“The Murder of Regilla: A Case of Domestic Violence in Antiquity” is a novel written by Sarah B. Pomeroy describing the life of Regilla, a aristocrat of ancient Rome who married the plutocrat Herodes Atticus during the Atoine Age. The primary purpose of the book to review the events that led up to her alleged murder and accusations against Atticus. Regilla was an upper-class woman in the Greco-Roman society. She came from a wealthy and affluent family and through her connections could hold her own the political scheming of the empire.
Her marriage to the powerful politician only increased her persuasion over the court and helped her in her connections. Regilla lived in a very comfortable (even luxurious) lifestyle that supported her ability to be well connected in her society. Though rare in the society, she was a literate woman and was educated in what we would now consider “Classics” today. Classics are the studies of Greek and Latin culture. She was well rehearsed in this area and was an intellectual of her time. A woman of this era to be considered of equal academic value as to a man would have to have an extreme aptitude for learning.
I think that this is indicative of her capabilities in the realm of intellect and she was definitely at an above average rate of intelligence. A woman to be considered equal to a man in this era was not a common sight. In fact, it was not seen at all outside of this case. The legal status of a woman was that she was not considered a citizen and did not retain the right to vote in her community. This means that there was a heavy and one-sided legal system, which results to a superiority of males over females.
Typically gender and power was asymmetrical throughout the entire world at this time so they were simply victims of societal expectations. That being said, the fact that Regilla had the power of influence would lead scholars to believe that her family was well connected to high levels. Only women of high society and of socialite status (which is what I gather Regilla was) were able to have any influence over the government. She rubbed shoulders with some very important people of her time. Regilla had an unfortunate demise though.
At her eight month of pregnancy she miscarried that was thought to been a result of her husband physically abusing her by the way of kicking her in the stomach. This is speculation and no actual primary sources can confirm this however it is widely accepted among historians that this was the case. She died from this attack as well. It was not acceptable at that time to murder anyone. A woman was still regarded as living and taking her life away was considered a crime. Atticus was tried for his murder of his wife. Social practices of antiquity.
Pomeroy often depicts Atticus as a very vile man and has a relatively low standing of character in her eyes. With this low opinion, she paints a very bad image of this man. This could be attributed to her feministic perspective on the historical account on Atticus. Pomeroy reflects on the issue with this candor and often favors Regilla. I would agree with this sentiment, as I do believe Regilla was the victim of this crime. In the time when women had little to no voice, she was the victim of not just and abusive and angry husband, but the victim of a cruel and unjust society where she was a second-class citizen.
In fact, in the literal sense, she was not a citizen at all. She was an asset to men and was functioned to create descendants as was expected of women of that era and centuries to continue. Regilla fell through the cracks of this broken system but at least because of that she was able to make a case study for the future helping women become liberated from violent domestic situations. Though domestic violence still occurs in today’s world, in antiquity it was an accepted fact of life and no one attempted to stop it because it was as much as part of life as eating and sleeping was.
It was considered the man’s right to harm his spouse since she was considered his property like a sheep or other livestock. This is the general case of antiquity. If it was not for Regilla’s social status in the Roman and Greek community, this case would have simply occurred and passed. However, since she was of a noble kin, her case was reviewed and tried. There is a strong disdain for her husband, Atticus, who was several decades her senior and not a popular man among the community as he was considered foul.
Pomeroy conveys these sentiments with her own tones in her work and makes sure to depict Atticus as the vilest of beings possible. She gives him no excuses for his actions and frankly he does not deserve any. Regilla’s death, or what many consider murder, was a complete tragedy. She was a teenager when it happened and was carrying the child of a severely older man who abused her. This is not what we normally witness in Western culture today. Perhaps this case was a catalyst for people to take a more serious approach when dealing with domestic violence.
It is no longer considered the man’s right to physically punish his wife for what he deems is incorrect or not what he wants. This is a good shift it society and though we have much further to go, it has come a long way. Her assassination was not justified among social practices of her time. Murder was still considered murder back then and surely wrong. However, it definitely got more attention since she was of higher class and had the ability to control the decision making of the stronger influential people of her society.
That is why she probably was an exception of her time. Antiquity certainly had a more masculine ran society as women could not vote or hold office which is why generally it was a skewed court that favored men in these cases. However, with her power she held, her death was still not socially acceptable and it was treated as a crime. This is common practice today but back then this is something to be appreciated as it was not found often where a woman came out the victor of a court case against a powerful fan.
Though she certainly was not the victor in any circumstances, the court did favor her and punish Atticus for his crimes. This was done after her death but at least it is good to know that the court did have favor for a woman and this could be considered foundation for a more egalitarian society for generations to come. Regilla was a trendsetter for not only ancient Rome but the entire world leading it to become a more equal place where women do not have to suffer under the man’s heel and domestic abuse is not as common place anymore.
Atticus argues that it was his right to punish his wife in that way however even though the court was complex and compiled of men that should of favored him, it was not seen that way by his peers because she was such a strong influence over the court herself that even posthumously, she was able to affect its decisions and make a trend for future generations to come. The legal status of females remained as non-citizens however the social status did somewhat change after this decision and following this, societal shifts were made.
The Murder of Regilla was a tragedy among the Antiquity era. Sarah Pomeroy captures this tragedy in her book documenting the event and takes a slanted approach favoring Regilla. As a result, her book was published and now people study how domestic violence was permitted to take place in Antiquity even among the higher classes. No woman was safe from a violent husband but at least following the tragic events of Regilla some insightful politicians helped the social climate change enough to the point where it was not as acceptable as it was beforehand.
Atticus was punished for his crimes and this started a worldwide trend of a less masculine society and allowed women to have a voice. They had a long way to go but it was at least a start for the society and therefore should be regarded as an important historical event. The Murder of Regilla is a good source to obtain this information from Sarah Pomeroy and it depicts the complex judicial systems of ancient Rome, the masculine ran society, and how women were not able to voice their struggles to society previous to this assassination of such and important figure of Roman Antiquity. The Murder of Regilla will always e a reminder of this.