The role of women in civil war is mostly hidden from plain sight. An exception is Fulvia’s role in the Perusine War and its aftermath. This scrutiny extends also to her role in the burial of Clodius, which has received its fair share of scholarly attention already. Yet a reappraisal of her role in the burial of her husband, emphasising at the same time the tremendous value of this event for understanding antebellum Rome, is fertile ground for a new study. It may help us to understand Rome’s systemic breakdown before the civil war proper. By displaying Clodius’ unwashed wounds, Fulvia set a precedent for Antonius’ display of Caesar’s body later. This was a conspicuous stasis/antebellum statement. Consequently, Polybius’ famous description of Roman aristocratic burials cannot be used in order to reconstruct the burial of Clodius. This was not yet another development of a longstanding ritual. Nor, in a similar vein, was the burial of Clodius a straightforward display of wealth as might be expected from typical aristocratic funerary practice. In fact, it was the exception that proves the rule(s). So far from intending to enhance the status of the family or even Clodius, this event—so I will suggest—was rather an intended mobilisation of resentment against the current order of things. Fulvia’s decision to display in public the unwashed and mangled body of Clodius might be compared with Marius’ display of his wounds for political gains. But the context is more cynical and sinister: this was a negative exemplum because of the internal struggles at Rome. More than anything, what we have is a conspicuous and visible political statement, an expression of crisis, as well as an attempt – by Fulvia – to bring stasis and perhaps even civil war back to Rome. This was about cultural and symbolic capital; about reacting to political violence by provoking more of the same. This was an extremely potent statement!
|Title of host publication||Women, Wealth and Power in the Roman Republic|
|Editors||Catherine Steel (Glasgow), Lewis Webb (Gothenburg)|
|Publication status||In preparation - 2021|