Gender, Domesticity, and the Age of Augustus: Inventing Private Life

By Kristina Milnor | Go to book overview

1
Reading and Writing Gender on the
Augustan Palatine

IF there is anything that the last few decades of scholarship on Augustan Rome have taught us, it is that the first princeps had a high regard for symbolic gestures. By this I do not just mean such acts as, for instance, his restoration of the Roman state to ‘normal’ governance in 27 BCE, while at the same time he retained extraordinary and hitherto unheard-of governmental powers. Nor am I referring only to his regime’s well-known interest in, and use of, artistic images in the furtherance of its ideological programme, as outlined by Paul Zanker.1 Rather, I would like to put the point more generally, and say that we may see as one of the signal qualities of Augustan culture the understanding that the symbolic in its most basic form—that which is used in place of something else—is a powerful tool, in that it may at once evoke that which it stands for and also subtly bring to bear any number of other, technically unrelated, images and ideas. In this chapter, I argue that domesticity is one of those Augustan symbols, an idea which may articulate some real historical truth about the person of the first princeps and how he lived, but also serves to mask a deeper and much less ‘personal’ politics. Here I look at the gendering of Augustan space, particularly that of the imperial house on the Palatine hill, through a network of interrelated texts and structures: from the porticoes of Livia and Octavia, to Cicero’s de Domo Sua, to Augustus’ own autobiography,

1 Zanker (1988).

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