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Adultery and subaltern agency in the Roman Empire: a study on the Satyricon of Petronius and The Metamorphoses of Apuleius (1st and 2nd centuries AD)

Grant number: 23/05053-7
Support Opportunities:Scholarships in Brazil - Doctorate
Effective date (Start): December 01, 2023
Effective date (End): March 31, 2027
Field of knowledge:Humanities - History - Ancient and Medieval History
Principal Investigator:Julio Cesar Magalhães de Oliveira
Grantee:Fabrício Sparvoli Godoy
Host Institution: Faculdade de Filosofia, Letras e Ciências Humanas (FFLCH). Universidade de São Paulo (USP). São Paulo , SP, Brazil


This project proposes an investigation on adultery in the Roman Empire from the conceptual point of view of subaltern agency, taking as sources Petronius's Satyrica (1st century AD) and Apuleius's Metamorphoses (2nd century AD). In general, a preference for legal sources is observed in the study of the subject, with the discussion tending to take place in relation to the lex Iulia de maritandis ordinibus, the lex Iulia de adulteriis coercendis and the lex Papia Poppaea. As result, it is possible to argue that adultery in the Roman Empire has been investigated to the extent that it could clarify not only the Augustan policy of aristocratic reforms and the refoundation of the res publica, but also the establishment of the domus Caesaris. Contrary to this legal and normative view, the main objective of this project is to investigate how subaltern individuals, especially free women and slaves, articulate and act in contexts of adultery, either as adulterers or as circumstantial participants. More than understanding how subaltern individuals themselves practice adultery, the main object is to investigate how subaltern agency occurs in a complex and specific way in contexts of adultery, involving not only different forms of articulation, but also different objectives. Thus, the general hypothesis to be pursued is that adultery, by installing a social situation of conflict, constrains the individuals involved in it to engage and act, making evident in this process how the subaltern position is unstable and can be dynamically and constantly reformulated, or even subverted, since it is established from different levels of greater or lesser subordination, according to the specificities of each social actor considered (free women and slaves).

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