Friday, July 17, 2020

The Terrible Fate of Intersex Children in Rome: Livy, AUC XXXIX.22

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 12 shows that some parents were successful in protecting their intersex children from Rome's brutal religious laws.

sub idem tempus et ex Umbria nuntiatum est semimarem duodecim ferme annos natum inuentum. id prodigium abominantes arceri Romano agro necarique quam primum iusserunt.

--Livy, Ab Urbe Condita XXXIX.22

At that time it was reported that in Umbria a nearly twelve year old intersex child was found; the child was executed as quickly as possible in order to to protect the Roman soil from this bad omen.

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: after 410 CE