A lively account of the politics of
A groundbreaking study of some of the most powerful women in early Western civilization.
Latin teacher Freisenbruch examines how Rome's leading ladies were expected to perform two millennia ago. Drawing from sources both classical and current, the author explores the biographies of Rome's imperial women during a 500-year period, from the flourishing of the empire to its demise—roughly 40 BCE to 450 CE. Freisenbruch convincingly argues that many of these women—Livia (wife of Augustus and first Empress of Rome), Agrippina Minor (wife of Claudius and mother of Nero), Messalina (wife of Claudius), Helena (mother of Constantine)—actually figured large in the political rise and fall of their husbands and sons, as well as in laying the foundation for female conduct at the highest level as empress and in subsequent generations of the patrician or senatorial class. Freisenbruch shows that their influence extended not only to behavior but to all areas of fashion—from dress to hairstyle—and commerce, with their depictions on Roman currency often contributing to the political spin of the day. Classical biographers faced with the challenge of constructing a coherent life from fragmentary or conflicting sources must overcome the additional hurdle of having to gaze through the centuries-thick male lens when trying to portray female subjects. Freisenbruch ably rises to the occasion, taking an "agnostic approach to the eclectic array of narrative choices and prototypes that face us." Providing well-chosen, scintillating details—e.g., enemies being boiled alive, familial bonds savagely snapped in an instant—alongside careful historical analysis, the author breathes new life into these overlooked subjects.
Not nearly as soporific as most classical studies—a captivating look at imperial Rome's roots in the making of the modern stateswoman.
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Fascinating and enjoyable.” Publishers Weekly
“A book both scholarly and racy…[Freisenbruch] restores to life some of the toughest, most colorful, and most bizarre women who ever existed.” –Robert Harris for Sunday Times (London)
- Free Press
- Publication date:
- Product dimensions:
- 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)
Meet the Author
Annelise Freisenbruch was born in 1977 in Paget, Bermuda, and moved to the UK at the age of eight. She studied Classics to postgraduate level at Cambridge University, receiving a PhD in 2004 for her thesis on the correspondence between the Roman emperor Marcus Aurelius and his tutor Cornelius Fronto. During that time, she also taught Classics at a private school in Cambridge. She has worked as a research assistant on a number of popular books and films about the ancient world, and regularly gives talks to schools about Classics in popular culture. Annelise Freisenbruch was the researcher to Bettany Hughes on her critically acclaimed book Helen of Troy (Vintage). She was also a specialist series researcher on the BBC1 docu-drama series Ancient Rome: The Rise and Fall of an Empire, and is currently working on films on Attila the Hun and Spartacus for the BBC. Annelise holds a PhD in Classics from Cambridge University and has worked as a freelance history researcher in the media for the last four years. She lives in Cambridge, where she teaches Latin to middle-school children. Caesars' Wives is her first book.
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