It was 27 BCE, Augustus was the new Caesar, and the Roman Empire was born.
Augustus was a careful, conservative man. He wanted Roman families to prosper. He passed laws to return the republic to an adherence to family values. You know, a time when fathers ruled households, when wives were quiet and modest and bore many children.
If we could ask his daughter, Julia, how that worked out for her, what would she tell us? Most of the histories written about this era were written by men, about men, and from the perspective of men. We’re dependent on scholars like Professor Joyce Salisbury, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay for her diligence in recreating Julia’s life along with those of 35 other women. The Great Courses’ “Warriors, Queens, and Intellectuals” presents the stories of 36 Great Women before 1400.
Julia was the only child of the most important man in Rome. Her life was not her own; she was expected to produce an heir. Nothing else. Except of course to watch her p’s and q’s and never say or do anything beyond her role as perfect Roman woman, daughter, wife. Her father chose her husbands, all of them. The first died before any heirs were born; the second fathered five children, then died. The third couldn’t stand her, so he left.
While vaginas were regulated by morality laws, there were some interesting twists to the rules. When a noble woman had produced three children and they were accepted by the father or grandfather, she was granted emancipation from their husband. She could manage her own property and control her own money.
Augustus had written these morality laws based on his assumptions that women were interested in emancipation from their husbands and they were not interested in having babies, were using birth control methods to avoid pregnancy. Yes on both counts. They also had miscarriages… induced? So both birth control and abortions were part of a woman’s life in Rome. And legal.
Imagine that! 27 BCE. What do today’s women have to say about vaginas?
Come to The Vagina Monologues, February 7 at 8:00 PM, or February 8 at 3:00 PM or 8:00 PM at Pure Life Theatre, 3801 Hillsborough St., Ste 113, Raleigh, North Carolina 27607
Get tickets here: https://vdayraleigh.org/tickets/