Women's History and Ancient History

By Sarah B. Pomeroy | Go to book overview

MARY TALIAFERRO BOATWRIGHT


Plancia Magna of Perge: Women's Roles and Status in Roman Asia Minor

This essay examines Plancia Magna, an eminent woman of the city of Perge in Roman Pamphylia (in modern southwest Turkey), to illuminate both her life and the contemporary mores and institutions impinging on elite women's roles and status in Roman Asia Minor. Complementing Kampen's essay in this volume, which centers on the official representation of an imperial woman, my object is to show the range of possibilities and restrictions affecting the lives of elite provincial women. Plancia Magna has been chosen as a case study. Despite more abundant documentation for her 1 than for other nonimperial women, she shares one central enigma of her life with most of her peers in the Roman world: her financial status. Like other provincial women known to us, Plancia Magna was commemorated because of her magnificent largesse and social and political standing. Yet such largesse and standing are at odds with the gender ideology of the time, which relegated Women to the private sphere and roles of dependence on men. This ideology lay behind the laws and customs restricting women's rights to inherit and to dispose of property, making all the more puzzling the munificence of Plancia Magna and other Roman benefactresses. The benefactions and position of Plancia Magna of Perge thus bring to prominence the larger question of women in public life in the Roman world, to be discussed at the end of this essay.

Like so many Roman women, Plancia Magna is known solely from documentary evidence: inscriptions inform us of her official positions in Perge, her family, and her wealth and benefactions. Two similarly inscribed statue bases are dedicated to her respectively by Perge's council and assembly (boulē and dēmos) and by Perge's (council of) elders (geraioi). 2 On these Plancia Magna is identified as the daughter of M. Plancius Varus

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