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A transgressive Roman

My last Roman post was in January this year, although I have sneaked in a few pictures here  and there. I took this photo (right) in February this year in the courtyard of the Capitoline Museum – a near holy place for any ‘Roman nut’.

I was intrigued by the assured pose of the obviously female figure who was uncharacteristically but modestly dressed in a short robe, cloak and leggings or boots, almost as a man would be. Moreover, she is carrying a banner as legions did and something is slung on her back and held across her chest by a strap as a weapon would be. Sadly, her hand is missing, but something is dangling from her wrist. She is said to represent one of the Roman provinces – I don’t know which. If you know, please tell me.

In a military society which strongly regulated women’s behaviour, role and artistic depiction, this figure is transgressive. But altogether fascinating because of that…

6 comments to A transgressive Roman

  • Cat

    My question Alison was, does she have a spindle on her wrist? I cannot see it well enough to know.
    If it is a spindle then it might well be a Greek/Cyprus province – but further than that I cannot guess.

  • Alison

    Well, that’s a good start. 😉
    Is a spindle connected to Greece or Cyprus in particular? I had thought it signified women and home. A spindle is carried at Roman weddings to signify “womanly skills”.
    Her hair is very formal, Eastern almost…

  • Lucia

    Hi Alison,

    Great picture. Here is my opinion for what it is worth.

    I believe that this sculpture originates from the Temple of Hadrian, built 145CE.

    Her manner of dress suggests that she is not Roman. The Romans, at that time, did not wear trousers and would not wanted to have been depicted as such. Barbarians wore trousers. The adoption of trousers by the military came later. Her hairstyle too is not Roman – compare to Empress Sabina’s hair. I think she is dressed as such in order to emphasize her foreignness to a Roman viewer.

    She may be the Allegory of Dacia. See Trajan’s column for images of Dacian warriors. Note they wear the short tunic and trousers and also have what looks like a long cloak slung behind their shoulders, like the lady above. The images of Roman soldiers on the column show that they are not wearing trousers.

    Roman men of that period – who, let’s not forget, were obsessed by virtus – considered wearing trousers to be effeminate as well as a nasty barbarian practice.

  • Alison

    Lucia – this is great feedback. I admit to putting a provocative title on the post, knowing she couldn’t be native Roman.

    Personifications of provinces were often represented by female figures, (usually crushed by the victorious Roman male, full of virtus!) so the female form could tie-in nicely with your suggestion.

    I’m glad you agree her hairstyle is exotic. Although some of the women’s styles I saw in Capitoline and Naples Museum were very elaborate including many tight crimps and curls, the length of this lady’s hair is short with a uniform pattern.

    The transgressive things for me are the shortness of her tunic, the bearing of a banner, a very male job, and the assured pose with the legs and feet at angles similar to many Roman statues.

    But I love the idea of Dacia…

  • There is a story and I know you write good stories.

  • Alison

    Thank you, Carol.
    Yes, women’s roles in their societies fascinate me, all the more when they have a military role, hence my history ebook “Military of Civilians?” (http://www.amazon.co.uk/Military-civilians-Auxiliary-Services-ebook/dp/B007JUR408)

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