Tuesday, July 12, 2011

I Guess We Have Made Some Progress

The glory that was Rome didn’t trickle down much to the ladies. Here’s the epitaph of woman who died at the venerable age of twenty-seven, composed by her husband after the fact:
Here I lie, a matron named Veturia. My father was Veturius. My husband was Fortunatus. I lived for twenty-seven years, and I was married for sixteen years to the same man. After I gave birth to six children, only one of whom is still alive, I died.
Hobbes said life is nasty, brutish, solitary and short, and so it is, although this woman probably never knew the peace of solitude. For her, the great gift of life was nothing but twenty-seven dismal years of being a broodmare for Fortunatus. What a depressing bummer.

Poor, sweet Veturia, if only I could have spared your suffering by putting Michele Bachmann in your place, I would gladly have done so. (What a just and righteous God I would be!)

But it could have been worse. She might have been married to Egnatius Macenius, who

… beat his wife to death with a club because she had drunk some wine. And not only did no one bring him to court because of this deed, but no one even reproached him, for all the best men thought she deserved the punishment for her example of intemperance.
All the “best men” agreed that a dead wife was better than a drunk one. Those best men were, no doubt, the most vociforous, hidebound expositors of traditional family values around, the Tom Coburns and Jim Demints of their day. They probably complained about the decline of Roman morals while they sat and watched people slaughter each other in the amphitheater:

“I had to beat the old lady to death yesterday, Fortunatus. She got into my wine.”

“Tough break, Nate, but you have to teach ’em a lesson. Say, Veturia’s got a ten-year-old sister who’s kinda cute. You interested? I can put in a good word with her old man.”

“That depends on the dowry.”

“It’s sweet, Nate, real sweet … Wait, kill him

Kill him! Did you see that? He only cut that guy’s throat. He should have cut his balls. I would have cut his balls!”

“Whaddya gonna do? Rome’s been getting soft on crime lately. You coddle these miscreants and what do get? A weak kill.”

“What’s this city coming to, Fortunatus?”

“Jupiter only knows, my friend. Jupiter only knows …”

The End.

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