Content Warning: Mentions of sexual violence from 21:45 onward.
The patriarchal families of ancient Rome—headed by a father with extreme authority—may seem like an inflexible social structure, but there are exceptions to every rule: Foreigners, sex workers, and enslaved people did not have access to the legal institution of marriage, so they formed families beyond the bounds of convention. Their stories aren’t recorded in letters or histories written by elite men, but they do come down to us as the plot of Roman comedies written by Plautus and Terence. In this episode, Priscilla Lee ’25 chats with Prof. Hannah Sorscher to explore a few of these plays, both as evidence for unconventional families in real life, and as subversive yet subtle criticisms of the Roman family ideal.
Episode notes and further reading may be found here.