The Murder of Regilla: A Case of Domestic Violence in Antiquity

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From an acclaimed author comes a fascinating story of the life, marriage, and death of an all but forgotten Roman woman. Born to an illustrious Roman family in 125 CE, Regilla was married at the age of fifteen to Herodes, a wealthy Greek who championed his country's values at a time when Rome ruled.

Twenty years later--and eight months pregnant with her sixth child--Regilla died under mysterious circumstances, after a blow to the abdomen delivered by Herodes' freedman. Regilla's brother charged Herodes with murder, but a Roman court (at the urging of Marcus Aurelius) acquitted him. Sarah Pomeroy's investigation suggests that despite Herodes' erection of numerous monuments to his deceased wife, he was in fact guilty of the crime.

A pioneer in the study of ancient women, Pomeroy gathers a broad, unique array of evidence, from political and family history to Greco-Roman writings and archaeology, to re-create the life and death of Regilla. Teasing out the tensions of class, gender, and ethnicity that gird this story of marriage and murder, Pomeroy exposes the intimate life and tragedy of an elite Roman couple. Part archaeological investigation, part historical re-creation, and part detective story, The Murder of Regilla will appeal to all those interested in the private lives of the classical world and in a universal and compelling story of women and family in the distant past.

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Editorial Reviews

Mary Lefkowitz
A fascinating and vivid portrait, by one of the greatest authorities on ancient women. Drawing on a wide variety of ancient sources, Pomeroy enables us to see Regilla in her complex and dangerous environment. An informative and accessible introduction to the world of the second century AD.
Barbara Levick
A bold and well-informed first history of Regilla herself. Pomeroy is supremely well qualified to assess literary, epigraphic, architectural, and sculptural evidence. Her dramatic narrative and sympathetic presentation afford a gripping read.
Jo Ann Kay McNamara
Imaginatively deploying sparse and disparate sources, Pomeroy has constructed a dazzling mosaic, setting the biography of a unique woman into the little-known world of second century Roman Greece.
Mary Beard
Sarah Pomeroy has been one of the most influential voices in the study of women in antiquity. It's good to find her now turning to the multi-cultural world of Greece under the Roman Empire--and to a nasty case of domestic murder.
Times Literary Supplement - Joy Connolly
Sarah B. Pomeroy's passionate account in The Murder of Regilla, following her from birth to death, is a sharp reminder of the brutally blunt edges of gender inequality.
New Yorker
[Pomeroy] provides an absorbing analysis of justice, society, culture, and customs in the second-century Roman Empire.
Publishers Weekly

In one of the great scandals of second-century Greece, Regilla, the pregnant Roman wife of Greek philosopher and rhetorician Herodes, died from a blow to the abdomen. Drawing on archeological and textual evidence, Pomeroy (Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves) carefully reconstructs Regilla's life, her eventual murder and Herodes's trial and acquittal, splendidly recreating the Greek culture of A.D. 160 and its attitudes around class, culture and sex. An upper-class woman with some schooling and exposure to the cultural affairs of her husband, Regilla owned her own property, which became a sore spot in her marriage. In other ways, though, she was hardly unique. Regilla likely could not communicate well in Greek, nor could she match wits with her husband. She married at 15, died at about 35 and ably performed the primary duty of a wife in the Roman Empire: bearing children. Numerous illustrations and quotations lend depth to Pomeroy's masterful depiction of second-century Greece and the tragic portrait of a woman whose story has been lost to history until now. Illus. (Sept. 25)

Copyright 2007 Reed Business Information
Times Literary Supplement

Sarah B. Pomeroy's passionate account in The Murder of Regilla, following her from birth to death, is a sharp reminder of the brutally blunt edges of gender inequality.
Joy Connolly

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780674034891
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press
  • Publication date: 3/30/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 264
  • Sales rank: 1,521,186
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 7.80 (h) x 0.70 (d)

Meet the Author

Sarah B. Pomeroy is Distinguished Professor Emerita of Classics and History at the City University of New York.
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Table of Contents


Genealogical Chart

Regilla's and Herodes' Family


1. Girlhood at Rome

2. A Roman Matron in Imperial Athens

3. Public Life

4. Death in Athens and Murder Trial in Rome

5. Regilla's Final Resting Place

Chronological Chart



Art Credits


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