Professor Mira Seo, Yale-NUS College will give a talk on "Money Talks: A Male Poet Addresses His Female Patron in Ancient Rome."
When is it appropriate to praise a woman’s wealth in ancient Rome? Mentioning an individual’s finances might seem socially awkward— and yet, the poet Statius makes a point of praising his patron, Polla Argentaria, in two separate poems for her census, or “property”. Polla Argentaria, the widow of Lucan (an epic poet condemned by Nero) emerges in the poetic record of the late first century CE as a prominent female literary patron and canny executor of her deceased husband’s poetic legacy. This paper examines financial language in Statius’ gendered rhetoric of praise, and places Polla Argentaria among other Roman female patrons of her society.