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

By Kristina Milnor | Go to book overview

5
Natural Urges: Marriage, Philosophy, and
the Work of the House

IN this book I have discussed the role of gender and domesticity in constructing the relationship between Augustus and the Roman public, between Roman imperialism and its subjects, between morality and law, and between the imperial present and the republican past. I have thus been arguing for a very broad view of the way in which the domestic functioned as ideology and symbol in early imperial culture. In the present chapter, however, I would like to look at the one relationship which has before been seen as constructed through a vision of household life, namely the relationship of the Roman citizen to himself. Michel Foucault, in The Care of the Self, famously and controversially argued that early imperial Stoic writers reveal an important shift in thinking about the role of a ‘home life’ in constituting the adult male citizen’s sense of who he ought to be, as being a good husband somehow became an ethical project distinct from being a good citizen, magistrate, or statesman: ‘it appears that marriage became more general as a practice, more public as an institution, more private as a mode of existence—a stronger force for binding conjugal partners and hence a more effective one for isolating the couple in a field of other social relations.’1 Foucault’s argument has been attacked by classical scholars from many different angles, for a number of legitimate

1 Foucault (1986) 77.

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