Tuesday, July 7, 2020

The Terrible Fate of Intersex Children in Ancient Rome: Livy, AUC XXXI.12

TRIGGER WARNING: During early Roman history, the birth of an intersex child was seen as a bad omen. This passage gives explicit details of the inhumane treatment of these unfortunate children. However, the fact that an intersex child was discovered at the age of 16 shows that some parents were successful in protecting their intersex children from Rome's brutal religious laws.

curam expiandae uiolationis eius templi prodigia etiam sub idem tempus pluribus locis nuntiata accenderunt. in Lucanis caelum arsisse adferebant, Priuerni sereno per diem totum rubrum solem fuisse, Lanuui i<n> templo Sospitae Iunonis nocte strepitum ingentem exortum. iam animalium obsceni fetus pluribus locis nuntiabantur: in Sabinis incertus infans natus, masculus an femina esset, alter sedecim iam annorum item ambiguo sexu inuentus; Frusinone agnus cum suillo capite, Sinuessae porcus cum capite humano natus, in Lucanis in agro publico eculeus cum quinque pedibus. foeda omnia et deformia errantisque in alienos fetus naturae uisa: ante omnia abominati semimares iussique in mare extemplo deportari, sicut proxime C. Claudio M. Liuio consulibus deportatus similis prodigii fetus erat. 

--Livy, Ab Urbe Condita, XXXI.12

Furthermore, the fact that numerous bad omens were reported in many places at that time period encouraged the Romans to expiate the violation of the Temple of Persephone [in Locri]. For in Lucania, they say that the sky burned red; at Privernum, the sun was red throughout the entire day, even though the sky was clear; at the Temple of Juno Sospita in Lanuvium, a giant crash was reported. Furthermore, unusual births were announced in many places: among the Sabines, a child of uncertain sex was born, and another person of ambiguous sex was found at the age of sixteen. At Frusino a lamb was born with a pig’s head; at Sinuessa, a pig was born with a human head; and on public land at Lucania, a colt was born with five feet. These unhealthy omens and misshapen births seemed to show nature straying into different paths: of all these omens, the ill-omened intersex children were immediately ordered to be dragged out to sea, as similar children had been treated during the consulship of C. Claudius and M. Livius.

Name:  Titus Livius
Date:  60 BCE – 15 CE
Works:  Ab Urbe Condita*

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

Livy was born in Patavium (Cisalpine Gaul, located in northern Italy) and lived during the tumultuous transition of Roman government from republic to monarchy. Unlike other peers in his social class, Livy was no statesman. Although he was in the same political network of the Julio-Claudian dynasty, he never participated in politics. Instead, he devoted his life to his magnum opus, a 142-volume history of Rome called the Ab Urbe Condita. As its title suggests, this book contains nearly eight hundred years of history, spanning from Aeneas’ mythical flight from Troy to contemporary events during the reign of the emperor Augustus. Unfortunately, only thirty-five of these books remain; the remaining volumes only exist in summary forms (called Periochae).  Although his histories were not sponsored by Augustus or the Roman government, Livy nevertheless wrote his history with a didactic purpose, intending for his book to reinforce gender roles and virtues, as well as showcase the glory of the Roman past.  
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