Women's History and Ancient History

By Sarah B. Pomeroy | Go to book overview

DIANA DELIA


Fulvia Reconsidered

Fulvia is perhaps the most memorable of late Republican women, whom J. P. V. D. Balsdon caricatured as possessing "wealth, birth, charm and talent, unfettered by any moral restraint, hungry for animal pleasure or hungry for power--hungry, perhaps, for both." 1 No woman was quite like Fulvia; in rapid succession she married three radical tribunes of the plebs--P. Clodius Pulcher, C. Scribonius Curio, and M. Antony--whose popularis and pro-Caesarian activities conferred notoriety in their own day and ever since. The last of these, M. Antony, was not content to administer the Roman East but contended with Octavian Caesar for supremacy at Rome. The extent to which Fulvia influenced or assisted her husbands' careers is vitally significant because she has recently been viewed as an emancipated woman who abandoned the traditional domestic role enjoined on Roman matrons to exercise real political power instead. 2 Earlier, Charles Babcock had also concluded that Fulvia had directed her energy and assets towards furthering her spouses' careers in a manner reminiscent of corporate wives of the 1960s. 3 Clearly there has been a temptation to interpret Fulvia pursuant to personal presuppositions and contemporary social stereotypes which, in the interests of objectivity, perhaps should not be ascribed to the late Republic. 4

The purpose of this paper is to investigate the extent to which Fulvia exercised power and directed her spouses' careers. Babcock suggested that Fulvia shared with them certain assets such as wealth and family connections. Indeed, in 44 B.C., Cicero described Fulvia as "wealthy" in a passage which implies that her fortune, at least in part, derived from a legacy of her maternal grandfather, Sempronius Tuditanus. 5 Fulvia's spouses, however, were not necessarily in a position freely to dispose of it. When emancipated Roman women married with manus, their property merged with that of their husbands; otherwise paternal or agnatal au-

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