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Old women in Rome

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

The head of an elderly woman. A copy of a Greek sculpture from the 3rd-2nd century BCE
The head of an elderly woman. A copy of a Greek sculpture from the 3rd-2nd century BCE

Roman writers and the upper Roman classes in general, despite their privileged position, were afraid to go too far in criticizing women, as it could cost them a lot (women were treated with some respect, nevertheless, especially as long as they were able to bear children). Old women were an exception because of their social and moral consent. As the position of women grew, there were these old women portrayed as mischievous wags and witches.

An example of such creativity are “Epodes” of Horace :

You dare to ask me, you decrepit, stinking slut,
what makes me impotent?
And you with blackened teeth, and so advanced
in age that wrinkles plough your forehead,
your raw and filthy arsehole gaping like a cow’s
between your wizened buttocks.

Horace, Epodes, II

Old women are accused in the eyes of Apuleius, even by poverty, loneliness and age alone! It seems to be disgusted by the transformation of a charming young body, the object of male sexual exultation, into a desiccated asexual witch.

  • Jerzy Besala, Miłość i strach. Dzieje uczuć kobiet i mężczyzn, Tom II Cywilizacje starożytne

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