Kaitlyn McCune’s opening PowerPoint slide portrays a vicious battle between two Roman warriors, a stunning indicator as to the context of her text. She presents information from her Classics special study. Although projects involving female empowerment are fairly common on a women’s college campus such as Agnes Scott, Kaitlyn manages to separate hers from the others with a strong basis on female Roman warriors and their depiction in society.
When the first words out of her mouth referred to the movie Hunger Games, my first thought was “Huh?” Then she explained. The main character in the movie, Katniss, has both masculine and feminine character traits. She embodies the very non-traditional image of a woman as someone who is both physically and mentally equal to the level of a man. In other words, she is a perfect portrayal of a modern female warrior. For the rest of the presentation, we go back into Ancient Rome.
A quick overlook into Roman Society gives the audience an intimate look at the way gender roles were defined in the patriarchal system. “There was always a campaign going on, always a war to be fought.” The female warrior seems to have been defined in many ways in Roman history, one example being the Amazons. They are described in many ways as notable warriors but also as “man-eaters.” The Amazons represented a sort of Anti-Roman society, everything about them being against what Romans believed was correct in society. At the same time, they were acknowledged as worthy opponents for the Romans.
An example of a notable female warrior that Kaitlyn mentioned was Camilla from Virgil’s Aeneid, a leader who took charge of both men and women in order to fight the Trojans for her country. She is portrayed as a woman who had no need for a man, definitely an unusual trait during these times. At the same time, she is highly sexualized, often being portrayed with “one breast bared for battle.” Camilla and the Amazons “represent a time before culture.” They possess a “primal lust for battle” and a “fantastical” need to spill blood. Kaitlyn emphasizes this idea with the statement, “The ancient Romans perceived the females warrior as primitive.” Kaitlyn continues by giving some names of notable female enemies of Rome, including Boudicca, the Queen of Iceni and Zenovia, the Queen of Palmyra. They were both eventually defeated but managed to fight fiercely and bravely beforehand.
Kaitlyn goes on to remark on the reinforcement of cultural norms created by the female warriors and how their primitive nature made them both “explainable” and “alluring”. She presents many unusual contrasts to explain her point and ends up with a project that is both respectable and intriguing.