Sunday, August 22, 2021

Celia E. Schultz's "Fulvia: Playing for Power at the End of the Roman Republic"

Celia E. Schultz is Professor of Classical Studies at the University of Michigan and the author of Women's Religious Activity in the Roman Republic and A Commentary on Cicero, De Divinatione I.

She applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Fulvia: Playing for Power at the End of the Roman Republic, and reported the following:
Page 99 cuts right to the quick since it describes the most exciting and scandalous evidence for Fulvia’s life, some lead sling bullets that bear her name. Fulvia’s great, shining moment came during the Perusine War – really a siege of what is now the modern Italian city of Perugia in the winter of 41-40 B.C.E. Inside the city was an army led by Fulvia’s brother-in-law, Lucius Antonius; outside were the forces of Octavian, who would become Rome’s first emperor, Augustus, and his ally Agrippa, the greatest general of his generation. Antonius, Fulvia’s husband, was away in the east, where he would eventually take up with Cleopatra; Lucius and Fulvia had been left in Italy to look after his interests there. Fulvia was not at the battle: she was more than 100 miles away, frantically trying to enlist more troops to help raise the siege and writing to Antonius’ allies in Gaul and Africa, asking them to come to Lucius’ aid. Even so, her name appears on some of the bullets hurled in the battle. Ancient sling bullets are just big enough to carry messages, often just the name of the commander or the army unit, but also sometimes insults literally aimed at the opposing commander. Some of the Perusine bullets “talk”, like one that claims, “I’m looking for Fulvia’s clitoris” and another one that says, “I’m looking for Octavian’s ass.” The bullets show how important Fulvia was for Octavian’s propaganda: it benefitted him if his men thought they were fighting troops led by a woman. What could be less threatening? The bullets echo the ancient portrayal of Fulvia as a sex-crazed militant, an image I interrogate in what follows page 99. It is safe to say that the page 99 test works well for this book, with the caveat that one must read further to know how to understand the evidence presented there.
Learn more about Fulvia: Playing for Power at the End of the Roman Republic at the Oxford University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue