Aemilia Tertia

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Aemilia Tertia in the "Promptuarii Iconum Insigniorum"

Aemilia Tertia, also known as Aemilia Paulla (c. 230–163 or 162 BC[1]), was the wife of the Roman consul and censor Scipio Africanus. She was the daughter, possibly the third surviving daughter, of the consul Lucius Aemilius Paullus and the sister of the consul Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus.[2]

Family and name[edit]

The name Aemilia derives from her family name (nomen), the gens Aemilia being one of the five most important patrician families. Roman women of the Middle Republic customarily bore their father's family name and were sometimes distinguished by their birth order. As with men named Quintus ("the Fifth") or Sextus ("the Sixth"), a name such as Tertia may not always mean a woman had two older sisters. Valerius Maximus[3] gives her name as Tertia Aemilia, "the wife of Scipio Africanus and the mother of Cornelia."[4] Aemilia is not known to have had sisters, but younger sisters are sometimes more notable for the historical record than the elder. Aemilia's daughters were Cornelia Africana Major and Cornelia Africana Minor, the younger being far more famous than her mother or elder sister.

Marriage to Scipio[edit]

Aemilia Tertia's marriage to Scipio Africanus took place no later than 215 BC.[5] They were very happily married, according to Livy, Polybius, and other classical historians. They had two sons and two daughters, the younger being the famous Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi.

Character of Aemilia[edit]

Aemilia Tertia was alleged of a very mild disposition but was fiercely loyal to her husband who upset many Senators by challenging the older leaders in their military strategy, and conservative Romans by his adoption of some parts of Greek lifestyle.[6] The Greek historian Polybius who was living in the household of her brother Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus for some time, and who almost certainly was an eye-witness, wrote of Aemilia Tertia:

"This lady whose name was Aemilia, used to display great magnificence whenever she left her house to take part in the ceremonies that women attend, having participated in the fortune of Scipio when he was at the height of his prosperity. .. For apart from the richness of her own dress and of the decorations of her carriage, all the baskets, cups, and other utensils for the sacrifice were either of gold or silver, and were borne in her train on all such solemn occasions, .. while the number of maids and men-servants in attendance was correspondingly large. (Polybius, translated by John Dryden, Book 31 Fragments: 26)[7]


This passage shows that for that period, the last decades of the Middle Republic, Aemilia Tertia had unusual freedom and wealth for a patrician married woman, both given her by an unusually liberal husband. She is one of the few Roman women known to us from the Middle Republic. Because of her unusual wealth and freedom, and her own behavior, she was an important role model for many younger Roman woman, just as her youngest daughter Cornelia (190-121 BC), would be an important role model for many Late Republican Roman noblewomen, including allegedly, Aurelia Cotta, the mother of Julius Caesar.[8]

According to other sources,[9] Aemilia was gentle, mild-mannered, but also fiercely loyal to her husband. Valerius Maximus relates an incident where Scipio was unfaithful to her with one of their own maid-servants, but Aemilia chose not to make the matter public. Valerius Maximus and Plutarch would have considered such behavior as honorable for Scipio, who after all, was not debauching his own wife. Marital sex was considered to be essentially procreative among Middle-Republic Romans. The year of this incident was around 191 BC or later, at which time Aemilia was either pregnant with her youngest child or had given birth recently. The fact that Aemilia chose not to expose her husband's infidelity (per Valerius Maximus) could indicate either a desire to spare him embarrassment or her own desire to avoid embarrassment for herself. A Roman wife could not expect her husband to be faithful, and his misconduct whether at home or outside was not grounds for a divorce. Furthermore, by divorcing her husband (or rather, being divorced in that period), a woman lost custody of her children and usually had to return to her father's or brother's house. The husband could retain most of her dowry, so Aemilia could get as little as one-fifth of her dowry back. Aemilia's sister-in-law Papiria Masonis was divorced c. 183 BC by her husband, simply because he was tired of her. She was entirely blameless, having provided him with two sons and two daughters, and her chastity was not in question. After her divorce, she lived in rather straitened circumstances, and without her children who remained with their father and paterfamilias.

Sources such as Polybius also emphasize her love of luxury and her extravagance; she drove a special chariot at women's religious processions and was attended by a large number of servants. One source claims that she enjoyed buying tasteful although extravagant works of art.[10]

Scipio's death and aftermath[edit]

Scipio died of a lingering illness in 183 BC after having retired to his country house at Liternum in 185 BC. During his last years, he wrote his memoirs in both Latin and Greek, but those have vanished, with even Plutarch's Life of him missing. He was survived by his widow and four children; his brother Scipio Asiaticus also remained living, although in political disgrace.

According to Polybius, Scipio made generous provisions for his widow to ensure that she would retain the same lifestyle she had grown accustomed to as his wife. He also promised his daughters fifty talents of silver each, which was a very large dowry by that era's standards.

Aemilia as a widow[edit]

Aemilia Tertia long survived her husband and outlived both her sons. She had two daughters surviving upon her own death, which took place sometime around 163 BC and by 162 BC.

She continued her luxurious lifestyle despite widowhood, presumably having been guaranteed a generous income by her husband's will. However, thanks to the lex Voconia (which prohibited women from inheriting much or from passing on their own wealth to females) passed in 169 BC, she was unable to dispose of her possessions as she pleased. At her death, her heir was automatically her grandson by adoption, Scipio Africanus II, or Scipio the Younger (better known to Romans as Scipio Aemilianus). He gave them to his mother Papiria Masonis, who was divorced from his own natural biological father L. Aemilius for more than two decades.[11] At her death, he passed those same possessions over to his two biological sisters - Aemilia Paulla Prima, wife of Marcus Porcius Cato Licinianus and Aemilia Paulla Secunda, wife of Quintus Aelius Tubero. (Polybius, Book 31: 28, Plutarch. Aem. 2; Liv. xxxviii. 57).

Children[edit]

Aemilia Tertia and Scipio Africanus had four surviving children, two sons and two daughters.

The elder son Publius Cornelius Scipio was not healthy enough to pursue a military/politic career, and was given a religious career instead. He adopted his first cousin Publius Cornelius Scipio Aemilianus as heir. The younger son Lucius Cornelius Scipio became praetor in 174 BC.

The two daughters Cornelia Major and Cornelia Minor were each married to a two-time consul and censor.

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

  1. ^ Dixon, Suzanne. "Polybius on Roman Women and Property, " The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 106, No. 2 (Summer, 1985), pp. 147-170.[1]. Google reference, not full article, retrieved 7 June 2007. The Dixon article claims that Aemilia died in 162 BC per her reading of Polybius. In Polybius The Histories Fragments of Book XXXI: 26-28, Aemilia's death and funeral, and Scipio Aemilianus's disposition of her effects are discussed, but no year is given for her death. However, her brother Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus is known to have died in 160 BC, and two years earlier, Scipio Aemilianus gave the remaining 50 talents owed the husbands of his adoptive paternal aunts. That transfer took place ten months after Aemilia's death, at which point he had given Aemilia's finery to his own mother. If Aemilius Paullus died in 160 BC, the money transfers took place in 162 BC and Aemilia died ten months earlier, either that year or in 163 BC.[2]
  2. ^ Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician by H. H. Scullard Cornell University Press Ithaca, New York 1970 printed in England. Standard Book Number 8014-0549-1;
    Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 76-98158 H. H. Scullard, Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician, Thames and Hudson, London, 1970. ISBN 0-500-40012-1; page 196
  3. ^ Valerius Maximus, Memorable Deeds and Sayings 6.7.1-3. L; see Tertia Aemilia.
  4. ^ Boccaccio, in On Famous Women, also refers to her as Tertia Aemilia, and in the biography as just "Tertia" (in Virginia Brown's translation, Harvard University Press, 2001, pp 153 - 154; ISBN 0-674-01130-9).
  5. ^ Her second son Lucius was praetor in 174 BC. A praetor at this time must be at least 39 years old, so he was born no later than 213 BC.
  6. ^ Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician by H. H. Scullard Cornell University Press Ithaca, New York 1970 printed in England. Standard Book Number 8014-0549-1;
    Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 76-98158 H. H. Scullard, Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician, Thames and Hudson, London, 1970. ISBN 0-500-40012-1; page 24
  7. ^ Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician by H. H. Scullard Cornell University Press Ithaca, New York 1970 printed in England. Standard Book Number 8014-0549-1;
    Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 76-98158 H. H. Scullard, Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician, Thames and Hudson, London, 1970. ISBN 0-500-40012-1; page 188
  8. ^ Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician by H. H. Scullard Cornell University Press Ithaca, New York 1970 printed in England. Standard Book Number 8014-0549-1;
    Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 76-98158 H. H. Scullard, Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician, Thames and Hudson, London, 1970. ISBN 0-500-40012-1; page 205
  9. ^ Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician by H. H. Scullard Cornell University Press Ithaca, New York 1970 printed in England. Standard Book Number 8014-0549-1;
    Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 76-98158 H. H. Scullard, Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician, Thames and Hudson, London, 1970. ISBN 0-500-40012-1; page ii
  10. ^ This claim is made by Michael Akinde on his website about Scipio, but he does not cite his source, be it Liddell-Hart or one of the classical historians.[3]
  11. ^ Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician by H. H. Scullard Cornell University Press Ithaca, New York 1970 printed in England. Standard Book Number 8014-0549-1;
    Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 76-98158 H. H. Scullard, Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician, Thames and Hudson, London, 1970. ISBN 0-500-40012-1; page 238

References[edit]

Primary sources[edit]

Secondary sources[edit]