The time has finally come for the very first Women’s Wednesday of 2021! Although historians have celebrated our first Mulier Clara of the year as a skilled writer and poetess, her work has sadly not survived long enough for us to read it. Meet Cornificia, our guest for this week!
Cornificia was born into a wealthy Roman family, allegedly around 85 BC. Her brother, Quintus Cornificius, was a praetor, augur, and poet, as well as a correspondent and friend of both Cato and Cicero.
Poetry, thus, seems to have run in the family: both brother and sister are mentioned by St Jerome in his 4th century Chronicles, who explicitly tells us that, contrary to those of her brother, Cornificia’s works had survived up until then. While it is sad that they eventually went missing some time after the 4th century, it is undoubtedly remarkable that her writing was still being read a whole four centuries after her death.
"Cornificia", illumination from the manuscript “De Mulieribus Claris”, decorated by Robinet Testard, ms. Français 599, f. 72v, 1488-1496, Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des Manuscrits, Paris.