Allia Potestas was a freedwoman from the Roman town of Perugia who lived sometime during the 1st-4th century CE. She is known only through her epitaph, found on a marble tablet in Via Pinciana, Rome in 1912. The inscription, considered to be one of the most interesting of Latin epitaphs, is unique because it contains both typical epitaphic information and more personal and sexual details.
The poem, apparently written by her lover, can be divided into three sections. The first focuses on Allia's virtues, describing her as extremely hardworking - "always the first to rise and the last to sleep..., with her woolwork never leaving her hands without reason". The second extols her beauty with semi-erotic descriptions of her body and notes that she lived harmoniously with two lovers. Finally, the author laments her death and promises that she "shall live as long as may be possible through [his] verses."
Most surviving epitaphs portray their subjects in a more, from a Roman perspective, ideal light. Women in Rome were expected to be "devoted to housekeeping, child bearing, chastity, submissiveness , and the ideal of being all her life univera (one-man woman)".
Scott L. Newstok. Quoting Death in Early Modern England: The Poetics of Epitaphs beyond the Tomb.(Book review)
Sep 22, 2010; Scott L. Newstok. Quoting Death in Early Modern England: The Poetics of Epitaphs Beyond the Tomb. New York: Palgrave, 2009. Xiv +...