Selections on Women Slavery for W. Feb. 21.docx

Iii women demonstrate and obtain repeal of the oppian

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III. Women demonstrate and obtain repeal of the Oppian law. Rome, 195 BCE Livy (Roman historian, 1st cent. BCE /early 1st cent. CE) History of Rome 34.1 [Introduction] In 215 BCE, after its disastrous defeat by Hannibal at Cannae, Rome passed the Oppian law, an emergency measure which limited women's use of expensive goods. Twenty years later, the crisis having long since passed, the law was repealed against the objections of many conservatives, here represented by the consul and champion of traditional values, Marcus Porcius Cato [Cato the Elder]. Livy's reconstruction of the debate over the law's repeal devotes considerable space to ethical issues raised in legislation initiated in his own time by the Emperor Augustus. Among the troubles of great wars, either scarcely over or yet to come, something intervened which, while it can be told briefly, stirred up enough excitement to become a great battle. Marcus Fundanius and Lucius Valerius, the tribunes of the people, brought a motion to repeal the Oppian law before the people. Gaius Oppius had carried this law as tribune at the height of the Punic War, during the consulship of Quintus Fabius and Tiberius Sempronius. The law said that no woman might own more than half an ounce of gold nor wear a multicoloured [1] dress nor ride in a carriage in the city or in a town within a mile of it, unless there was a religious festival. The tribunes, Marcus and Publius Junius Brutus, were in favour of the Oppian law and said that they would not allow its repeal. Many noble men came forward hoping to persuade or dissuade them; a crowd of men, both supporters and opponents, filled the Capitoline Hill. The matrons, whom neither counsel nor shame nor their husbands' orders could keep at home, blockaded every street in the city and every entrance to the Forum. As the men came down to the Forum, the matrons besought them to let them, too, have back the luxuries they had enjoyed before, giving as their reason that the republic was thriving and that everyone's private wealth was increasing with every day. This crowd of women was growing daily, for now they were even gathering from the towns and villages. Before long they dared go up and solicit the consuls, praetors, and other magistrates; but one of the consuls could not be moved in the least, Marcus Porcius Cato, [2] who spoke in favour of the law: 'If each man of us, fellow citizens, had established that the right and authority of the husband should be held over the mother of his own family, we should have less difficulty with women in general; now, at home our freedom is conquered by female fury, here in
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the Forum it is bruised and trampled upon, and, because we have not contained the individuals, we fear the lot ... 'Indeed, I blushed when, a short while ago, I walked through the midst of a band of women. Had not respect for the dignity and modesty of certain ones (not them all!) restrained me (so they would not be seen being scolded by a consul), I should have said, "What kind of behaviour is this? Running around in public, blocking streets, and speaking to other women's husbands! Could you not have asked your own husbands the same
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