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date: 25 July 2024

ordo matronarumlocked

ordo matronarumlocked

  • Lewis Webb

Summary

The ordo matronarum (order of married women) was a corporate body of married women (matronae) in Rome, attested for the Republic and Principate. Its exact composition is uncertain, but accounts of its activities in the Republic suggest its members included wealthy, high-status married women and widows. Criteria for membership probably included a marriage, substantial wealth, and high status: this was an exclusive ordo. It was thus analogous to the ordo equester.

The ordo matronarum may have existed already by the 3rd century bce, given the evidence of Plautus and Livy. By 42 bce, the ordo included perhaps 1,400 wealthy married women, as attested by Valerius Maximus and Appian. The evidence from Seneca and Suetonius indicates it persisted in some form into the Principate.

Matronae were distinguished by privileges and status symbols (vehicles, mobility privileges, funerary orations, jewellery, dress): they had a visible, corporate identity. The ordo matronarum was feasibly one of the primary structures behind the collective actions of married women attested in the Republic and the Principate, facilitating meetings, collections, benefactions, lobbies, mourning, religious activity, and more. Epigraphic evidence of matronal dedications, benefactions, mourning, and corporate bodies from Italy from the 3rd century bce to the 3rd century ce offers corroborating support for the existence of the ordo matronarum.

Since the key studies of Jean Gagé, Nicholas Purcell, and Emily Hemelrijk in the second half of the 20th and early 21st centuries, scholars have increasingly recognized the prominence and participation of the ordo matronarum in Roman society. Studies in the early 21st century further evince matronal engagement and integration in the religious and political life of Rome.

Subjects

  • Gender Studies
  • Roman History and Historiography

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