August 6, 2013

An Ideal Roman Woman

Cornelia, stepdaughter of Augustus (Ceasar's nephew) and wife of Paullus, defends herself before Hades, king of the underworld...

"I was born to this,and when the wreath of marriage
Caught up my hair, and I was a woman grown,
It was your bed, my Paullus, that I came to ad now have left.
The carving on the stone says she wed but once.
O fathers long respected victors in Africa, be my defense
I asked no favours when Paullus was made censor:
No evil found its way within our walls.
I do not think I have disgraced my fathers:
I set a decent pattern in these halls.
Days had a quiet rhythm: no scandal touched us from the wedding torch to the torch beside my bier.
A certain integrity is proof of breeding: the love of virtue should not be born of fear.
Whatever the judge, whatever the lot fate gives me,
No woman needs to blush who sits at my side...
For my children I wore the mother's robe of honor;
It was no empty house I left behind.
Lepidus, Paullus, still you bring me comfort;
You closed my eyes when death had made me blind.
Twice in the curule chair I have seen my brother;
They cheered him as a consul the day before I died.
And you, my daughter, think of your censor-father,
Choose one husband and live content at his side.
Our clan will rest on the children that you give it.
Secure in their promise I board the boat and rejoice.
Mine is the final triumph of any woman,
That her spirit earns the praise of a living voice."
(Properitius, transl. by Constance Carrier, The Poems of Properitus)

So basically, she had to be honorable, truthful to her husband, and give him many heirs...  I'm so glad I live in our current times!

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