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The Murder of Regilla A Case of Domestic Violence in Antiquity [Hardcover]

Sarah B Pomeroy
3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Oct 2007
From an acclaimed author comes a fascinating story of the life, marriage, and death of an all but forgotten Roman woman. Born to an illustrious Roman family in 125 A.D., Regilla was married at the age of fifteen to Herodes, a wealthy Greek who championed his country's values at a time when Rome ruled.Twenty years later - and eight months pregnant with her sixth child - Regilla died under mysterious circumstances, after a blow to the abdomen delivered by Herodes' freedman. Regilla's brother charged Herodes with murder, but a Roman court (at the urging of Marcus Aurelius) acquitted him. Sarah Pomeroy's investigation suggests that despite Herodes' erection of numerous monuments to his deceased wife, he was in fact guilty of the crime.A pioneer in the study of ancient women, Pomeroy gathers a broad, unique array of evidence, from political and family history to Greco-Roman writings and archaeology, to re-create the life and death of Regilla. Teasing out the tensions of class, gender, and ethnicity that gird this story of marriage and murder, Pomeroy exposes the intimate life and tragedy of an elite Roman couple. Part archaeological investigation, part historical re-creation, and part detective story, "The Murder of Regilla" will appeal to all those interested in the private lives of the classical world and in a universal and compelling story of women and family in the distant past.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (2 Oct 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674025830
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674025837
  • Product Dimensions: 21.6 x 15.4 x 2.4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 2,489,991 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


Sarah B. Pomeroy's passionate account in "The Murder of Regilla", following her from birth to death, is a sharp reminder of the brutally blunt edges of gender inequality.--Joy Connolly"Times Literary Supplement" (04/11/2008)

About the Author

Sarah B. Pomeroy is Distinguished Professor of Classics and History, Emerita, of the City University of New York.

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
This book about Regilla is written by Sarah Pomeroy, a former professor of classics and history at the City University of New York and author of several books about women in ancient Greece and Rome, including Goddesses, Whores, Wives and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity (1975 & 1995). It is the first book about this woman. Who was she?

Regilla was born to an important Roman family in AD 125. She was related to members of the imperial family: Faustina Major, who was married to Antoninus Pius (emperor 138-161), and Faustina Minor, who was married to Marcus Aurelius (emperor 161-180). Before she was 15 (in 138 or 139), she was married to a man who was more than 20 years older than her. Herodes Atticus (born ca. 101) was a wealthy man from Greece, appointed as a tutor of the future emperors Lucius Verus (161-169) and Marcus Aurelius. The couple had five children, but most of them died young.

In 160, when she was eight months pregnant with their sixth child, she died under mysterious circumstances. A slave named Alcimedon allegedly kicked her in the abdomen, following an order from Herodes. Both mother and child died.

Her brother Bradua, a consul in that year, accused Herodes of murder. The case was taken up in a Roman court, where Herodes was acquitted, maybe because of instructions from Marcus Aurelius, who wanted to protect his former tutor. Herodes outlived his wife by some 17 years. He claimed he was innocent. But Pomeroy believes he was guilty. After his acquittal, he built several monuments commemorating and praising his deceased wife. Pomeroy believes this merely shows his bad conscience.
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0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
I expected a crime book as I usually read. But I found this book a bit boring and
repetitive in its descriptions. The author is very profound in Roman history and
customs but she indulges too much in descriptions that are not much related with
the story she intended to write.
At a certain moment I stopped reading.
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Amazon.com: 3.8 out of 5 stars  5 reviews
11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars View Imperial Rome through a different lens 24 Sep 2007
By David D. Dudley - Published on Amazon.com
Professor Pomeroy's work is an excellent exercise in speculative history, where she pieces together various fragments of evidence to weave a compelling narrative. She traces the story about how a young Roman girl came of age, was married off to a narcissistic Roman-Greek millionaire, more interested in male sex toys than serious companionship with his wife, dragged off to Greece, and eventually murdered by him. She explores issues of class, national identity, gender, daily life, sexual mores, property, and legal institutions, through her compelling narrative.

Pomeroy's laconic prose adds to the sense that you're peering through a window into the ancient Roman world. Highly recommended!
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rome/Greece - Second Century A.D. 15 July 2009
By Lyn Reese - Published on Amazon.com
Pomeroy, a well established historian of ancient history, provides a fascinating glimpse into the world of women of the highest social class in Imperial Rome. Appia Annia Regilla Atilia Caucidia Tertulla married a very rich husband but one who was somewhat alien because of his Greek lineage. When Regilla follows him to live in one of his massive estates outside Athens, things fall apart. After giving birth to at least five children, she suffers a brutal murder, kicked in the stomach at the age of 35 while eight months pregnant. Her husband is implicated, is tried in Rome, and is acquitted.

We know of Regilla's fate in the beginning of this tale. What we learn from then on is everything Pomeroy can tease out of the few extant sources regarding Regilla - the possible reasons for the murder, the tenuous position of even wealthy women in this age, and the social milieu in which Regilla lived her short life.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Very descriptive of women in Ancient Rome and Greece 15 Mar 2010
By Adam N. Tune - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Pomeroy tells an historical fiction story although is is more historical than fiction. She illustrates not only the difference in Roman and Greek women, but also tells the reader more about the Roman and Greek societies. If one needed an introduction on women in the ancient world, this is the book to start with. After reading this one, I bought her other one as well as two more on women in ancient society. It will peak your interest.
4.0 out of 5 stars Not just crime in history, but crime in ANCIENT history 9 Sep 2012
By Meaghan - Published on Amazon.com
Basically, this book is about a real murder case from Ancient Rome. A man beat his pregnant wife to death, to the scandal of everyone. Regilla's husband was obviously gay. Even the homoerotic Romans thought he paid a little bit too much attention to his male paramours. What role this played in the murder, though, is anyone's guess.

I think this book could have been a lot more interesting than it was, considering the topic, but academic writing is often very dry and we must forgive that fact. It was sort of intriguing to learn about the criminal justice system of the time (if I'm reading right, murders did not get prosecuted automatically but someone had to bring a prosecution against the alleged killer, like a civil suit today). But I think I could only recommend this book to classics historians or women's studies scholars.
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Troublesome 1 May 2013
By Catherine Pool - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The author seems to be more suited to writing historical fiction, rather than this speculative attempt at actual history. While I commend her for taking on such a difficult topic, and her thoroughness of research is not to be denied, there is only so much you can do with what she calls "evidence." It sounds intriguing to learn about those who have been silent in ancient history--the women, the children, the lower classes--but the fact of the matter is that we can know absolutely nothing for certain about them. Prefacing every sentence with "It can be assumed that," "Perhaps," or "It may be that" does not make for good history. It makes for speculation, and speculation is not history. Beyond this, there are several problems with her historical method. In order to back up statements that are obviously born of a late twentieth-century bias, she skews her evidence to fit her claim (when a historian should be willing to change his or her conclusion based on evidence that contradicts it). The endnotes are rife with this sort of disturbing leap in logic from the meagerest of evidence to a definite conclusion. While I understand that it is a popular theory at the moment that Achilles and Patroclus were involved with each other, anyone who has read the actual Homer would know that it is not even hinted at--and clearly she has not. She has read plenty of recent historians, but I find it unfortunate that she would make definite statements of "assumed fact" that are not based on the actual texts at all. She does manage to keep the story interesting, but her historical practice leaves much to be desired--perfect for historical fiction. All she would have to do is take away some of the speculative words, admit to it being fiction, and it would be well worth a read.
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