Rome’s long history has had many women playing major roles, inspiring noble actions and giving wise advice to men. Here is our personal choice of the most inspiring female models in the Eternal City, an homage to the International Women’s Day.
OUR TOP TEN
Rhea Silvia (legendary figure) mythical mother of Romulus and Remo, the twins who founded the city of Rome on April 21, 753 BC.
Lucretia (6th century BC – 510 BC/semi-legendary figure) she stabbed herself after being raped by the son of Rome’s seventh king. Her heroic act inspired the revolution that brought to an end the monarchy and created the Roman republic.
Octavia the Younger (69 BC – 11 BC) knew what real, imperial power was since she was the sister of Augustus and the (fourth) wife of Mark Anthony. One of the most important women in Roman history, she was admired for her loyalty, humanity, and for maintaining traditional Roman feminine virtues.
Livia (58 BC – 29 AD) Augustus’ wife, spin-doctor and mother of Tiberius. She advised the first two emperors of ancient Rome. She was deified by the emperor Claudius, her nephew. You can see her house on top of the Palatine hill (next to the Roman forum).
Saint Helena (250 – 330 AD). Prominent early Christian and mother of the Emperor Constantine, with her strong faith she played a major role in her son’s conversion. She also went after Jesus’ Cross and brought it back from the Holy Land to Rome with many relics stored in the Basilica of the Holy Cross in Jerusalem. You can see her red porphyry sarcophagus in the Vatican Museums.
Saint Frances of Rome (1384 – 1440). A saint who was a wife, mother, mystic, organizer of charitable services and a Benedictine oblate who founded a religious community of vowed oblates. Her beautifully decorated monastery is in Rome and is only open once a year. In 2013 it is March 9 from 9am to 11:30am and from 2pm to 4pm.
Margherita Luti (15th – 16th century). Known as “la Fornarina”, model and lover of the famous painter Raphael, she inspired one of the greatest painters ever! Her portrait is at the National Gallery of Ancient Art of Rome, near the Barberini underground stop – Line A.
Olimpia Pamphili (1591-1657) called lady pope because she was considered the true mistress of the Vatican, had a huge influence on Pope Innocent X, her brother-in-law.
Giuditta Arquati (1830 – 1867) Mother of 4, died fighting (literally, with a gun in her hand!) for Italian unity and to bring to an end the Papal State while pregnant (of the fifth kid). You can read a memorial plate on the wall of her house in Trastevere, in Via della Lungaretta.
Anna Magnani (1908 – 1973). Actress and Oscar award winner as best actress in a leading role in The Rose Tattoo (1956), she embodied Roman-ness as no other woman did in the 20th century. Her best movie is the neo-realist masterwork by Rossellini, ‘Rome, Open City.’
And who’s the Roman woman who most inspired you? Please share her story with us!