Thursday, 3 December 2020

bona dea

A tradition imported from Magna Grรฆcia during the middle Republic period, the good goddess was honoured with a bi-annual celebration, once in May at her temple on the Aventine Hill and then a more exclusive wintertime feast for the real housewives of Rome on this day, hosted by the spouse of the city’s magistrate—or Pontifex Maximus—for invited patrician matrons and their attendants. Both parties were the preserve of women alone and were the two occasions that women were allowed strong wine and blood sacrifices—no boys allowed, and therefore not much is divulged of the mysteries other than the iconography of a snake and cornucopia though the cult itself included men and women of all backgrounds and ranks in society. The most controversial Bona Dea occurred 62 BCE, hosted by Pompeia, third wife of Julius Cรฆsar, when the party was crashed and scandalised by the figure of Publius Clodius Pulcher dressed as a woman with the intent to seduce the hostess. Clodius was a populist politician, street agitator and ally of Cรฆsar and could raise gangs of thugs to riot against any opposition, which is ostensibly why Clodius was ultimately acquitted during his trial for desecrating the holiday proceedings, a serious crime, and for Cรฆsar’s subsequent divorce of Pompeia, insisting his spouse must be above rebuke, though she had no control over Clodius’ antics. Though of the eldest gens of Rome, the aristocratic pater familius of the Claudians, Clodius arranged his adoption by someone with obscure roots so he could run and be elected the tribune of the plebians. Pompeia went on to remarry another politician but one of less notoriety and Clodius was ultimately killed during a feud by the bodyguard of a political rival. Clodius’ window, Fulvia, also remarried—taking Mark Antony for a husband after Clodius’ death.