Write an essay on the life of one woman who lived in a time and place treated in this course. Your essay should focus on the question:
“In what ways did your subject accommodate or resist her ascribed role as a woman at that time?” and should include a discussion of the historical context with regard to women’s role in society in her time and place.
Women in ancient Rome were denied the right to become magistrates, to vote, to ascend senate meetings and have any official political power. Ancient historians such as Tacitus asserted that Roman women should not involve themselves in politics or seek to gain honours or victories. The role of woman was simply to maintain the house, look after the children and be a dutiful wife to their husbands. Agrippina the younger was a Roman woman however who refused to follow the stereotypical role of a Roman woman. She resisted her ascribed role as a dormant political woman who lacked political and public influence in a multitude of ways. Agrippina demonstrated her political and public influence through her strong relationship with the Praetorian Guard, her marriages to powerful men such as Claudius, and her convenient familial ties to emperor Caligula and Nero. Ginsburg wrote that historical sources, both modern and ancient, assert that the ‘Julio-Claudian women had an unprecedented influence in the Roman World.’[footnoteRef:1] Agrippina is a fitting example of this statement as she resisted her ascribed societal role of being a woman who was barred from exercising political power. [1: Christian Moevs, Representing Agrippina: Constructions of Female Power in the Early Roman Empire (New York: Oxford University Press, 2005), 51.]
Baumen claims that ‘Patriarchal Roman society did not like Women’s involvement in politics.’[footnoteRef:2] As a result the prescribed role of a Roman women was to be a loyal housewife and mother, who avoided political matters. Agrippina the younger however, resisted her ascribed roll as a Roman woman through the excessive political influence which she gained through her relationship and manipulation of the Praetorian guard. Agrippina was an extremely intelligent woman who took advantage of the public affection directed toward her late father Germanicus. This is explicitly demonstrated through her alliance with the Praetorian Guard, who Bradley maintains allowed her ‘privileges’, as they acknowledged that she was the daughter of the legendary Germanicus.[footnoteRef:3] All the children of Germanicus profited from the public affection towards the late Germanicus, but only Agrippina had the knowledge and ability to use the affection to her advantage. Using this she shrewdly forged alliances with members of the Senate whom were sympathetic and, even more importantly, the Praetorian Guard, whose loyally was unwavering until the end of her life. Barrett's admires Agrippina’s relationship with the Praetorian Guard, he affirms that she used the existing system of promotions to ensure t...