Tuesday, 8 March 2016

More Precious than Jewels

On this Festa della Donne or International Women's Day I would like to remember Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi who became a role model for future Roman women, including Aurelia, mother of Julius Caesar

 
Cornelia was the daughter of Publius Scipio Africanus, conqueror of Hannibal, & his wife, Aemilia. She married the much older Tiberius Gracchus and they had 12 children together, only 3 of which survived, including the brothers Tiberius & Gaius.
After her husbands death she chose to remain a widow, even rejecting the hand of King Ptolemy of Egypt. Instead she devoted her time to educating her children and elevated the role of mother to a career.
The boys grew up to be social reformers who defied the political institutions of Rome and were seen as friends of the average Roman citizen. Their sense of civic duty was totally inspired by Cornelia. .She supported her sons even when their actions outraged the Patrician families into which she had been born
Sadly both brothers died violently as a result of their popular reforms. Plutarch reports that Cornelia 'bore the loss of her two sons with a noble and undaunted spirit'
She retired to a villa outside Rome where she studied literature, Latin & Greek & was sought out for advice and conversation.
She was known to have lived modestly and the story goes that when a woman guest was displaying her finest jewellery, Cornelia gathered her children around her and declared 'these are my jewels' - a scene depicted in the painting by Angelica Kauffman


  

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