Gendering the Forum Romanum: Female defendants before the Roman Senate

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


In 66 CE, Marcia Servilia (PIR2 S 606) was summoned before the Senate to answer the accusation that she had paid magicians to conduct rites on her father’s behalf (Tac. Ann. 16.30–3; Dio Cass. 62.26.3; Marshall 1990, 363, case no. 24; Pollard 2014). Servilia and her father, who was accused of maiestas, made pleas before the Senate on each other’s behalf and in Tacitus’ narrative her illegal actions pale in comparison to those of the despotic Nero.
Servilia is one of many Roman women whose actions brought her into the courtroom and before the Senate. In his foundational study of women on trial, Anthony Marshall (1990) counted 39 trials from the first century CE in which women were prosecuted. Despite this previous scholarship, the active participation of women in their role as defendants has frequently been left unexamined. In this paper, I explore the evidence for female defendants in legal proceedings with special emphasis on the spaces used for their trials. The paper challenges the view that the early imperial Forum Romanum was a gendered space from which women were ideologically excluded. By examining women on trial, I contest that women were regularly present on the Forum Romanum, including highly political spaces such as the Comitum and the Curia. The paper focuses on female defendants who resisted imperial power, as their presence in front of the Senate opens up the enticing possibility that the Curia, and other meeting places of the Senate, also could be sites of female resistance. I conclude that women’s presence on the Forum Romanum and speaking roles before the Senatorial court gestures towards their co-implication in Roman political culture and should be recognized as part of their public persona.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 2018 Apr 6
EventClassical Association Annual Conference 2018 - School of Archaeology and Ancient History, Leicester , United Kingdom
Duration: 2018 Apr 62018 Apr 9


ConferenceClassical Association Annual Conference 2018
Abbreviated titleCA 2018
Country/TerritoryUnited Kingdom
Internet address

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Classical Archaeology and Ancient History


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