“Roman Coins: Women Who Ruled, Women Who Roared” Presented by Sean Ulmer

Cedar Rapids, Iowa— In no society of the ancient world did women enjoy such considerable esteem and power as in that of Rome. Some Roman women would become so powerful that their names still resonate today. In Roman society, notable people were featured on their daily currency – just as they are today in the United States. The Cedar Rapids Museum of Art (CRMA) recently installed a new display of coins in the Art in Roman Life exhibition. The stories of the women on the coins will be discussed during CRMA’s ArtBites on Wednesday, September 4 at 12:15 p.m. This lunchtime lecture will take place in the Museum Auditorium and will be presented by Interim Director and Curator Sean Ulmer. It is free and open to the public.

Ancient Roman women found themselves in the roles of faithful companions, and sometimes bitter enemies, amid the fortunes of the absolute rulers of a limitless Empire which extended from the forests of Britain to the deserts of Africa, from the cities bordering the Atlantic to those perched in the Caucasus.  These women wielded power as judiciously or ferociously as their husbands.  They shaped the Empire, either directly or indirectly, for better or for worse, and as such will never be forgotten.

Women often gained this power through marriage, which was usually decided by her family for their political gain. Sometimes an aristocratic woman had three or four husbands, not always of her own choosing; occasionally she was influenced or forced into divorce and remarriage by her own husband or by her father, who were carrying out their own political ambitions.

The women featured on the coins were literate, learned arithmetic, and were familiar with Greek and Latin literature. They played the lyre, sang, danced, and were able to carry on interesting conversations. They were trained to be good domestic administrators. Once married, between the age of thirteen and fifteen, these women became matrons with liberty and the ability to administer all the goods they could acquire with their own means.

This ArtBites: Roman Coins lecture will be sure to delight the public with interesting tales of the lives that these powerful women led. ArtBites is held every first Wednesday of the month at 12:15 p.m. at the CRMA. It is a free and brief lunchtime discussion of some facet of art.