This paper explores the dynamics of women's public nudity in the early Roman empire, centering particularly on two festival occasions—the rites of Venus Verticordia and Fortuna Virilis on April 1, and the Floralia in late April—and on the respective social and spatial contexts of those festivals: the baths and the theater. In the early empire, these two social spaces regularly remove or complicate some of the markers that divide Roman women by sociosexual status. The festivals and the ritual nudity within them focus attention on the negotiations of social boundaries within these spaces, and the occasions for cross-class identification among women they provide.
This article explores the early history of Roman exemplary literature through the case study of the elder Cato’s account of his imitation of the parsimony and self-sufficiency of M’. Curius Dentatus. I reconstruct from Cicero, Plutarch, and other sources a Catonian prose text that unified the exemplary narrative of Curius’ refusal of a bribe from Samnite emissaries with an evocative location at the hearth of a humble Sabine farmstead, an approving “audience” in Cato himself, and a model for the replication of Curius’ virtue. The narrative itself served as the monumentum for the exemplum, and its details are often evoked in place of the exemplary deed itself. I argue that this narrative is both a very early instance of exemplary literature and a self-conscious reflection on the power of literature to transcend temporal and spatial limitations and to extend cultural models for the familial replication of elite virtues to a broader audience.