Freedom Reigns: A Brief History of Roman Values, Women's Rights, and the Cento in Ancient rome
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In the early years of Christianity a new form of literary composition appeared. This genre is known as a cento, which according to M.D. Usher comprises "poems made up entirely of verses lifted verbatim with only slight modification" from ancient poets such as Virgil and Homer. Unfortunately, only a few examples have been discovered. Included within those few examples are centos written by women, which is unusual, given that we have very few examples of women's writing from the Roman Republic and early Empire. Thus, I have a two-fold interest in this literary genre: my project seeks to be both a part of the classical tradition, taking the cento as my model, and to write as a woman, focused in a field that infrequently valued female contributions. My interest was founded on the idea of writing a play in an ancient tradition and after doing some research, I decided that the cento would be the perfect combination of my interests in ancient literature and the rights of women within society. Roman women and their place within society has always captured my attention, and when I found a literary genre represented largely by female authors, I thought it would be appropriate to write a cento, as a woman, on a woman who stands for herself, displaying the qualities of a perfect woman. My project will therefore discuss the role and rights of women from ancient Rome through the fourth century CE, followed by a history of the cento, which dates back to the first century BCE, and the women that wrote them. The study will culminate in my own construction of a cento regarding a Roman female who displayed the generally male characteristic of virtus, which was considered to be the most important quality in ancient Rome for men.