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Senatus Heliogabali.[1]

The senate of Heliogabalus.

In iudices γυναικοκρατουμένους, & uxo-
rio imperio viventes.

On [or against] judges in the power of their womenfolk, and those who live under the thumb of their wives.

Qui decreta vides muliebribus edita iussis,
Totque foemineos per fora stare greges,
Haec Phoenix[2] quondam posuit monimenta sacerdos,
Inter conscriptos addita scorta patres.

You who see decrees promulgated at the behest of women, And female crowds standing all around the forums [i.e. law-courts]: The Phoenician priest performed this public service [lit. set up this monument] once upon a time, That strumpets were included in the ranks of the conscript fathers [i.e.Senators].

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ALIUD.

Other

Qui regis imperio populos sanctumque senatum,
Et tibi sunt dandae credita iura fabae:
Quique tenes Lato praetoria civica Clavo,
Et quasi te populus conspicit in tripode,
Legibus uxoris vivis, thalamoque iugali
Non licet ex voto dicere iura tibi.
Dignus qui molli sedeas sub Amazone Praeses,
Desque Suburranis[3] menstrua iura focis.

You who rule with your command the people and revered senate, And are entrusted with the loyalty of vote-casting [lit. giving the bean, used in casting votes], And govern the civic headquarters in your robes of office [i.e. toga with a broad stripe], And are viewed by the people like a Delphic oracle [lit. sitting on the tripod], You live by the laws of your wife, and in the bedroom are not allowed to make pronouncements as you like. You’re a governor fit to sit at the feet of a soft Amazon, And give menstrual laws to homes in the Subura.

NARRATIO PHILOSOPHICA.

AMazonas mulieres extremo oriente si
tas, animi magnitudo & imperandi gloria
toto orbe celebravit. Nam & privatim & publi-
c tanta cum laude imperarunt, ut finitimos po-
pulos bello domuerint, & muliebribus decretis
vivere cogerint: cmque rebus fortiter gestis si-
bi otium peperissent, tantum animi elatione pro-
cesserunt, ut praestantissimis Alexandri Magni
spoliis & triumphis minim terrerentur. Cuius
reipublicae maiestatem & imaginem cm non
longinquitas temporis tantum, sed populorum
omnium consensio summo studio se repulisset,
inventus est Heliogabalus imperator, qui largi-
tione Symiamirae matris[4] ad imperium productus
memor tanti officii, illi in senatum ingrediendi,
& in Consulum subselliis sedendi potestatem
fecit: & ut ea senatusconsultis & authoritati-
bus perscribendis testis adhiberetur, effecit. Ha-
buit ver (ut inquit AElius Lampridius ) in col-
Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [A1r p1] le Quirinali senatulum, idest, mulierum Senatum,
in quo antae fuerat conventus matronalis: ubi ri-
dicula quaedam Senatusconsulta facta sunt de le-
gibus matronalibus, quo quaeque vestitu incede-
rent quae ad cuius osculum venirent, quae pilento,
quae equo saginario, quae carpento mulari, quae bo
um, quae sella uterentur. Quod exemplum cm da
mnato authore suo, contra maiestatem populi Ro-

mani esse videretur, factum est Senatusconsultum quo in posterum
mulieres ab ingressu curiae remotae sunt: hoc addi-
to, ut eius caput inderis sacrum esset, qui hoc in rem
publicam inducere conaretur. Cuius decreti au-
thoritas etsi in posteris ipsis longa annorum serie
videatur constitisse, in nonnullis tamen locis tam
effoeminati imperii quaedam seminaria, & ea cer-
t non obscura restiterunt. Nam ut Aristoteles gra-
vis author in Politicis definit, tum demum reipu
blicae gubernacula penes mulieres videntur esse,
cm ii qui legibus vetandis & iubendis praesunt,
uxoris principatu & dominatione tenentur. Quod

etsi minim ad eorum amplitudinem qui in tali de-
gunt imperio, aut ad totius reipublicae dignitatem
sit consentaneum, muliebribus illis auspiciis ma-
gistratus geri, mirandum est tamen nullum ex tam
impura servitute sese in libertatem dignitatis vin
dicare velle. At enim Romani foeminas quas pu
blicis negotiis lege lata excluserant, in perpetua
tutela (ut Cicero author est) propter consilii infir
mitatem esse voluerunt: ut eas non solm a rebus
public gerendis, sed privatis rei domesticae ad-
ministrationibus & contractibus summoverent.
Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [A1v p2] Neque enim par est ut quam summus Deus hominum
studiis obsequentissimam esse iussit, ea in homines
principatum gerat. Quo in genere molest fero ab
exteris nostros invadi solere, ut ii omnium consensu

nationum γυναικοκρατούμενοι vocentur.[5] Hoc enim &
maiestatem imperii notabili iactura minuit, &
mea sententia muliebrem dominatum in rempu-
blicam inducit. Nam quid magnificum, quid cen
tumviralibus publicisque iudiciis dignum iudi-
ces exequentur, qui domi imperare non possunt?
Deridenda san arrogantia, in Liburnicis[6] & duo-
rum scalmorum navigiis regendis se parum scien
tem confiteri, quinqueremes autem gubernare di-
dicisse. Nam qui in familia lege agere non potest,
qua tandem ratione de maximis controversiis in
Senatu iudicabit? & quomodo iudiciorum maie-
statem togatus tuebitur, qui in uxoris imperio &
opinatione considit? Si quid tibi cum eiusmodi
hominibus rei est, facile eos ad aequitatem adduxe
ris: boni enim sunt: sed cum nocte interposita ad
uxorem retulerint, offendes omnia muliebribus
consiliis perturbata. Quod ne cui obscurum esse
posset, eorum beneficio curque perfectum est, ut
id & praescripta consuetudine & quasi civitatis le
ge consignaretur. Quam enim expectationem con
servandae dignitatis & memoriae suae reliqui po-
puli in filiis collocrunt, id nostris hominibus in
filiabus positum est: apud quos egregium & im
mortalitate dignum pietatis κατόρθομα iudicatur si
aut ex haeredibus factis, aut modico honoris causa
Link to an image of this page Link to an image of this page [A2r p3] sublevatis filiis suis, reliquae opes omnes in filias
generosque immensa & inofficiosa donatione pro-
fundantur. Credo qud id uxoribus placere cert
sciant, ad quarum ductum & voluntatem omni-
no cogitationes suas applicaverunt. Eam quanti-
tate filiabus doti scribere, habent virtutis & of-
ficii loco, qua persoluta filiis ad se tuendum ni-
hil supperest adiumenti. Qui si praeclarissimis li-
terarum studiis & rerum maximarum cognitio-
ne mirabiliter incensi, sui rationem haberi velint.
vix temere proficiunt quicquam : & id opi-
nor rect, apud eos, qui magis filia-
rum pompa & luxu, qum filio-
rum eruditione & do-
ctrina delectan-
tur.

Notes:

1. Elagabalus: Roman Emperor, 218-222, also known in older histories as Heliogabalus (born Varius Avitus Bassus; his name is a latinisation of El-Gabal, a manifestation of the Semitic god El (the supreme god). Noted for his debauchery and corruption, and also for being politically under the thumb of his mother and grandmother, whom in defiance of custom he allowed into the Senate (they were the only two women ever allowed to sit in the Senate). Elagabalus was also supposed to have created the Senaculum or women’s senate, though in point of fact this was an ancient and respectable Roman institution, largely concerned with matters of etiquette. The suggestion that he filled the senate (or the Senaculum) with harlots is not supported by historical evidence, or even the shaky testimony of the racy account of his reign by Lampridius in the Historia Augusta. He was however accused of filling the Senate with male lowlifes of all sorts, and the two accusations have seemed to become intertwined. He and his mother were both murdered.

2. The Phoenician priest, i.e. Elagabalus, who set himself up as a priest of the Oriental sun-worshipping cult.

3. Subura (modern Suburra) was the area of Rome famed for prostitutes.

4. Julia Soaemias Bassiana (or Simiamira), mother of Elagabalus, daughter of Julia Maesa, a powerful Roman woman of Syrian origin, niece of emperor Septimius Severus and cousin of Caracalla. She and her mother put Elagabalus on the throne. She was the first woman to sit in the Senate, and convened a sort of women’s parliament on the Quirinal. Assassinated in 222.

5. When Coustau was writing in the 1550s, critics thought that King Henri II was far too much under the thumb of his intelligent and strong-minded mistress, Diane de Poitiers. Little did they know that thirty years of rule by Catherine de Medici lay ahead...

6. Liburnia was the part of Illyria between Istria and Dalmatia.



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