Ideal Roman Women: Lucretia And Dido

1267 words - 5 pages

Lucretia and Dido are both viewed as ideal Roman women. The story of Lucretia is found in Livy’s Early History of Rome, while Dido is written about in The Aeneid by Virgil. By looking at Roman values, the story of Lucretia, the story of Dido, their similarities and differences, a background of Livy and Virgil, as well as the similarities and differences of Virgil and Livy’s views toward them, Dido and Lucretia can be seen as exemplary Roman women.
Roman society operated under the authority of paterfamilias. Paterfamilias is where the oldest living male of the family was considered to be the father of the household; he had “virtual life and death authority over the entire household” (MPN, 107). He would make the all the decisions in the family, and made the rules and standards, including the moral standards that women were expected to follow. Ideal Roman women were valued for their piety, modesty, performance of womanly duties, and faithfulness to their husbands. In both their stories, Lucretia and Dido do what is necessary to maintain their image of the ideal Roman woman.
The story of Lucretia begins with men boasting about their wives, trying to determine who is the best of them all. It is clear to them that Lucretia is the winner when she is found “hard at work by lamplight upon her spinning” (Livy, 100). She then moves on to be a gracious host to all of these men, again showing success in her womanly duties. Later that night one of the visitors, Sextus Tarquinis, comes into her room, and forces himself upon her, telling her that if she does not comply he will make it look like she had an affair with on of the servants (Livy, 101). She yields to him because she does not want it to seem as if she had an affair and not be able to explain what occurred. So the next chance she gets, Lucretia summons her father and husband and tells them to punish Sextus. They tell her that she was helpless and innocent in the event. But she still proceeds to kill herself.
The story of Dido begins with Dido having an internal battle over her lust for Aeneas and her oath to herself about not remarrying after her first husband “died and failed [her], left [her] barren and bereaved” (Virgil, 95). Her desire for Aeneas wins out, and by the will of the goddess Juno, they are brought together in a fake marriage (Virgil, 101). Dido begins to neglect her duties as queen because she is so wrapped up in Aeneas, her people even begin to “detest [her]” (Virgil, 107). However when he is summoned by Jupiter to go back to Italy, Aeneas obeys (Virgil, 103-104). Dido is distraught by this, angry at Aeneas for leaving her and angry at herself when she begins to realize her own faults, she even says that he caused her to lose her integrity (Virgil, 107). Once Aeneas leaves, Dido is in misery and commits suicide like Lucretia did.
There are many differences but also similarities in Lucretia and Dido’s lives and deaths. When they were still alive, Lucretia was...

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