Freedwoman in the Roman world: the evidence of the Latin inscriptions
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This thesis offers the first full-scale analysis of the epigraphic evidence for Roman freedwomen, i.e. an analysis of all Latin inscriptions mentioning libertae in the Roman Empire – almost 10,000 texts – from the city of Rome, Italy and the provinces. The aim of this project is to present a fuller image of the lives of these women, based on the evidence left behind by themselves and those in close contact with them, to put a check on their portrayal in the ancient literary sources, which has strongly influenced the modern understanding of libertae. The inscriptions have been drawn from the standard corpora and databases (esp. CIL and AE), and assembled in a searchable FileMaker Pro database. The study of the data has been conducted in two parts, the first focussing on the role of freedwomen in the familia, and the second on the role achieved by libertae in their communities and the wider Roman society, including also analysis of the identity of freedwomen’s partners, the marital terms used in inscriptions to describe married freedwomen, the legal status of freedwoman’s children, the women’s (and their relatives’) involvement in professions as well as cultic activities. The method employed in the discussion of the material is that of methodical argumentation, progressively building a new and fresh image of Roman libertae in the course of the thesis. The results demonstrate that the focus on the city of Rome adopted by many scholars distorts the picture substantially, as does the focus on the literary sources; in particular, the women emerge from this study as endowed with greater agency than hitherto accepted, and their ‘double flaw’ of having a servile past and of being of female gender appears less of an obstacle in their lives than widely assumed: epigraphically attested libertae do not conform to the image of ‘the Roman freedman’. This thesis thus represents both a contribution to the study of Latin epigraphy and the study of women in the Roman world. The analysis is supported by two appendices: the Appendix Epigraphica offers a list of many of the texts discussed in the chapters, together with an English translation; the Appendix Graphica assembles all the graphs and tables employed in the thesis to analyse the data.