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Arria and Caecina Paetus

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Francois andre Vincent, Arria and Paetus
Francois andre Vincent, Arria and Paetus

Women are often called “weak sex”. Nothing could be more wrong. More than once, this “weak sex” had more “guts” than many men. Ideally, this can be illustrated by the example of Arria – the wife of the Roman senator Caecina Paetus.

Paetus was sentenced to death in 42 CE by Emperor Claudius for complicity in the rebellion of Lucius Arruntius Camillus Scribonianus, who planned to take over the laurel wreath after the death of Caligula. As Paetus came from a respected family, he was shown “grace” and was allowed to execute the death sentence on himself. There were sent messengers to his villa with a “package”, which turned out to be a dagger… The message was quite obvious.

Poor Paetus was apparently walking around his villa with a dagger in his hand and he could not gather to fulfil the will of Emperor Claudius… and this is where our Arria enters the arena… it is not known whether to encourage her husband or not being able to endure his lack of willpower… she took the dagger from her husband and stabbed herself in the chest while pronouncing: “Non dolet Peate” (“It doesn’t hurt, Paetus!”). One must admit an attitude worthy of the heroic Lucretia who also decided to take a similar step. In this situation, Caecina Paetus couldn’t have done otherwise… he followed in Arria’s footsteps and committed suicide.

We know this story thanks to the message of Pliny the Younger, who received information from Arria’s granddaughter – Arria Fanna. The very theme of Arria’s suicide was used in later centuries by numerous artists who thus portrayed a heroic death.

Author: Roger Rytter (translated from Polish: Jakub Jasiński)

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