Sunday, November 17, 2019

Not Doing What They're Told: Women Subverting Gender Roles in Seneca, Epist. XCV.20-21

Maximus ille medicorum et huius scientiae conditor feminis ne capillos defluere dixit nec pedes laborare; atqui et capillis destituuntur et pedibus aegrae sunt. Non mutata feminarum natura, sed victa est; nam cum virorum licentiam aequaverint, corporum quoque virilium incommoda aequarunt. Non minus pervigilant, non minus potant, et oleo et mero viros provocant; aeque invitis ingesta visceribus per os reddunt et vinum omne vomitu remetiuntur; aeque nivem rodunt, solacium stomachi aestuantis. Libidine vero ne maribus quidem cedunt, pati natae, di illas deaeque male perdant! ...Quid ergo mirandum est maximum medicorum ac naturae peritissimum in mendacio prendi, cum tot feminae podagricae calvaeque sint? Beneficium sexus sui vitiis perdiderunt et, quia feminam exuerant, damnatae sunt morbis virilibus. 

--Seneca, Epist. XCV. 20-21

[Hippocrates] the greatest doctor and founding father of our craft stated that women did not lose their hair nor suffer from foot problems. But nevertheless they do. The nature of womanhood did not change, but instead was conquered, for now women rival men in men's indulgences, and so they suffer men's illnesses. They stay up late at night just like men, they drink as much as men, they rival men in sports and drinking games.  They vomit from too much alcohol like men, they gnaw on ice to quell their heartburn. They even rival men in their lust, --damn them!--they were born to serve and submit [pati natae]! Therefore, why are we surprised that the greatest medical mind is caught in a mistruth, knowing that there are so many women with bald heads and gout in their feet? They have lost the benefit of their sex by their own vices, and, because they have stripped off the label of womanhood, they are damned with manly diseases.

Name:  Lucius Annaeus Seneca
Date:  4 BCE – 65 CE
Works:  Epistulae Morales*
               De Clementia
               Phaedra, etc.

Region 1: Peninsular Italy; Region 2: Western Europe; Region 3: Western Coast of Africa; Region 4: Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean; Region 5: Greece and the Balkans

 Originally from Corduba, Hispania, Seneca the Younger was a Roman statesman with a tumultuous career. First exiled to the island of Corsica by the emperor Claudius, he was later recalled and became the emperor Nero’s mentor and tutor. Seneca wrote prolifically in several genres, including Stoic philosophy and Roman tragedies. He was ultimately put to death by the emperor Nero for his participation in the Pisonian Conspiracy of 65 CE.
Captions for Roman Timeline: Early Roman Lit: through 2nd c BCE: Republican Rome: through 1st c. BCE; Golden Age: 70 BCE to 18 CE; Silver Age: 18 CE to 150 CE; Age of Conflict: 150 CE - 410 CE; Byzantine and Late Latin: after 410 CE