Sexual Slander in the Ancient Mediterranean From the Late Republic Through Early Christianity

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When women rose to power in the ancient world and threatened the established patriarchal order, men would use sexual slander to disempower, discredit, and defame these women, Through the examples of Clodia, Cleopatra, Julia, JuliaDomna, and Theodora, I demonstrate how and why sexual slander was used in Rome, Egypt, and Byzantium to attack powerful women. Clodia was from a wealthy, political family making her an easy target for politicians to slander for their own gains. Cleopatra was dangerous for Roman morals because she had influence over the tho strongest men in Rome. Julia acted in a manner contrary to her father's moral reforms, and was made a public example of how not to behave for the Roman Empire. Julia Domna was an influence empress who was active in the political scene, which prevented men from rising in politics because she blocked their access to power. Finally, Theodora's sinful early life could never be excused by the Christian society she lived in despite her piety and good works.

I apply Luce Irigaray's modern feminist theory to explain the struggles women faces when trying to rise in the patriatchal society. The other explains the gender gap within society and how society was structured in a way to discourage the other from gaining power. Male language is a tool created by men to secure their place in society and to attack women more easily. Finally, commodification is a way in which women could be stripped of their agency and serve as merely an object beneficial to the male subject. This modern framework demonstrates how men used the other, male language, and commodification to sexually slander women from the Late Republic through Early Christianity. This paper proves that women could infiltrate patriarchal societies, but they were punished by sexual slander when their rise threatened men.


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