Ancient equality
Love in Rome – this man erected a monument for his lioness for eternity

This is how Prospero Piatti imagined the life of a Roman woman around 1910.

This is how Prospero Piatti imagined the life of a Roman woman around 1910.

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The marriage between Turia and her husband lasted 41 years. She took every risk and sacrifice for him. On her tombstone, the widower evokes the love between the couple.

Turia lived at the time of Julius Caesar and Augustus. She was younger than her husband and yet left him as a survivor. Her husband erected a precious tomb for her, on which a eulogy to Turia was carved. His memory of a lioness. A self-confident woman who did not shy away from arguments in troubled times and who had been willing to make any sacrifice for her husband. Marriages of this length, terminated by death and not separated by divorce, are rare, the text begins. “We were fortunate that the marriage lasted about forty-one years without injury.”

eulogy to the dead

Because of the disputes over inheritance and property, the Laudatio Turiae is one of the most important sources for Roman civil law. Above all, it is the sign of a great love. It is typical for the Romans that the tombstone refrains from giving personal data, while today’s tombstones are initially described like a register of residents. The eulogy was intended for the gods and eternity and for Turia. The stone reads as if the man were reciting the hymn directly to the dead. We only know her name but not even that of the family, the man himself does not mention himself. The political unrest of the time also reached Turia, so that we can locate it in time.

Stand up for their rights

Turia was a fighter. As a young woman, together with her sister, she made sure that the murderers of her parents were brought to justice and convicted. After that she had to fend off greedy relatives who wanted to dispute her status as sole heir by pointing out her status as a wife. In their marriage, Turia and her husband chose a path that made them both equal partners and managed the feat of still conforming to tradition. So the husband became the guardian of her inherited property, in return she received custody of all his goods.

But the couple could not have children. In Rome, childlessness was an almost compelling reason for divorce, since the absence of children led to the cessation of the line and interrupted the cycle by which property could be passed on. Turia therefore offered her husband a divorce and, what is more, she was willing to give all her inheritance to her husband’s second marriage so that the new couple could continue on the path she had intended to walk with him. But he indignantly refused, because a divorce would have brought shame on him and lifelong misery on both of them.

Although the couple could now have no offspring, they attached great importance to increasing their fortune and not wasting it through ostentation. Turia used it to donate the dowry for the young women in her family. Maintaining ownership was a feat during the civil wars. The parties enriched themselves and funded their armies by pursuing Romans only to confiscate their property.

This is how she saved his life

He confesses that he has only Turia to thank for surviving the two great civil wars. The man was a republican and fought on the side of Pompey against Caesar. With the defeat and death of Pompeius Magnus, he was declared disenfranchised and fled into exile. Although it was strictly forbidden and dangerous, his wife maintained the formally invalid marriage to the exile and supported him abroad. The second civil war also found him on the wrong side. When Octavian, later Augustus, was victorious, the husband was again or still banished. Eventually, Turia saved his life. She threw herself on the ground before Lepidus, a co-ruler of Octavian, and kissed his feet to beg mercy for her husband. Even punches and kicks didn’t make her stop. Given the impression made by her courage and tenacity – “even though the body was covered with blows and stains, your will remained strong” – Lepidus could not help but pardon her husband.

When she died before him, the widower, whose name remains unknown, erected the extraordinary tombstone of his Turia.