Date of Award

8-2017

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)

Department

History

Committee Member

Dr. Elizabeth Carney, Committee Chair

Committee Member

Dr. Stephanie Barczewski

Committee Member

Dr. Caroline Dunn

Committee Member

Dr. Thomas Kuehn

Abstract

As a "good girl," Octavia Minor, older sister to Octavian née Augustus, has been understudied as a historical figure of the Late Republic. Her portrayal as a "good" exempla in the written classical sources obscures Octavia's agency. This thesis seeks to divest Octavia of her "good girl" reputation, as has been done by other scholars for many "bad girls" of antiquity, such as Cleopatra and Livia. Removing this "good" stereotype will allow for an examination of Octavia's role in transforming the moral example of a Roman woman from the Republic to the Empire. By exposing the tendency toward stereotyping inherent within the written record through attentive handling of androcentric classical sources, this study will carefully seek to rehabilitate Octavia as an astute, rather than "good" woman. Though large portions of Octavia's life are not examined by the classical sources, this thesis will turn to the people with whom Octavia was connected, her mother, step-father, husbands, and brother, as well as her female contemporaries with whom she was compared, Fulvia and Cleopatra, in an effort to more fully examine the entirety of Octavia's life. While drawing upon her lived experiences and agency within the written record, the material culture associated with Octavia will also be studied. An examination of the innovative coins which displayed Octavia's portrait as the first mortal Roman woman, the busts and cameos which displayed her beauty and "goodness," and the portico which she built in Rome all contribute to understanding Octavia as a woman who was not merely "good," but was instead well-versed in her understanding of Roman traditional values and influential in transforming what it meant to be a Roman matrona under the new, innovative Roman state her brother was constructing. Octavia's exempla would serve as the prototype to emulate for Livia and others, including Octavia's own female descendants, as Roman empress.

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