). Shortly after­ward came Augustus’s restoration of the state religion and his program of social and moral reform which included new laws on marriage and adultery aimed primarily at the upper classes. The adultery law made sexual relations between a married woman and a man other than her husband a criminal offense. Ineffective and unpopular, the law nonetheless indicates the regime’s concern with regulating sexuality, especially female (see Dixon 1988: 71ff). The program was to return Rome to its ancestral traditions, renew its imperial greatness, and refound the state.

The state to be refounded was a Rome uncorrupted by wealth and luxury, greed and license, the supposed conditions of the late Republic. The stories in which Lucretia and Verginia figure record critical points in that state’s formation, marking the origin of political and social forms which, along with the behavior of heroes, account for Rome’s greatness and its rise to imperial power. The rape of Lucretia precipitates the fall of the monarchy and establishment of the Republic and the Roman version of liberty. The attempted rape of Verginia belongs to a struggle between privileged and unprivileged groups (patricians and plebeians) known as the Conflict of the Orders; the event resulted in the overthrow of the decemvirs, officials who had abused their original mission of codifying the law, and began a long process of reform that eventually changed the form of Roman political institutions.

To modern historians, Livy’s stories of Lucretia and Verginia are myths or, at best, legends that include some memory of actual events. Current historical recon­structions of Rome in the late sixth and mid-fifth centuries B.c., the society in which Lucretia and Verginia are supposed to have lived, depend on archaeology, some early documents, antiquarian notices in later authors (Heurgon 1973; Gjerstad 1973; Bloch 1965; Raaflaub 1986 for historical methodology)’, and􀀠 as has recently been suggested, the “structural facts” obtained when Livy’s accounts have been stripped of their “narrative superstructure” (Cornell 1986: 61-76, esp. 73; Raaflaub 1986: 49-50). This evidence usually leaves us without a narrative. or the names of agents (see Raaflaub 1986: 13-16). But Livy invented neither the outline of events nor the characters in his stories. First written down in the third and second centuries B. c. , the tales were perpetuated as part of a living historical tradition by Roman writers of


the early first century B.C. who were the major sources for Livy’s retelling (for Livy’s use of his sources, see Ogilvie 1965; Walsh 1961; Luce 1977). The history of the roughly contemporary Dionysius of Halicamassus allows us to see how Livy used the tradition.

This tradition “was neither an authenticated official record nor an objective critical reconstruction, but rather an ideological construct, designed to control, to justify, and to inspire” (Cornell 1986: 58). For historian and audience, the past provided the standards by which to judge the present: the deeds of great ancestors offered models for imitation and supported the claims of the ruling class to political privilege and power. Each historian infused his version.of events with his own (and his class’s) literary, moral, and political concerns. The past, Cornell notes, “was subject to a process of continuous transformation as each generation reconstructed the past in its own image” (1986: 58). For many modem historians, Livy’s account of early Rome better reflects the late Republic than the late sixth and fifth centuries B.c. (Raaflaub 1986: 23).

Even if we view Livy’s “description of the monarchy and early Republic as prose epics or historical novels” (Raaflaub 1986: 8), we should not ignore the power of his fictions of Lucretia and Verginia. For Livy, they were history, and, as history, they should inform a way of life in an imperial Rome ripe for refounding. In good Roman fashion, Livy views history as a repository of illustrative behaviors and their results: “What chiefly makes the study of history wholesome and profitable is this, that you behold the lessons of every kind of experience set forth on a conspicuous monument; from these you may choose for yourself and for your state what to imitate, from these mark for avoidance what is shameful in conception and shameful in the result” (praef. IO, LCL). Before he begins his historical narrative per se, Livy urges a particular kind of reading. His stories will proffer an array of subject positions, beliefs, and bodily practices. The reader should recognize and identify with them and should understand the consequences of assuming particular subject positions. Bodily practices fit into a vision of building and collapsing empire: some result in imperial power; others bring decadence and destruction. The reader should pay close attention to “what life and morals were like; through what men and by what policies, in peace and in war, empire was established and enlarged; then let him note how, with the gradual relaxation of discipline, morals first gave way, as it were, then sank lower and lower, and finally began the downward plunge which has brought us to the present time, when we can endure neither our vices nor their cure” (praef. 9, LCL).

Thus, the question for us is not whether victims, villains, and heroes are fiction­al, but the way Livy tells their story, offering up a blueprint for his imperial present.

Livy’s Stories of Lucretia and Verginia:
Rape, Death, and Roman History

Lucretia and the Fall of the Monarchy (1.57-60)

In 509 B.c., the king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus, wages war on Ardea in the hope that the booty with lessen the peoples resentment at the labour he has


imposed on them. During the siege of the city, at a drinking party, the king’s sons and their kinsman Collatinus argue over who has the best wife. On Collatinus’s suggestion, they decide to settle the question by seeing what their wives are doing. They find the princes’ wives enjoying themselves at a banquet with their friends; Collatinus’s wife, Lucretia, surrounded by her maids, spins by lamplight in her front hall. Lucretia makes her husband the victor in the wife contest. One of the princes, Sextus Tarquinius, inflamed by Lucretia’s beauty and her proven chastity, is seized by a desire to have her. A few days later, without Collatinus’s knowledge, he returns to Collatia, where he is welcomed as a guest. That night when the household is asleep, he draws his sword and wakes the sleeping Lucretia. Neither his declarations of love nor his threats of murder nor his pleas move the chaste Lucretia. She submits only when he threatens to create an appearance of disgraceful behavior: he will kill her and a slave and leave the slave’s naked body next to hers, so that it will look as if they had been slain in the act of adultery. 3 After the rape, she sends for her husband and her father, instructing them to come with a trusted friend (Collatinus brings Lucius Junius Brutus). To her husband’s question “Is it well with you?” she an­swers, “What can be well with a woman who has lost her chastity? The mark of another man is in your bed. My body only is violated; my mind is guiltless; death will be my witness. Swear that the adulterer will be punished-he is Sextus Tar­quinius.” The men swear and try to console her, arguing that the mind sins, not the body. She responds, “You will determine what is due him. As for me, although I acquit myself of fault, I do not free myself from punishment. No unchaste woman will live with Lucretia as a precedent.” Then she kills herself with a knife she had hidden beneath her robe. While her husband and father grieve, Brutus draws the weapon from Lucretia’s body and swears on her blood to destroy the monarchy. Lucretia’s body, taken into the public square of Collatia, stirs the populace; Brutus incites the men to take up arms and overthrow the king. Brutus marches to Rome, and in the Forum the story of Lucretia and Brutus’s speech have the same effect. The king is exiled, the monarchy ended; the Republic begins with the election of two consuls, Brutus and Collatinus.


Verginia and the Fall of the Decemvirate (3.44-58)

In 450 B.c., the decemvirs have taken control of the state. They have displaced the consuls and the tribunes, protectors of the rights of plebeians. The chief decemvir, Appius Claudius, desires the beautiful young Verginia, daughter of the plebeian centurion Lucius Verginius. When Appius fails to seduce her with money or prom­ises, he arranges to have Marcus Claudius, his cliens (a dependent tied to a more powerful man or an ex-master), claim Verginia as his (Marcus’s) slave while her father is away at war (apparently the client will give the young woman to his patron Appius). Marcus grabs Verginia as she enters the Forum. When the cries of her nurse draw a crowd, Marcus hauls her before Appius’s court. The decemvir postpones his decision until her father arrives but orders Verginia turned over to the man who claims her as his slave until the case can be tried. An impassioned speech by Verginia’s fiance Icilius incites the crowd; Appius rescinds his order. The next day, Verginius leads his daughter into the Forum, seeking support from the crown.


Unmoved by appeals or weeping women, Appius adjudges Verginia a slave, but he grants Verginius’s request for a moment to question his daughter’s nurse in Ver­ginia’s presence. Verginius leads his daughter away. Grabbing a knife from a butch­er’s shop, he cries, “In the only way I can, my daughter, I claim your freedom,” and kills her. Icilius and Publius Numitorius, Verginia’s grandfather(?), show the life­less body to the populace and stir them to action. Verginius escapes .to the army, where his bloodstained clothes, the knife, and his speech move his fellow soldiers to revolt. The decemvirate is overthrown, and when the tribunate is restored, Ver­ginia ‘s father, fiance, and grandfather (?) are elected to office.

Flood: Bodily Desire and Political Catastrophe

Livy’s narrative of Rome’s political transformation revolves around chaste, innocent women raped and killed for the sake of preserving the virtue of the body female and the body politic; Roman men stirred to action by men who take control; and lustful villains whose desires result in their own destruction. Although the basic elements of Rome’s early legends were present in Livy’s sources, he could have dispensed with the tales in abbreviated fashion or minimized the role of women in stories of political change. Instead, he carefully constructs tragedies, drawing on all the literary techniques and models so meticulously noted by scholars (Ogilvie 1965: 218-32, 476-88; J. Phillips 1982: 1036-37 for bibliography). Why this writing of Roman history in Livy’s present?

Livy’s view of the immediate past engages him in Rome’s ancient history. He elaborates that history, because he finds pleasure in it and relief from recent civil war, social upheaval, and military disaster:

To most readers the earliest origins and the period immediately succeeding them will give little pleasure, for they will be in haste to reach these modem times, in which the might of a people which has long been very powerful is working its own undoing. I myself, on the contrary, shall seek in this an additional reward for my toil, that I may avert my gaze from the troubles which our age has been witnessing for so many years, so long at least as I am absorbed in the recollection of the brave days of old. (praej. 5, LCL)

“The troubles” haunted male authors of the first century B.c.-Sallust, Cicero, Horace, and Livy himself. As in the imagination of Theweleit’s Freikorps writers, political chaos and military failure are associated with immorality. Although this vision is familiar to modem historians of ancient Rome, the strikingly similar images of chaos and men’s experience in Weimar Germany compel reconsideration of the Roman images. I attend here only to how two elements, marked in these tales of origin, both deaden and kill: male excess and female unchastity.
Ancient authors attributed the crises of the late Republic to political ambition and to male bodies out of control in the social world, guilty of, in Livy’s words, luxus, avaritia, libido, cupiditas, abundantes voluptates (luxurious living, avarice, lust immoderate desires, excessive pleasures) Uncontrolled bodies being _____


ruin and general disaster (praef. 11-12). For his contemporary Horace (Odes 3.6.19-20; cf. 1.2), disaster floods country and people. The body and its pleasures are present only as excess in this vision. The slightest infraction seems dangerous. A single vice can slip into another or into a host of moral flaws, as in Livy’s descrip­tion of Tarquinius Superbus and his son Sextus (Phillipides 1983: 114, 117). Any desire becomes avarice or lust and must be rooted out.

The seeds of vicious avarice
must be rooted up, and our far too delicate
characters must be moulded by
sterner training.

-Horace, Odes 3.24.51-54 (trans. J. P. Clancy)


Men of the Freikorps feared a “Red” flood affecting the entire society, “pierc­ing through the ancient dam of traditional state authority” (Theweleit 1987: 231; see 385 ff., esp. 392, for Freikorps images of chaos). It “brought all of the worse instincts to the surface, washing them up on the land” (Theweleit 1987: 231). Ultimately, comments Theweleit (231), this flood flows “from inside of those from whom the constraint of the old order has been removed.” A man could feel “powerless” and “defenseless” before what flows-fearful yet fascinated. The flood solidifies in a morass; men can hardly extract themselves from a mire that softness produces within them (404, 388). Indulgence must be rooted out: “If you want to press on forward, you cannot allow this mire of failure of the will to form inside you. The most humane way is still to go for the beast’s throat, to pull the thing out by its roots” (388). The “defense against suffocation in flabby self­-indulgence and capriciousness” (389) lies in toughness and self-control: men should “stand fast … think of, and believe in, the nation” (405).

Livy focuses on what he imagines to be the ancient and necessary virtue of the soldier: disciplina. Roman tradition offered him tales of discipline instilled by floggings, sons executed by fathers to preserve disciplina for the state, and men hardened to fight both the enemy without and the weakness within themselves (see Valerius Maximus, 2.7.1-15, esp. 2.7.6, 2.7.9, 2.7.10). Neither exceptional brav­ery nor victory’ should be allowed to undermine disciplina. When Livy’s Manlius Torquatus orders the execution of his own son because, although successful in battle, he had ignored a direct order that no one was to engage the enemy, he makes the execution and the sacrifice of his own feelings a model for future generations of Roman men:

As you have held in reverence neither consular authority nor a father’s dignity, and … have broken military discipline, whereby the Roman state has stood until this day unshaken, thus compelling me to forget either the Republic or myself, we will sooner endure the punishment of our wrong-doing than suffer the Republic to expiate our sins at a cost so heavy to herself; we will set a stern example, but a salutary one, for the young men of the future. For my own part, I am moved, not only by a man’s instinctive love of his children, but by this instance you have given of your bravery. . . . But . . . the authority of the consuls must either be estab­lished by your death, or by your impunity be forever abrogated, and … I think



your punishment the military discipline which through your misdemeanour has slipped and fallen. (8.7.15-19, LCL)

Whatever his motives (8. 7.4-8), the son had not simply disobeyed his commander and father; implicitly, he had failed to maintain the necessary self-control.

In Livy’s view, control must be absolute. A slight crack in the edifice brings down the entire structure. Disciplina resulted in conquest; its gradual relaxation precipitated a slide, then collapse (praef. 9)-personal, social, political. A man, and Rome, would seem to have a choice between obdurate victor and pusillanimous loser, between fighter and pulp in the Freikorps vision (cf. Valerius Maximus, 2.7.9 and Theweleit 1987: 395).

The heroes of Livy’s history, the men who act when women are made dead, are disciplined and unyielding. Noble Brutus chastised men for their tears and idle complaints (1.59.4) when they lamented Lucretia’s death and their own miseries. He urged them as men and Romans to take up arms. Later, he would administer as consul and suffer as father the scourging and execution of his own sons as traitors. Founder of the Republic and the consulship, he is a model for future consuls and fathers, like Torquatus, whose defense of the state’s tradition and existence will require dead sons and numbed affections. No luxus here or in the likes of Cocles, Scaevola, and Cincinnatus. These men are stem and self-controlled, bodies hard­ened to protect Rome and fight its wars. They must have been to have become the foremost people of the world (praef. 3)-the rulers of world empire. Like Virgil’s Aeneas, Trojan ancestor of the Romans, conceived within a few years of Livy’s heroes, they endure pain and adversity to create a Rome whose imperial power is portrayed as destiny (Aeneid 1.261-79): “so great was the effort to found the Roman race” (Aeneid 1.33). So disciplined, so self-controlled, so annealed, the body as a living, feeling, perceiving entity almost disappears.

Livy’s instructions to imitate virtue and avoid vice invoke the mos maiorum ­the way of the ancestors as a guide for the present. Bodily excess as manifested in the lust of Tarquin and Appius Claudius brings personal ruin and the collapse of their governments. Not incidentally, at the same time, Rome’s wars with its neigh­bors are waged unsuccessfully. Tarquin desires Lucretia during the inactivity (otium) of a long siege which is blamed on the king’s extravagance and his consequent need for booty. His avarice and his son’s lust become “two sides of the same coin, a metaphor of the City’s moral sickness,” and explain Rome’s military failure (Phil­lipides 1983: 114-15). For the sake of Rome’s martial and moral health, father and son as desiring agents must go (Phillipides 1983: 114). The actions of disciplined men like Brutus result in personal success and Roman power. They set the example for Livy’s present: the male body must be indifferent to material and sexual desire.

So Woman poses a particular problem.4 The Roman discourse on chaos often joins loose women with male failure to control various appetites. 5 Uncontrolled female sexuality was associated with moral decay, and both were seen as the roots of social chaos, civil war, and military failure.

Breeder of vices, our age has polluted

first marriage vows and the children and the home;


from this spring, a river of ruin

has flooded our country [patria, lit. “fatherland”] and our people.

-Horace, Odes 3.6.17-20 (trans. J.P. Clancy)

Livy’s view of control makes it appropriate that his narrative tends toward a simple dichotomous vision of female sexuality: woman is or is not chaste.

This vision may account for the satisfaction Livy’s tales find in the point of the knife. Where he omits words about forced penetration, he offers a precise image of the dagger piercing Lucretia’s body and her death (1.58.11; cf. Verginia, 3.48.5). Perhaps that knife is aimed at “any unchaste woman,” real or imagined, of Livy’s age (cf. Freikorps worship of asexual “high-born” women and attack on sexual “low-born” women; Theweleit 1987: 79 ff., 315 ff., esp. 367). In Rome’s imagined past, the knife constructs absolute control. It eradicates unchastity and kills any anomaly in female sexuality, such as the contradiction between Lucretia’s violated body and her guiltless mind, or the blurring between the “good” and the “evil” woman (see Theweleit 1987: 183).

In Livy, the “good” woman’s threatening element is her attractiveness. While Livy never explicitly questions the innocence and chaste spirit of Verginia or Lu­cretia, the beauty of each woman is marked and explains the rapists’ actions. Lust seizes each man, as if desire originated outside him in beauty (1.57 .10; 3 .44.2). If, as the object of desire, a woman’s beauty is the condition of male lust, then good as well as evil men are potentially affected. Her existence threatens men’s disciplina. “The affective mode of self-defense in which [the annihilation of women] occurs seems to be made up of fear and desire” (Theweleit 1987: 183). Once Woman has played her role-to attract the villain whose actions set in motion other active males who construct the state, empire, and therefore history in the Roman sense-she must go.

As Theweleit suggests, what is at issue in this construction is male uncontrol. “What really started swimming were the men’s boundaries-the boundaries of their perceptions, the boundaries of their bodies” (1987: 427). The dagger stems the flood, at least in the imagination. In effect, the aggression men visit on women is really aimed at their own bodies (note Theweleit 1987: 427, 154-55). Woman must die in order to deaden the male body. Aggression toward Woman and self produces disciplina (or is it the other way around?). The pathos of Livy’s stories displaces the relief at the removal of the threatening element. “How tragic!” sigh author and reader, finding pleasure in the pain of noble loss. Ultimately, the pleasure of the narrative lies in killing what lives: women, the image of Woman as the object of desire, and male desire itself.
Discipline was necessary not only for the acquisition of empire but also for ruling it. The denial of the body to the self speaks the denial of social power to others; a Roman’s rule of his own body provides an image of Roman domination and a model of sovereignty-of Roman over non-Roman, of upper class over lower, of master over slave, of man over woman, and of Princeps over everyone else (note Livy’s use of a Greek metaphor likening a disordered body to the plebs’ revolt against the patres, 2.32.9-12). In particular, the morality of control served Rome’s new ruler. Augustus presented the required image of control and sacrifice


(Res Gestae 4-6, 34; Suetonius Augustus 31.5, 33.1, 44-45, 51-58, 64.2-3, 65.3, 72-73, 76-77; cf. 71); denial and the morality of control enabled his authority to be “implanted into subjects’ bodies in the form of a lack in overflowing” (Theweleit 1987: 414). In the Princeps’ new order, there were to be no more selfish desires like those which had precipitated civil war. Woman was to be returned to her proper place. Marriage was to be regulated by the state; women’s sexuality was to form the images and establish the boundaries so necessary to secure Rome’s domination of others and Augustus’s structuring of power. Harnessed, chaste, and deadened, Woman became the matter of a new order designed to control men and the free movement of all bodies. “Women within the new state once again provide the building blocks for internal boundaries against life” (Theweleit 1987: 366).


Woman as Space: Not a Room of Her Own

Within imperial constructions and the political context of the late first century B.C., Livy’s account of early Rome creates Woman and her chastity as space, making her a catalyst for male action. She embodies the space of the home, a boundary, and a buffer zone. She is also a blank space-a void, for Livy effectively eliminates her voice, facilitating the perpetuation of male stories about men.

As is well known, a woman’s chastity is associated with the honor of her male kin (Dixon 1982; Ortner 1978). Lucretia’s behavior makes her husband the victor (victor maritus) in a contest between men (1.57). The praise awarded her is for chastity, measured by conduct outside the bedroom. Lucretia, spinning and alone but for her maids, acts out the traditional virtues of the good wife; the princes’ wives, banqueting with friends, presumably display Woman’s traditional vice, drinking wine, an offense tantamount to adultery (A. Watson 1975: 36-38; Maccor­mack 1975: 170-74). Verginia’s fiance Icilius (3.45.6-11) equates _an assault on female chastity with violence done to male bodies and accuses Appius Claudius of making the eradication of tribunes (whose bodies were sacrosanct) and the right of appeal, defenses of men’s libertas, an opportunity for regnum vestrae libidini (“a tyranny of your lust”).

The association of male honor and female chastity makes a different kind of sense when we observe the narrative role of other women in Livy’s early books. Women function as obstacles or embody spaces, often between and separating men. The Sabines put their bodies between their battling fathers and new husbands, offering to take on the anger the men feel toward one another and the violence they would inflict (1.13 .1-4 ). Tarpeia fails to use her body in this way. Bribed by the Sabine king when she fetches water outside the city wall, the girl admits Rome’s enemies into the citadel (1.11.6-9). The women whose actions preserve the phys­ical integrity of both husbands and fathers are treasured by both; the girl whose treachery leaves her male kin vulnerable is crushed by the very enemy she aided.

As Natalie Kampen has pointed out, Tarpeia crosses the boundary of the city and appropriate behavior; the Sabines make themselves a boundary between warring men and observe appropriate behavior (1986: 10). If the issue is the control of female sexuality– control means the denlovment of the female bodv in relations


between men. Proper deployment founds relations between men, making society possible in Levi-Strauss’s terms (1969; cf. Mitchell 1975: 370-76). Not surprising­ly, friezes depicting these tales “appeared at the very heart of the nation in the Forum,” thus violating a convention that made women “extremely rare in public state-funded Roman sculpture” (1, 3). Kampen dates the friezes to 14-12 B.C., arguing that these representations served Augustus’s moral and social program (5 ff.). In effect, the friezes made visible the narrative role of women in Livy’s story of origin: within an emergent imperial order, women are fixed within the frame as boundary and space.

The move from animate life to inanimate matter is repeated in etymology. In each case, the Romans used a story of Woman’s body to explain the name of a fixture of Rome: from Tarpeia the name of a place, the Tarpeian rock associated with the punishment of traitors, and from the Sabines the names of political divisions of citizens (the curiae). Whether the story follows the naming or vice versa, women’s bodies literally become building material-the stuff of physical and political to­pography. Women who are supposed to have lived are transformed into places and spaces.

The Sabines, matronae (respectable married women) who voluntarily take up proper control of their own bodies, are reflected in Lucretia, the noble wife who will herself act and speak the proper use of her body. Tarpeia, virgo (unmarried girl) in need of paternal control, finds her counterpart in Verginia, whose father administers the necessary disposal of his daughter’s body. Livy’s matrona and virgo become spaces within the husband’s or father’s home. Unlike Dionysius of Halicamassus (4.66.1), Livy never moves Lucretia out of Collatinus’s house. She appears fixed in every scene-spinning in her hall, sleeping and pinned to the bed by Tarquin, and sitting in her bedroom when her kin come to her after the rape. This fixity in space informs her identity in the narrative and constitutes the grounds for male praise ( 1. 57. 9). And Verginius (3. 50. 9) literally equates his daughter with a place within his home (locum in domo sua).

In both narratives, the space that is Woman is equated with a chastity that should render the space of the home or between men impenetrable. Thus, rape or attempted rape appears as the penetration of space. The chastity of both women is described as a state of obstinacy or immobility (1.58.3-4, 5; 3.44.4). However, alone or accom­panied only by women, wife and daughter are vulnerable to non-kin males who can use force combined with the threat of shame or the power of the state in order to satisfy their lust. Lucretia is a place where Tarquin intends to stick his sword or his penis. She appears as an obstacle to his desire, impenetrable even at the threat of death. When she gives way at the threat of a shame worse than rape, Tarquin conquers (vicisset, expugnato) not a person but her chastity (pudicitiam, decore). The rape of a Lucretia fixed in and identified with Collatinus’s home seems equiv­alent to a penetration of his private sphere, his territory.

Male heroes, not raped women, carry forward the main trajectory of Livy’s work-the history of the Roman state (see de Lauretis 1984: 109-24 on Oedipal narratives). They lead citizen males to overthrow a tyrannical ruler, advancing from the sphere of the home to that of the state, from private vengeance to public action. The transition from domestic to political is represented in a shift in the scene of


action from Collatia and the private space of Collatinus’s home to Rome and the public space of the Forum. Brutus, not Lucretia (1.59.5; cf. Dionysius 4.66.1), effects the change of scene, just as he transposes her request for the punishment of the rapist to his own demand for the overthrow of the monarchy. His oath of vengeance begins with the determination to avenge Lucretia and finishes not with an oath to dethrone Tarquin’s family but with the promise to end the institution of monarchy itself.

The connection between the rape of an individual woman and the overthrow of monarchy and decemvirate finds its model in the Greek stereotype of the tyrant whose part Tarquin and Appius Claudius play (Ogilvie 1965: 195-97, 218-19, 453, 477; Dunkle 1971: 16): they are violent and rape other men’s women.6 Livy’s rewriting of the Greek paradigm, however, has a particularly Roman subtext: impe­rial conquest and its product, large-scale slavery. In both tales, men complain that they, Roman soldiers, are treated as Rome’s enemies (1.59.4), the conquered (3.47.2, 3.57.3, 3.61.4), or slaves (1.57.2, 59.4, 59.9, 3.45.8). In effect, king and decemvir behave as if citizen males, like slaves, lacked physical integrity. Very importantly, the “slave” makes possible the victimization of both women. Lucretia gives in when Tarquin threatens to kill her in a simulation of adultery with a slave. Appius Claudius intends to rape Verginia by having her adjudicated a slave, thus legally vulnerable to a master’s sexual use (cf. Dionysius 11.29-33, making clear the issue of the slave’s lack of physical integrity). Tarquin, his father, and Appius Claudius are made to do to Lucretia, Verginia, and their male kin what Roman “soldier males” do to the conquered.

Roman wives and children are assimilated to the conquered and slaves (3. 57 .4, 61.4 ), and the physical vulnerability of the latter is unquestioned. This was the empire that needed disciplina.
Verginia’s story sets out a logic of bodies: between the rape of a woman and direct violence to the bodies of her male kin lies male action. “Vent your rage on our backs and necks: let chastity at least be safe,” Icilius exclaims to Appius Claudius early in Livy’s account (3.45.9). Verginia’s betrothed offers to substitute male for female bodies. Appius’s lust, inflicted on wives and children, should be channeled into violence, inflicted on husbands and fathers. The switch never occurs, because male action intervenes and removes the source of lust and violence. At the end, Icilius, Verginius, and Numitorius are alive, well, and sacrosanct tribunes; chastity is safe; Verginia is dead.

But Verginia’s father makes clear that her rape poses a direct threat to the male body. After slaying her, he states that there is no longer a locus in his home for Appius’s lust, and he now intends to defend his own body as he had defended his daughter’s (3.50.9). The buffer between himself and Appius is gone.7 Woman’s chastity signifies her, and hence his, imperviousness to assault; her rape endangers his body. Thus, the raped woman becomes a casus belli, a catalyst for a male response which stems the threatened violence. Men halt the invasion before it gets to them.

Icilius’s speech suggests the nature of the threat to the male body (see Douglas 1984: 133 ff. and Donaldson 1982: 23-25, on the fear of pollution). His words effect a displacement. 8 As “rage” (saevire) replaces rape, male necks and backs


proffered exchange excludes an assault on the body’s most vulnerable place-its orifices (Douglas 1984: 121). The very substitution of necks and backs for orifices masks an apprehension about male vulnerability: invasion of woman as boundary threatens penetration of the male body (see Richlin 1983: 57-63, 98-99).

In Livy’s accounts, men experience the offense of rape as tragedy. They grieve and are moved, but they do not directly suffer invasion; they remain intact. More­over, they can feel like men, because they have taken out their own swords. In a most satisfy ing way, the invader loses ultimate control of the woman’s body. While Appius Claudius and Tarquin wield their penises or try to, the father and, even better, the woman herself wield the knife.

Male action against the tyrant (it should be emphasized) begins not with rape but with the woman’s death. Narratively, it appears as if Lucretia and Verginia must die in order for male action to begin and for the story to move on. Three logics seem to account for the slaying of the women and explain why the violence done to woman does not end with rape.

In the first place, a living Lucretia or Verginia would stand as evidence of disorder and chaos (see above on Horace Odes 3.6). Livy’s Verginius and Icilius speak of the social disorder Appius Claudius’s desire introduces for the men of their order and the destruction of the social ties between them. Verginius accuses Appius of instituting an order of nature-rushing into intercourse without distinction in the manner of animals (3 .47. 7). By killing his daughter, he halts the plunge into animality. Of course, animality and the disorder it signals mean that father and husband no longer control the bodies of “their” women. Appius robs Verginius of the ability to give his daughter in marriage to a man of his choosing (3 .4 7. 7). Icilius loses a bride intacta, and the bond between Icilius and Verginius would be flawed if Verginius offered him “damaged goods.” Icilius asserts that he is going to marry Verginia, and he intends to have a chaste bride (3 .45. 6-11 ). He will not allow his bride to spend a single night outside her father’s home (3 .45. 7).
Appius denies plebeian males membership in a patriarchal order. And where the decemvir offends an already existing patriarchal order, only the political change motivated by his assault on the chastity of a plebeian woman assures paternal power to the men of her social class. In versions of the story earlier than Livy’s first­-century sources, Verginia was a patrician. By changing her status, Livy’s sources invested meanings from current political struggles into the fifth century Conflict of the Orders (Ogilvie 1965: 477). Yet the updated political story is essentially a story about patriarchy, for the political events tum on the control of a daughter’s/bride’s body.

Second, alive, the raped woman would constitute another sort of threat: once invaded, the buffer zone becomes harmful to what it/she once protected. If women are boundaries, rape, which assaults an orifice, a marginal area of the body, creates a special vulnerability for the “center,” that is, men. The danger of a living Verginia is noted above. Her life is dearer than her father’s own, but only if she is chaste and “free” (3.50.6), a body intact whose access lies in her father’s control. A raped Lucretia, still alive, would display the violation of her husband’s home. The mark of another man in Collatinus’s bed apparently cannot be erased, at least not without


his wife’s death. Livy’s Lucretia speaks as if she and the marked bed are one: although her mind is guiltless, her body is violated and soiled. Only death, self­inflicted, can display her innocence ( 1. 58. 7). Soiled, the body must go ( see Douglas 1984: 113, 136, on inadvertent pollution and efforts made to align inward heart and public act).

For history to be a source of models for emulation (praef. 10), it must demon­strate an unequivocal pattern. The relation of a moral present to its imagined origins constructs chastity as an absolute quality (see Dixon 1982: 4). The pleas of Lu­cretia’s husband and father that the mind, not the body, sins frame her suicide as a tragic martyrdom. Correcting them, Lucretia makes ·herself an exemplum: “no unchaste woman will live with Lucretia as a precedent” (1.58.10). On the surface, the pleas of father and husband imply that men do not require Lucretia’s death: suicide appears as woman’s choice. This constructiop of female choice and agency disguises the male necessity at work in Lucretia’s eradication. Alive, even Lucretia would confront a patriarchal order with a model, an excuse, for the woman unchaste by volition. Lucretia’s statement admits no distinction: her suicide leaves no anoma­ly for the patriarchal future.

Third, and perhaps most important for the narrative: dead, the female body has other purposes. Dead, the woman whose chastity had been assaulted assumes other values. Dead, her body can be deployed, and the sight of it enjoyed, by all men. Without the stabbing of Lucretia and Verginia, there is no bloodied knife, no blood to swear on, no corpse to display to the masses. Brutus, Icilius, and Numitorius use the dead female body to incite themselves and other men (1. 59. 3, 3 .48. 7). The woman’s blood enlivens men’s determination to overthrow the tyrant. Her raped or almost raped and stabbed body kindles thoughts of men’s own sufferings and feeds mass male action (note Theweleit 1987: 34, 105-6); in an almost vampiric relation, the living are enlivened by the dead. He becomes free (i.e., comes alive) when she becomes an inert, unliving object.

Actually, Livy’s narrative deadens both wonien before the knife ever pierces them (Theweleit 1987: 90 ff.). Lucretia is introduced as an object in a male contest, as Verginia is an object of contention, pulled this way and that by the men who would claim her body. In the rape scene, Lucretia is inert; appropriately, she sees death from the moment Tarquin enters her bedroom. The stories “record the living as that which is condemned to death” (Theweleit 1987: 217). Narratively, Lucretia and Verginia become ever more dead, as action moves progressively further from them: from the sight of their deaths to the bloodstained knife to the raped, almost raped dead body to the story of that body told to men not present at the murder. The farther removed from the body, the wider the audience, the more public the action, and ultimately the larger the arena of Roman conquest and rule. Male action secures the form of the Roman state and libertas. Most immediately, this results in “soldier males” winning wars that, until these episodes, were stalemated.

The tragic effects and pathos evoked by the woman’s death veil the necessary central operation of the narrative: to create a purely public (and male) arena. Al­though presented as tragedies, Lucretia’s suicide and Verginia’s slaying remove the women from the scene, from between men. With the buffering space gone, there


will now ensue a “real” struggle between men, a struggle that moves forward the central narrative, that of state and empire (on the primacy of public and male concerns, see 3.48.8-9 and Theweleit 1987: 88).

While consulship, tribunate, Senate, and assemblies mark the shape of the state whose development Livy traces, each rape, each body willing to bear the wounds men would inflict on each other, and each dead body sets in place a block of a patriarchal and imperial order. The rape of Rhea Silvia gives the Roman state its pater (no room here for a queen mother). The rape of the Sabine women makes possible patriarchy by supplying it with its one necessary component: the women who produce children. Lucretia and Verginia precipitate the overthrow of a tyrant and the confirmation, or indeed establishment, of patriarchy for patricians and then plebeians. Assured at home that their wives and children will not be treated as the conquered, these men can go forth, conquer an empire, and do to other men and women what they would not have done to their own wives and children.

It is in this context that we should see the silence in Livy’s narrative, the silence of Lucretia and Verginia, and the dead matter these women become. Verginia never speaks or acts. Livy remarks on her obstinacy in the face of Appius’s attempted seduction, although, in fact, he speaks not of her but of her pudor (3.44.4). When Appius’s client grabs her, her fear silences her; her nurse, not Verginia, cries out for help. The girl is led here and there by kin or grabbed by Appius’s client. There is no notice of tears, clinging, or interaction with her father, as in Dionysius’s telling (11.31.3, 32.1, 35, 37.4-5). Even the women who surround her are moving by the silence of their tears (3 .4 7.4 ). At the moment she would become a slave, Appius shouts, the crowd parts, the girl stands alone praeda iniuriae (“prey to sexual assault,” 3.48.3). A moment of silence. Her father takes Verginia’s life; he acts and speaks the meaning of her death. Nothing of or from Verginia. “From the start, indeed, she [a Freikorps bride] is no more than a fiction. She never appears in her own right; she is only spoken about” (Theweleit 1987: 32).

Throughout the events leading up to and including the rape, Livy’s Lucretia is also silent. Although the rape scene is highly dramatic, Livy gives us only Tarquin’s actions: he waits until the household is asleep, he draws his sword, he enters Lucretia’s bedroom, he holds her down, he speaks, pleads, and threatens. Lucretia is mute. Like Verginia’s, her terror eliminates speech, and her chastity makes her obdurate: she is a silent stone.

Silence is what Tarquin demands of her: “Tace, Lucretia, Sex. Tarquinius sum” ( “Be quiet, Lucretia, I am Sextus Tarquinius”). His speech could not connect silence and erasure more directly. The command and direct address (Tace, Lucretia) imply “I give the orders,” and since he orders Lucretia’s silence, the command is almost tautological. Then he asserts his own name (Sex. Tarquinius) and existence (sum). The insistence on his own existence follows froin his demand for her silence. Indicative, statement of fact, replaces imperative, command-here an order that she erase the fact of herself as a speaking subject; his name replaces hers. In effect, he says, “I am; you are not, although since I must order your silence, you are and I shall have to make you not be.” Implicitly, his existence as a speaking (here, an ordering) subject with a name depends on her status as an object without speech (see


Kappeler 1986: 49). Like Brutus’s later deployment of her body in the overthrow of the monarchy, Tarquin’s words and act are vampiric: her silence (erasure), his existence.

Her silence constructs a pleasure of terror like that of the horror film, where the audience is held in expectation that what it fears will occur. Certainly, tension and terror cannot exist without Lucretia’s silence, without her presence as an actionless body. The description of Tarquin’s actions delays what every Roman would know to be the inevitable. Livy’s account allows the reader to dwell on the details of power asserted-drawn sword, hand on breast, woman pinned to the bed, woman starting out of sleep to hear “Tace, Lucretia, Sex. Tarquinius’sum.” The mute, immobile victim sets the escalating movement of violation in high relief. As in the cinema, the construction of powerlessness provides a perverse thrill.

What are the pleasures of this silence for male author and reader? Did Livy, “pen” in hand, identify with Tarquin and his drawn sword, experience the imagined exertion of force, and take pleasure in the prospect of penetration with sword or penis (on pen and penis, see Gilbert and Gubar 1979: 3-16)? Is this the titillation found by the male reader? Or does Lucretia’s silence also open a space for the flow of the reader’s feelings, permitting his entry into the forbidden pleasure of the penetrated, imagined from the place of one required to be a penetrator (Silverman 1980, and Richlin in Chapter 8 of this volume)?

About the act of penetration itself, no words and a gap filled with the language of chastity conquered. Despite rules of taste or convention, such language erases the moment of Lucretia’s violation and silences her experience as a subject of violation. Livy comments only, and only after her violation, that she was maesta ( “mourn­ful”). The place of Lucretia’s pain is absent. Without words about her experience at that moment and without that moment, Lucretia is dead matter-not feeling, not thinking, not perceiving. Present is Lucretia’s chastity, but not Lucretia. Livy or convention-it doesn’t matter which-creates rape as a male event, and an imperial one. Rape consists of male action and female “space, the exertion of force and chastity.

After, and only after, the rape, Lucretia speaks and acts as Verginia does not. Donaldson sees Lucretia’s act as a sacrifice of self, contrasting it with Brutus’s sacrifice of his feelings and his sons (1982: 12). Brutus achieves political liberty, Lucretia personal liberty (8). Higonnet focuses on Lucretia’s speech as an explana­tory text for suicide (1986: 69). She argues that Lucretia’s use of language is “revolutionary” because she sets her own verbal constructs against those of Colla­tinus which make her a verbal boast and a sexual object (75). With Donaldson (1982: 103 ff.), she views the stress on Brutus’s role as the “masculine domestica­tion of an essentially revolutionary heroic instance of female suicide.”

This assumes that we can return to some origin where women occupied some other role and misses the male production of origin. The sacrifices of Brutus and Lucretia are “radically different,” but not for the reasons noted by Donaldson (12). Brutus’s words and actions bring a political order in which men like himself can act; his sacrifice preserves that order. Lucretia’s actions result in her own eradication. She is sacrificed so the men of her class may win their liberty-their


ability to act. Her language kills no less than her actions: like the Sabines, she “asks for it.” Together, words and actions set an example for the control of female sexual activity; in other words, she founds an order in which her female descen­dants can only enact their own destruction. As with Rhea Silvia, the Sabines, Tarpeia, Horatia, and Verginia, men’s liberation and political advances require the sacrifice of Woman.

Moreover, both Lucretia’s words and her act silence any difference that would disturb the structural boundaries of an ideal patriarchal order. I find it difficult to see Lucretia’s speech (given her by the male historian, it should be emphasized) as revolutionary, when she is made to speak as well as act the absolute, objective quality of chastity and herself as a space invaded. Soiled is soiled: “No unchaste woman will live with Lucretia as a precedent.” To see or hear anything else would make Lucretia anomalous-innocent yet penetrated-and alive. Patriarchy in Livy’s good old days apparently cannot tolerate a subject whose speech would evoke the disorder of anomaly; it depends on woman’s silence, or at most speech that enunciates the role men set out for her (note Theweleit 1987: 123; Gilbert and Gubar 1979: 14).

Theweleit’s analysis of the “mode of production of [his] writers’ language” is instructive. Freikorps authors employ the postures of description, narration, repre­sentation, and argument “only as empty shells” (1987: 215). Rather, their linguistic process is one of transmutation. The events depicted serve a preconceived idea which is not directly described. The “ideational representation” impresses itself on perceived reality and devours it (87). While every linguistic process “appropriates and transforms reality” (215), Freikorps authors deaden what they depict. Theirs is a “language of occupation: it acts imperialistically against any form of independent­ly moving life” (215). The life that especially draws the onslaught is the “living movement of women” and the whole complex of feelings and experiences, sexual and emotional, associated with women.
The thrust of Livy’s narrative kills, but with certain effects. Women are made dead, and men come alive. Women as a presence disappear from the narrative and leave the stage of history to men struggling with one another, winning wars, and building an empire which, of course, means making other women and men phys­ically dead in conquest or socially dead in enslavement. Lucretia and Verginia endure and are removed from the scene by the activities of the conqueror-rape, death, enslavement. In effect, Livy builds Rome’s origin and its history with what deadens in the imperial present.

Where it would seem that women in Livy are made dead with the result that the men who make empire come alive, this operation of the narrative veils the deadness of the men who build imperial society. Disciplina requires bodies insensible to desire. Brutus holds aloft the bloody knife drawn from Lucretia’s body and swears the overthrow of tyranny. He evokes the more recent image of his descendant, beloved by Caesar and one of his assassins. Livy seems simply to have replaced one dead body with another; Lucretia’s corpse hides another, not of the past but of Augustus’s emerging imperial order-Gaius Julius Caesar, a man who controlled neither his ambition nor his bodily desires.


Epilogue: The News, History, and the Body of Woman

The story of Lucretia, Donaldson says, has disappeared from popular knowledge not on account of “moral disapproval, but neglect: the explanation lies in the modem decline in classical knowledge and classical education” (1982: 168). We are too distant from ancient Rome and the eighteenth century that found meaning in its virtues. Instead, “we celebrate the ‘heroes’ of the sports field and the world of entertainment more readily than the heroes of the battlefield and the deathbed; the word is drained of its moral sense.”

I cannot share Donaldson’s perception of distance and difference. The news, that raw material of political history, seems to belong to the “world of entertainment”: fiction and fact meld, working on and with the same iJTiages. Through them echo the women and gender relations in Livy’s stories of early Rome, his narrative of origins constructed in apprehension of decadence and decline. The Iran-Contra hearings slip into the air time of the soap opera. The cases of Bernhard Goetz and Baby M become news and made-for-TV movies. In the newspaper, extramarital sex costs a politician his chance at the presidency; in the cinema, it nearly costs a man his family and his life. In Rambo films and Fatal Attraction, “the world of entertain­ment” does offer us heroes of the battlefield and the deathbed (more precisely, death and bed). Daily, images of woman as space and void cross my TV screen. Often, the news seems written on the bodies of women; at least, she is there-a part of the landscape of what becomes history.

This is not a Roman landscape. The women belong to seemingly different narratives: hostages, not raped women, catalyzed action in Reagan’s White House. Women are not slain in current political narratives, yet seemingly different stories proffer words flooded with “moral sense,” implicitly urging correct bodily behav­ior, generally the practices of self-control- “just say no.” These stories, too, require the bodies of women, made dead by their silence and their allocation to a holding place in stories of men. And when these”women speak, they enunciate this place or their pleasure as inanimate matter, like a Barbie doll available for purchase.

The “decline in classical knowledge” has not spelled the disappearance of these features of Roman fictions, however unfamiliar the specific narratives. The deaden­ing or silencing of Woman perpetuates the fictions and history of the bodies politic, female, and male. Since the eighteenth century, when some celebrated Lucretia’s story, the commodity has taken the place of honor in systems of value as a bourgeois order replaced an aristocratic one, but the images of Woman have followed the displacement. “Her image sells his products” (Pfohl 1990: 223-24); it “sells” Livy’s history, too.


This essay has grown out of extended discussions with Amy Richlin, Avery Gordon, and Andrew Herman, and I have benefited from their insight, critical comments, and constructive suggestions. To each, a special thank you.


1.Translations from ancient sources are the author’s own, unless indicated otherwise. LCL refers to the Loeb Classical Library.

2.Lavinia, daughter of King Latinus, married to Aeneas in order to cement an alliance between Latins and Trojans, disappears from the text (1.3.3), as do the politically and/or sexually active Tanaquil and Tullia (exiled 1.59.13). On this and related issues, see now Jed 1989 and Joplin 1990, which unfortunately appeared too late to be considered here.

3.By “submits” (or, later, “gives in”), I do not intend to imply consent on Lucretia’s part (contra Donaldson 1982: 24 and Bryson 1986: 165-66). To speak of consent in condi­tions of force and violence is meaningless; in Lucretia’s situation, it seems perverse. She can die or live through the rape only to defend her honor by suicide.

4.I distinguish an individual woman or women from Woman, “a fictional construct, a distillate from diverse but congruent discourses dominant in Western cultures” (de Lauretis 1984: 5).

5.Appetites include a decadent concern with food, table servants, and dining accoutre­ments. For discussion and sources on Roman luxury and decadence, see Earl 1961: 41ff; 1967: 17-20; and J. Griffin 1976. Uncontrolled sexuality and decadent eating fit Levi­Strauss’s observation of a “very profound analogy which people throughout the world seem to find between copulation and eating” (1966: 105). See Modleski’s analysis of the “am­bivalence towards femininity” played out in a woman’s function “as both edible commodity and inedible pollutant” in Alfred Hitchcock’s Frenzy (1988: 101-14).

6.It is well known that Livy drew on other paradigms and stereotypes, literary genres, and Hellenistic historical practices; however, for my purposes, tracing the elements from diverse sources is less important than how they work within Livy’s historical discourse. As Phillipides (1983: 119 n. 20) points out, “the elements taken from a prior sign system acquire a different significance when transposed into the new sign system.” Following Julia Kristeva, she notes that “this process of transformation involves the destruction of the old and the formation of a new signification.”

7.Ironically, the removal of Woman in both stories returns Roman “soldier males” to the conditions of their mythical patres Romulus and Remus, two men with􀀟ut a woman, not even a mother, between them (1. 6 .4-7. 3 ). Quite literally, the twins try to occupy the same space at the same time and do violence to each other. Like the Romans and the Sabines, they cannot coexist without the body of woman between them, without the space and place of “not us.”

8.Tales of male bodies that suffer violence and penetration focus on those who occupy the place of the son in potestate-sons killed by stern fathers and young men raped ( often unsuccessfully) by evil army officers and magistrates (Valerius Maximus 5.8.1-5, 6.1.5, 7, 9-12); see Richlin 1983: 220-26, esp. 225-26. In effect, Roman patriarchy associates all women with sons in paternal power. Apprehension about their vulnerability to aggressive non-kin males would seem to stem from the “rightful” power that fathers (and husbands) wielded over their bodies.


Gender and Sexuality in Ancient Rome Copyright © by Jody Valentine. All Rights Reserved.

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