Sunday, May 14, 2006

Eumachia's veil

    In the upper stratum of local Pompeian society, perhaps a step below that of the great ladies of the aristocracy, were other women who chose to use their wealth for the public good as well as for their own purposes.

    One of the most famous of these is Eumachia who, in the years before the earthquake of 64 C.E., paid for the construction of a huge public building in the most important spot in Pompeii, the Forum. Around it were the markets, law courts, and temples of the town, and there the gathered populace might read on the building the inscription: "Eumachia, the public priestess (of Venus), daughter of Lucius, had the vestibule, the covered gallery and the porticoes made with her own money and dedicated in her own name and in the name of her son Marcus Numistrius Fronto, in honour of the goddesses Concord and Augustan Piety"

    A statue showing her in the usual pose and costume of a respectable matron stood in the building as a result of the generous gratitude of the cloth-cleaners; their inscription reads, "To Eumachia, the daughter of Lucius, the public priestess, from the fullers." ... Eumachia was not only a rich woman, a holder of an extremely important public priesthood, she was also politically involved. The building's commission seems to have come at just the moment when her son was running for public office, and his mother's generosity would have served him well. She commanded far greater power and wealth than many other women in Pompeii, but that did not prevent others from involving themselves in financial and political affairs. Women in the Classical World. page 332 - 334
Was Eumachia's veil the sign of power, authority, wealth, status, dignity, reverence, decorum, respectability, modesty, mourning, submsission or silence?


bobbie said...

or maybe just fashion or a bad hair day!

Suzanne McCarthy said...

Fashion most likely. It seems to have been the style. I think we read too much into things sometimes.

Kevin Knox said...

When so many things all point in one direction, you'd think somebody would question the conservative view ... but I guess then it wouldn't be the conservative view.