Cultural Values in the Roman Republic
To analyze and demonstrate knowledge of the cultural values of the ancient Romans.
Please read the following before answering the questions below:
Livy: The Rape of Lucretia (Links to an external site.)
Ovid: Amores/1.4 (Links to an external site.)
Please answer the following questions in an original discussion post:
How did Livy and Ovid’s views about marriage and sex in Roman society differ?
In what ways did they seem to share certain assumptions about Roman cultural institutions?
Must come from these sources:
Cultural Values in the Roman Republic
The ancient Roman society had views and values that guided their daily lives. The history of the Romans, as seen through Livy and Ovid’s lens, offers differing opinions on the values of sex and the concept of marriage in the ancient Roman Republic. From Livy, it is evident that marriage was a respected institution. Women valued their marriages and did everything to try and see their marriages work. They stayed at home as their husbands went out to work and also kept themselves for their husbands. This is evident when Sextus Tarquinius, the son of Egerius, and Tarquinius Conlatinus were praising their wives (“The Rape of Lucretia, from the History of Rome”, 2020). When they traveled home to surprise their wives, they found all of them in their houses, taking care of the homes. On the other hand, in his poem, Ovid shows marriage as an institution that was not respected by both men and women in society. The woman in the poem, although married, has a clandestine love affair with another man in the society.
Secondly, Livy shows a society where women respected their honor. Their husbands only practiced sex with them. The women in the society would not soil their honor by engaging in sex out of wedlock. This seen in the actions of Lucretia. When Sextus Tarquinius sneaked into her chambers and demanded to have sex with her with the threat of death, she refused to dishonor herself and accepted to die (“The Rape of Lucretia, from the History of Rome”, 2020). However, she only accepted when Sextus Tarquinius threatened to dishonor her memory by killing her and placing a naked servant next to her in bed. This showed that the women in the society valued their honor and, therefore, only had sex with their husbands. On the other hand, Ovid paints a society where women are adulterous and no not have any virtue or honor. They engage in extramarital sex as long as they are in love (“Amores”, 2020).
Livy portrays a society where sex was sacred and should be done only between married couples. When Lucretia was defiled, she felt dirty and lost the will to live. She decided to take her life because, to her, she was soiled and had violated her marital bed and home. Additionally, even at the threat of death, she still refused to give in to the demand of Sextus Tarquinius, who wanted to make love to her. This shows the sacred role sex played in the society depicted by Livy. On the other hand, Ovid paints a society where sex is not revered, and people engage in sex outside wedlock, although in secret. The two people in the poem are knowingly engaging in sex despite the women being married.
Similarities of Roman cultural institutions
Livy and Ovid shared the following cultural assumption on Roman institutions: first, infidelity in marriage was frowned upon. In Livy’s work, Lucretia only allows Sextus Tarquinius to rape her after saying he would dishonor her by putting a servant in her bed. Such an act would have significantly soiled the memory of Lucretia. Similarly, in Ovid’s work, even though the woman has a clandestine relationship outside marriage, she is hiding it for the husband and the other members of the society. This shows that both writers believed that infidelity in marriage was frowned upon in society.
Secondly, sex was the right of the man in a marriage. In Ovid’s work, the woman evidently loves the partner she has an affair with and has no affection for her legal husband. However, despite not loving the husband, she cannot deny her sex because it is his right as the man in the house. Similarly, in Livy’s work, Lucretia decided to kill herself after being raped because she thought she had disappointed her husband by violating their marital bed.
In conclusion, the work of the two writers paints a picture of ancient roman society from different points of view, especially when it comes to sex and marriage. However, even though they have a different view, they have similar opinions on society’s cultural values.
The Rape of Lucretia, from the History of Rome. Sourcebooks.fordham.edu. (2020). Retrieved 9 July 2020, from https://sourcebooks.fordham.edu/ancient/livy-rape.asp.
Amores. En.wikisource.org. (2020). Retrieved 9 July 2020, from https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Translation:Amores/1.4.