Link to Instruction materials link to Companion home page link to Worlds of Roman Women in texts & images


What is the Online Companion?

It is a compendium of un-adapted Latin texts, glossed and hyperlinked, by or about Roman women from all ranks and status groups, together with abundant illustrative images from the ancient world and brief essays that suggest the range of women´s activities, concerns, and social roles in ancient Rome. Beyond that it is a resource center supporting annotated print and digital bibliography entries on the topic of women, links to resources for enhancing the interpretation of texts, and shared materials for teaching about and the study of Roman women in Latin. The site is hosted through the generous support of the Women's Classical Caucus.

Site review by Mary Pendergraft for the Society for Classical Studies blog (Dec. 5, 2016)

The site received high praise (see p. 13) in Andrew Reinhard's article "From Slate to Tablet PC: Using New Tehcnologies to Teach and Learn Latin and Greek," The Classical Journal Forum Online 2008.03.03.

Online Companion was conceived as a collaborative website in December 2005, designed to accompany the book The Worlds of Roman Women (henceforth WRW; published March 2005), the first intermediate/advanced Latin text-commentary on Roman women. In the anthology the co-authors offered a wide variety of primary sources in Latin by and about women, from the earliest periods through the second century CE, thus allowing students of any academic grade to experience different Latin styles and diverse genres. We included authors not normally read in undergraduate courses and less familiar materials (e.g. inscriptions) to allow the voices of the non-elite and marginal inhabitants of the Roman world to be heard. Our over-arching goal was to identify and contextualize Latin texts of various types by and about women for the enjoyment of entry-level Latinists who would encounter the book as a course text or as supplementary reading. However, our research and ambitions far exceeded the compass of any textbook, leaving us with a number of important selections that could not be included. We turned to electronic publication as a way to accommodate our growing appetite for new texts, images, hyperlinked aids, and 21st century pedagogy.

While Online Companion may be used apart from WRW, the Focus text contains foundational essays that introduce principles of feminist classical studies, key themes, and the contexts for eight Worlds. In addition, with minimal exception, the 63 published selections have not been reproduced on the website. Furthermore, the print text has the advantages of any book in that it can be carried about, annotated, bookmarked, and handily browsed without hardware. Teachers considering adopting The Worlds of Roman Women as a course text may wish to browse the following reviewer assessments and the handout for the panel "Giving the Floor to the Silent Women of Rome" (October '06 meeting of the Classical Association of the Atlantic States):

N.B.: See Corrigenda to The Worlds of Roman Women

Primary Goals of Online Companion:

  1. identify, digitize, and contextualize extant Latin texts by and about women
  2. provide intermediate-level Latin students access, through generous hyperlinked annotation of the original Latin, to a wide variety of genres and authors from the earliest Roman period through late classical times
  3. offer images of women and their activities as visual “texts" to encourage the integration of language and material culture for greater understanding of the presence and experience of Roman women in the ancient world
  4. create a communal venue for research and publication of text-commentaries about Roman women and for sharing pedagogy and activities for the Latin classroom.

Why Focus on Women?

It seems obvious to say it, but say it we must: in ancient Rome, women were everywhere, except in formal political meetings and the men´s baths (before you add “battlefields," consider Fulvia, Agrippina, and the ubiquitous camp followers). It requires saying because even today women are in great part absent from the Latin we study. When present they are rarely its focus, unless as examples of womanhood that are culturally appropriate (e.g. women who “know their place" like Lucretia and Cornelia) or unacceptable (e.g. women who reject traditional gender roles, such as Tullia Minor and Julia, Augustus' daughter). Since the closing decades of the 20th century, feminist classical scholars have been discovering Roman women by searching for them in ancient artifacts (e.g. coins, inscriptions), “minor" writings (letters, legal texts, fragments) and non-canonical writers (e.g. Statius, Gellius), and by using new theoretical frameworks and methodological approaches (see Companion Bibliography for McManus, 1997: 18-19). We are the beneficiaries of the original research and seminal publications of classicists such as Pomeroy, Foley, Hallett, Kampen, and Lefkowitz. Although Balme and Morwood´s On the Margin and Churchill, Brown, and Jeffrey´s Women Writing Latin include texts about women, those wishing to offer a Latin course on Roman women prior to the publication of WRW in 2005 had to rely for their sources mostly on web and text copying.

Navigating the Site

The homepage shows the site divided into two major sections: Worlds in Text and Image is accessed by clicking on the word Worlds below the statue of the Priestess on the right; Instructional Resources are accessed by clicking on the word Instruction beneath the statue of the Mother and daughter on the left. Recent Additions to the site are accessed by clicking directly on either of the two statues.

I. The Worlds in Text and Image
This page contains a hyperlinked schema of all ten Worlds (Class and Religion were added after the publication of WRW):

Worlds Page

Scrolling to the bottom of the Worlds page takes you to the link for TextMap. All of the site's text-commentaries can be found here, arranged according to World and labeled by level of difficulty: Easy (E), Intermediate (I), and Challenging (C). Each World and text is hyperlinked, allowing you to browse, preview, and customize the order of selections for your own purposes. The selections are uniform in only one way: they concern or (rarely) are written by women. Otherwise some are brief (e.g. funerary inscriptions), some are fragmentary, some are quite long, some are poetry, others prose. Some texts are inscriptions on artifacts of a funerary, dedicatory, or honorary nature, appearing in stone, clay, silver, gold, bronze, or even in paint. The passages are fully identified by source and have been given simple Latin tags that suggest their focus. Authors, genres and time periods vary widely, invoking conventions and expectations that affect meaning and demand thoughtful consideration or even research on the part of the reader for full understanding. The TextMap is framed by the site's signature statues, below which are links to brief profiles of authors and women who appear in WRW and Companion; arranged alphabetically, each entry is identified by accomplishments and date and keyed to text(s) and World(s).

Each World opens on an ancient artifact together with a brief essay suggesting the nature and challenges of women´s lives in this World. Below the image and essay is a table: on the left are the hyperlinked Companion texts contained in this World; on the right, there is a column of WRW readings and links to glossed texts on other sites. At the bottom of each World page is an image archive containing links to objects and portraits of Roman women appropriate to that World. For example, the archive in State contains portraits of leading women of the Republic and Empire, arranged chronologically. Clicking on the image link opens a small window containing the image (it must be closed before moving to the next link).

Clicking on the text titles on the Worlds page opens a new window that contains an image of the inscription or monument which is the source of the text or of a related woman or item that illuminates it. Beside the image is a short essay about the woman who is the subject of the text, with reference to the author or work/artifact from which the selection was taken and links to information on other sites (e.g. poetic meter is identified and linked to a display and explanation of the scansion). For example, the introduction to the epitaph of Gnome Pierinis (Work), an ornatrix who lived during the mid-1st century CE, contains a link to a portrait bust of an elite Flavian woman whose elaborate hairstyle shows the need for at least one slave in her household to be an expert hairdresser.

Below the essay is the Latin passage, un-adapted except for punctuation and resolution of abbreviations (within brackets), which are added to clarify meaning, particularly in the case of inscriptions. When hyperlinked words and phrases in the Latin text are clicked on, a small window opens in the upper left corner of the screen, leaving the text visible. It contains a dictionary entry of the word and a context-sensitive definition, with perhaps aids to translation (e.g. suggested word order, brief translation hints, bracketed words that supply Latin that is omitted or understood), stylistic observations, or links to a relevant site. For example, clicking on a name that appears in the text may refer you to a webpage explaining the Roman practice of nomenclature. Some Latin passages contain small icons () in the right margin of the text which offer an illustration of the reference. For example, the beside the epitaph for Aurelia Nais (Work), who owned a fish shop near the Horrea Galbana, takes you to a webpage about the Emporium, with images of the warehouse area along the Tiber from the EUR model of Rome.

II. Instruction:
The Instructional Resources portion of the site is intended to be collaborative and to provide pedagogical support for the passages and images in the Worlds. It contains a selection of materials, divided into categories useful for teaching, research and translation (descriptions follow):

Instruction Page

Guide to Using the Site:
You are here. Let us know if additional navagation information would be helpful.

Annotated Bibliography:
The bibliography contains a selection of print and online publications as well as links to materials and other sites that were useful in the preparation of the Online Companion or that the authors consider valuable for interpreting and/or teaching texts and images in Worlds. It is an expanded version of the WRW bibliography, with the added benefit of hyperlinked theses, essays, articles, reviews, and primary sources. For example, an article on Plancia Magna is linked to her portrait statue in the Ankara Museum and to a webpage on Perge.

Syllabi and Lesson Plans:
Here you will find models of courses and units, taught in Latin and in translation by colleagues, for introducing Roman women into your curriculum.

Activities for the Classroom:
This has been a growth area, thanks to colleagues who contributed their own materials, developed beyond our general suggestions (see the handout for "Exploring the Worlds of Roman Women Through Text and Image," a presentation at the '07 meeting of the American Philological Association).

Resources for Translation and Interpretation:
It is our pedagogical bias that intermediate-level students can best master basic grammar and vocabulary and improve their understanding of the language by reading as much authentic Latin as possible. We have, therefore, not only been generous with our guidance in text glosses, but we have collected dependable sites for resources that can support student research and enhance reader comprehension of Worlds passages, such as online dictionaries, grammars, maps, timelines, and relevant theme, artifact and culture sites.

Credits, Contributors, Collaborators:
This area contains name, contact information, and credits for those contributing in some way to the development of the site. We are gratified to have received materials from high school and college colleagues as well as graduate students and undergraduates, overseen by their professors. We are fortunate in the technical assistance we have received that is so central to this project. The list of contributors is regularly updated as new volunteers join us.

Engage with the Site!

Call for Collaborators

Latin teachers at all levels and advanced Latin students are invited to join us in improving and expanding the Online Companion, thereby participating not only in the development of a valuable resource for students and teachers of Latin but also in an online community for promoting the contextual study of Roman women. We encourage those considering submitting an annotated text to read the article veteran contributor and editorial staff member Liz Gloyn wrote about her experience in the Spring 2015 issue of the online journal Teaching Classical Languages: "Ovid and his Ars: Preparing a Commentary for the Online Companion to the Worlds of Roman Women."

Any and all of the following are welcome:

Please join us in furthering a project that is not only generative for Latin teaching and research but enjoyable, contributing as it does to professional and collegial interactivity.
To make suggestions or to volunteer, contact Ann R. Raia (, Judith Lynn Sebesta (

Computer Requirements

Online Companion is accessible in any browser, using any platform. For optimal viewing of the program, set your screen resolution to at least 1024 x 768. Since our text glosses and images are linked to smaller windows so that you can access aids and images while remaining on the text screen, you will need to have your browser set to enable Javascript (in I.E., go to the Tools menu, Internet Options, Advanced Tab; scroll down to the Java [Sun] section, check “Use JRE (requires restart),” hit Apply; then reboot your computer). If you do not have Javascript installed on your computer, you can download it for free here. Click the Download Now button. Select the Windows (Offline Installation) Download button, and Save the installation file (called something like “jre-1_5_0_08-windows-i586-p-s.exe” ) to your computer. Once it has downloaded, you can double-click the file to begin installation. Select Typical Setup, accept the License Agreement, and it will automatically install.

Special Thanks

We take pleasure in announcing our indebtedness to Barbara F. McManus, for whose expertise, talent, and generosity as Online Companion's web designer, rigorous first reader, and many varied contributions we are deeply grateful.
We are most appreciative of two particular websites on whose free access to their excellent resources Online Companion depends: Latin Library for digital texts and VRoma for images.

Ann R. Raia and Judith Lynn Sebesta
Updated Spring 2019