Friday, March 10, 2006

LIFE AND DEATH IN ROME: Sex and the Imperial City

Though Rome was a city built by men, behind them were many equally powerful women.

Sex and the imperial city will look at the Empire’s wives and mothers, its prostitutes and priestesses and the conventions that controlled all their lives.

We follow the life of Cornelia, head of the Vestal Virgins, the important cult in Ancient Rome.

As chief guardian of the sacred flame Corneilia was meant to be the embodiment of the chaste, dutiful and ideal Roman woman, but temptation proved too powerful to resist - and the consequences were terrible.

Through her story we reveal how sexual violence was deeply embedded in Roman culture, it was after all a society whose foundation myths centred on brutal rapes. We will see how the state struggled to control female sexuality through draconian laws.

Whilst Roman men prized virginity in their priestesses and chastity in their wives and daughters, they didn't want all their women to be so sexually aloof. Prostitution was rife, it was legal, taxed and socially accepted.

We tell the tales of Rome’s wickedest wenches and greatest lovers, plus the harsh realities of childbirth, infanticide and contraception.

Using original love poems, biting satire and some of the most erotic art that survives from the ancient world we reconstruct a picture of a society where women enjoyed more rights and respect than in comparable cultures, but the vast majority were still ultimately subordinate to the men in their lives.

In Cornelia's case, she pays the ultimate price for 'cheating' on Rome and in a public ceremony, is buried alive.


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