Life for a woman in Rome is not easy; there are many limitations here. It’s a male dominating society woman are considered inferior, and it is even more difficult if you are a wife of a rich man. My name is Nettalina and my father holds a major position in congress people know him and through his courtesy they know me too. Every step I take has to be calculated because one wrong move could ruin the political career of my husband and could cost me my life.
I got married when I was 15, I was too young to understand the responsibilities that I had to face being a wife of a noble man, noble for the people of man, a highly cultured and well mannered man, but in his personal life he is different. All the noble men in this great city have two faces, what common public sees is not the reality but reality is far different than what they perceive. Let me start from the very beginning.
I opened my eyes in a wealthy house, with plenty of every thing, every thing but freedom. I saw my mother working hard just to keep my father happy. I always felt that my mother is for display only, otherwise who needs a wife. There are whores and most of the noble men enjoy their company more. I got married at a very young age.
My marriage was accompanied with revelry and song, with dancing people all around me. Ribald jokes were shouted at me and nuts were scattered as I made my way towards my husband's house. I passed from the manus of my father to that of my husband. During the initial days of my marital life I found my husband very caring, and sometimes I felt that he even cares more about my father than myself. As I have told before my father holds a key position in the congress he has contacts and that is why my husband was trying to gain my father’s confidence. One of the most considerable gains for me as a married woman was the respect and status that came with being a wife.
I hold a position of respect and responsibility in the household as well as in public. So I have taken my mother’s place a symbol of high status. Things that matter most is, skill with which women kept their houses and the virtues that they possessed, or were alleged to possess. It was in this way only that women were to be remembered, by their honor and loyalty to their husband and their competence at household chores. ? The foremost function of marriage, the production of children, was likely to be met by most marriages. Having those children survive and succeed you as heirs or to look after you in old age was another matter.
I don’t have any social life. I never had my husband took me to meet his friends and their wives where we all pretend as if we are really enjoying, but these parties had no real value for me. After a year of my marriage I was pregnant, people all around me wanted a boy and so did I not because I don’t like girls but because I don’t want my child to live the same life as I lived. It was very tough for me since I was only 16 I was scared, I was treated by top physicians of Rome, and it all ended well, I gave birth to a boy. Now I am an honorable woman not just because I am a mother but also because I am a mother of a son, who will take his father’s place. After a month of the birth of my first child my husband arranged a big party, all the city elites were invited all the noble men and all the noble women. That was the first time when I saw the true picture of men.
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After mid night when almost every one had lost his senses all the bottles of vine were dry, the savage within the Roman men showed his first glimpse to me. Women were treated like animals; all the top whores poisoned the mind of all the men with their beauty, including my husband. That’s when I first realized that my only job is to produce babies, and take care of my husband and his family. I gathered all the strength to see my husband. Underneath the open sky he was with a woman whom he probably never meet after that night. A woman can share any thing but not her love. I had doubts in my mind doubts about my future I even had doubts about the existence of Aphrodite. After that such parties became an integral part of my life. I accompanied my husband in parties, with a fake smile on my face.
My son was getting older and for three consecutive years I gave birth to three children other two were also boys, which was a relief for me. It was a fourth year of my marriage when political activities in Rome were at their peak, I stood right beside my husband during his political campaign.
My personal life was none other than the lives of other woman. “Under Roman law woman went from the authority of their fathers to the authority of their husbands, and even a wealthy, old widow needed a male to supervise her finances”. I was totally dependent on my husband, I was seen with respect among the common public, although the behavior of my husband was also very good with me but that was not enough. I always missed the essence of marital life the kind of love that I was expecting from him was never there. My responsibilities were to take care of the children and the house. My social circle was limited to the wives of my husband’s colleagues, but truly I never enjoyed my their company, because we all thought twice before saying any thing, in Rome it is hard to distinguish between your enemy and friend.
This is the reason why I could never develop a kind of relationship that exists between friends. It was all about how well you can act, and unfortunately I was never good at it. And with the passage of time number of my friends reduced, but I think it was a blessing for me because after that I did not have to act. I devoted all my life to my children, to some extent to my husband also. I knew all about his activities but never asked him about it, may be I was scared of him. I knew my children will get best in their life, but my objective was to make them different from another men
I am an old woman now; my husband died few years back. I have succeeded in what I want all, my children are married and honest to their wives. “This could be because of the societal change as well. Rome has changed so have the people of this great city. Since the beginning of the Empire many men now seek and follow the advice of their wives.”
Graham, David, The Ancient Rome, Boston: Lee & Shepherd
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