Fulvia: Leadership and Social Convention in Ancient Rome


This case examines how social expectations of class and gender influence perceptions of legitimate leadership. Women in ancient Rome did not possess many of the civil and legal rights women do today, and social convention limited their participation in matters that were not personal or domestic. At the same time, they could possess considerable influence, particularly if they were of the aristocracy. Fulvia, an aristocratic woman who was the wife of three prominent politicians—Clodius, Curio, and Marc Antony—advocated for her successive husbands in ways that broke convention but also demonstrated traditional feminine qualities. Surviving literary sources criticize her harshly. Students will be asked to consider the motivations for such criticism and whether there was a valid basis for it, and to engage in self-reflection on their own understanding of who can be a leader.

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