Faustilla the Pawnbroker and Other Tales of Gender and Finance in the Early Roman Empire

Kristina Milnor

Faustilla event image

This lecture discusses female involvement in the public management of money during the first century of the Roman Empire. An ideology of gendered “separate spheres” was prevalent in the ancient world, emphasizing the importance of women’s place in the private, domestic realm, while assigning the space of business and finance to male citizens. Yet significant evidence exists that women did participate in financial transactions, both on micro- and macro-levels, from Faustilla the pawnbroker’s activities in Pompeii to the empress Livia’s grain sales from her estates in Egypt. Barnard Associate Professor of Classics Kristina Milnor considers this evidence: what we know, how we know it, and what this knowledge tells us about the opportunities and challenges facing ancient Roman women. Professor Milnor is the author of Gender, Domesticity, and the Age of Augustus: Inventing Private Life.