The end of the year is upon us and the time has come to introduce the last Mulier Clara of 2019. Today’s Women’s Wednesday tells the story of a Roman Vestal Virgin.
Daughter of Appius Claudius Pulcher, Claudia is known for having saved her father from the attack of a Tribune. Back in 143 BC, Appius Claudius was a consul that had led his army in a battle against the Salassi, eventually winning at the expense of the lives of many Roman soldiers. Given the high number of casualties, the Senate had decided to deny Appius any kind of celebration. Appius, however, ignored the Senate and marched to the Capitoline Hill. By Roman tradition, if the citizens ever desired to oppose a celebration, a tribune could intervene on their behalf and, when the day finally came, Claudia had learned that someone would indeed prevent her father’s triumph. As the crowd rushed towards Appius’ chariot, in order to drag him out of it, Claudia promptly threw herself into her father’s arms, effectively shielding him from the attackers.
This was quite an unexpected event, given that vestal virgins were known for their humility and self-restraint. Claudia not only did save her father but also made history by being the first vestal virgin to oppose the will of the Senate. Boccaccio praises Claudia for her deeds, wondering if people that day were more mesmerized by Appius’ march to the Capitol or by Claudia’s extraordinary act of courage.
“Claudia”, illumination from the manuscript “Livre des femmes nobles et renommees”, ms. Français 598, f. 95r, 1403, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Paris.