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The Virtues of EconomyGovernance, Power, and Piety in Late Medieval Rome$
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James A. Palmer

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9781501742378

Published to Cornell Scholarship Online: May 2020

DOI: 10.7591/cornell/9781501742378.001.0001

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The Houses of Women

The Houses of Women

Citizens, Spiritual Economy, and Community

(p.135) Chapter 5 The Houses of Women
The Virtues of Economy

James A. Palmer

Cornell University Press

This chapter assesses the instantiation of the spiritual economy on the Roman landscape in the form of women's houses. Some were home to widows and unmarried daughters of Roman citizens; others were the dwellings of female paupers of Christ, female pilgrims, and other foreigners unified both by piety and the need to survive. Women living collectively in Rome came to their ways of life by a variety of paths, but the repetition of the form of female communality points to something held in common, a shared stake in a mode of life characterized by a particular understanding of female virtue. That virtue made women important agents within the realm of the spiritual economy and important elements in the ideological program of Roman elites. They were, in a way unique to them, simultaneously virtuous governors entrusted with the management of lineage resources and objects of governance who were themselves carefully managed. The commonalities between the women of prominent citizen families and foreign women living lives of collective piety suggest that at the level of everyday life Rome's political elite made their claims of virtue not only to the communal civic community of which they were clearly a part but also to the greater Roman community that contained it, the world of daily, neighborhood life that thus constituted the city's true political society.

Keywords:   spiritual economy, women's houses, widows, female paupers, female pilgrims, Rome, female communality, female virtue, Roman political elites, Roman community

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