Text #9580"Aemilia Tertia", in .
Aemilia Tertia, better known as Aemilia Paulla (c. 230–163 or 162 BC), was the wife of Scipio Africanus (also known as Scipio the elder), Roman general and statesman. She was the daughter, possibly the third surviving daughter, of another Roman general Lucius Aemilius Paullus (consul in 216 BC who was killed at the Battle of Cannae of the Second Punic War) and sister of another famous Roman general Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus (consul 182 and 168 BC).
The name Aemilia derives from her family name (nomen), the gens Aemilia being one of the five most important patrician families. Roman women of the Middle Republic customarily bore their father’s family name, and were sometimes distinguished by their birth order. As with men named Quintus (“the Fifth”) or Sextus (“the Sixth”), a name such as Tertia may not always mean a woman had two older sisters. Valerius Maximus gives her name as Tertia Aemilia, “the wife of Scipio Africanus and the mother of Cornelia.” Aemilia is not known to have had sisters, but younger sisters are sometimes more notable for the historical record than elder. Aemilia’s daughters were Cornelia Africana Major and Cornelia Africana Minor, the younger being far more famous than her mother or elder sister.
Aemilia Tertia’s marriage to Scipio probably took place sometime between 213 BC and 210 BC (when Scipio went first to Sicily and thence to Spain); it may however have been as late as 206 BC-205 BC. Aemilia Tertia and Scipio Africanus had a fruitful marriage, and according to Livy, Polybius, and other classical historians, were very happily married. They had two sons and two daughters, the younger being the famous Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi.
Aemilia Tertia was allegedly of a very mild disposition, but was fiercely loyal to her husband who upset many Senators by challenging the older leaders in their military strategy, and conservative Romans by his adoption of some parts of Greek lifestyle. The Greek historian Polybius who was living in the household of her brother Lucius Aemilius Paullus Macedonicus for some time, and who almost certainly was an eye-witness, wrote of Aemilia Tertia:
“This lady whose name was Aemilia, used to display great magnificence whenever she left her house to take part in the ceremonies that women attend, having participated in the fortune of Scipio when he was at the height of his prosperity. .. For apart from the richness of her own dress and of the decorations of her carriage, all the baskets, cups, and other utensils for the sacrifice were either of gold or silver, and were borne in her train on all such solemn occasions, .. while the number of maids and men-servants in attendance was correspondingly large. (Polybius, translated by John Dryden, Book 31 Fragments: 26)
This passage shows that for that period, the last decades of the Middle Republic, Aemilia Tertia had unusual freedom and wealth for a patrician married woman, both given her by an unusually liberal husband. She is one of the few Roman women known to us from the Middle Republic. Because of her unusual wealth and freedom, and her own behavior, she was an important role model for many younger Roman woman, just as her youngest daughter Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi (190-121 BC), would be an important role model for many Late Republican Roman noblewomen, including allegedly, Aurelia Cotta, the mother of Julius Caesar.
According to other sources, Aemilia was gentle, mild-mannered, but also fiercely loyal to her husband. Valerius Maximus relates an incident where Scipio was unfaithful to her with one of their own maid-servants, but Aemilia chose not to make the matter public. Valerius Maximus and Plutarch would have considered such behavior as honorable for Scipio, who after all, was not debauching his own wife. Marital sex was considered to be essentially procreative among Middle-Republic Romans. The year of this incident was around 191 BC or later, at which time Aemilia was either pregnant with her youngest child or had given birth recently. The fact that Aemilia chose not to expose her husband’s infidelity (per Valerius Maximus) could indicate either a desire to spare him embarrassment, or her own desire to avoid embarrassment for herself. A Roman wife could not expect her husband to be faithful, and his misconduct whether at home or outside was not grounds for a divorce. Furthermore, by divorcing her husband (or rather, being divorced in that period), a woman lost custody of her children and usually had to return to her father’s or brother’s house. The husband could retain most of her dowry, so Aemilia could get as little as one-fifth of her dowry back. Aemilia’s sister-in-law Papiria Masonis was divorced c. 183 BC by her husband, simply because he was tired of her. She was entirely blameless, having provided him with two sons and two daughters, and her chastity was not in question. After her divorce, she lived in rather straitened circumstances, and without her children who remained with their father and paterfamilias.
Sources such as Polybius also emphasize her love of luxury and her extravagance; she drove a special chariot at women’s religious processions, and was attended by a large number of servants. One source claims that she enjoyed buying tasteful although extravagant works of art.
Scipio died of a lingering illness in 183 BC after having retired to his country house at Liternum in 185 BC. During his last years, he wrote his memoirs in both Latin and Greek, but those have vanished, with even Plutarch’s Life of him missing. He was survived by his widow and four children; his brother Scipio Asiaticus also remained living, although in political disgrace.
According to Polybius, Scipio made generous provisions for his widow to ensure that she would retain the same lifestyle she had grown accustomed to as his wife. He also promised his daughters fifty talents of silver each, which was a very large dowry by that era’s standards.
Aemilia Tertia long survived her husband and outlived both her sons. She had two daughters surviving upon her own death, which took place sometime around 163 BC and by 162 BC.
She continued her luxurious lifestyle despite widowhood, presumably having been guaranteed a generous income by her husband’s will. However, thanks to the lex Voconia (which prohibited women from inheriting much or from passing on their own wealth to females) passed in 169 BC, she was unable to dispose of her possessions as she pleased. At her death, her heir was automatically her grandson by adoption, Scipio Africanus II, or Scipio the Younger (better known to Romans as Scipio Aemilianus). He gave them to his mother Papiria Masonis, who was divorced from his own natural biological father L. Aemilius for more than two decades. At her death, he passed those same possessions over to his two biological sisters - Aemilia Paulla Prima, wife of Marcus Porcius Cato Licinianus and Aemilia Paulla Secunda, wife of Quintus Aelius Tubero. (Polybius, Book 31: 28, Plutarch. Aem. 2; Liv. xxxviii. 57).
Aemilia Paulla and Scipio Africanus had four surviving children, two sons and two daughters. His two sons failed to become consuls, although both became praetor in 174 BC. The elder may have married but no wife nor issue are known; the younger fell into dissolute ways and never married. Both suffered from ill-health which prevented them pursuing a military career.
The daughters did better, being granted fifty talents of silver as dowry each (then a very large sum), of which the half was paid immediately upon their marriages and the other half (twenty-five talents) became due within three years of their mother’s death.
- Publius Cornelius P.f. P.n. Scipio Africanus (fl. 174 BC); he became a priest or Augur in 180 BC (like his maternal uncle), was flamen dialis or priest of Jupiter (according to his tomb inscription), and served as praetor in 174 BC. Some sources seem to imply that he was married, but his wife, if any, is unnamed. He appears to have died at some point after 174 BC, and probably before 167 BC (Battle of Pydna) where Scipio Aemilianus is already known as his adoptive son. He was certainly dead by 163 BC-162 BC when his own mother died, leaving her money to his adoptive son and heir. The date of his adopting Scipio Aemilianus is also unknown, but probably took place between 174 BC and 167 BC when his brother was probably dead.
- Lucius Cornelius P.f. P.n. Scipio (fl. 174 BC); he led a dissolute lifestyle, and was expelled from the Senate in the year that he was elected praetor. (Livy) This son is most notable for having been captured by pirates c. 192-191 BC, and being released without ransom before the Battle of Magnesia which would cause his father political problems. Date of death unknown, but he probably died between 174 BC and 170 BC. No wife or issue are mentioned by any Roman historian, and he probably died unmarried.
- Cornelia Africana Major (fl. 174 BC), eldest daughter of Aemilia was born approximately 201 BC; her date of death is unknown, but she probably married c. 182 BC, judging by the year in which her son became consul. Her husband was her own second cousin. It is not known, however, if this was the first marriage between cousins of the same gens (a practice that would have been previously avoided on grounds of consanguinity i.e. sharing the same blood line descent), or whether such marriages were not totally unknown prior to Cornelia’s marriage. Scipio Nasica Corculum, consul in 162 BC and 155 BC, censor 159 BC, and later Princeps Senatus until overthrown, i.e. not chosen again, and Pontifex Maximus until his death in 141 BC.
- Her husband was the son of the eponymous consul of 191 BC who was himself son of Scipio’s elder paternal uncle Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus); her father-in-law and husband were both distinguished jurists. Cornelia Major’s date of death is not known. She had one known son or one surviving son, Scipio Nasica Serapio, also consul and Pontifex Maximus 141 BC-132 BC, who left descendants surviving to 45 BC or later. Sadly, Scipio Nasica Serapio is better known for his role in his cousin Tiberius Gracchus’s death in 133 BC. This grandson left descendants, of whom the most distinguished in the Late Republic were Metellus Scipio and his daughter Cornelia Metella (who died childless). Descendants in the female line, if they exist, remain unknown to prosopographers and historians.
- Cornelia Africana Minor (c.192-121 BC), the younger daughter, was born about 190 BC, married in 172 BC, and died in 121 BC after her youngest child Gaius Sempronius Gracchus committed suicide to avoid execution. Better known as Cornelia, Mother of the Gracchi, she was the wife of the middle-aged but distinguished consul Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus, twice consul and censor (died 154 BC), to whom she bore 12 children, most of whom died very young despite their parents’ assiduous care. Three children survived to adulthood, two of them being the Brothers Gracchi – Tiberius Sempronius Gracchus and Gaius Sempronius Gracchus, the latter born in the year that his father died suddenly, and the eldest, a daughter Sempronia, being wife of her mother’s first biological cousin and her own second cousin Scipio the Younger. Tiberius Gracchus’s own three sons died very young, and her youngest son Gaius left only a daughter Sempronia. Sempronia and Scipio Aemilianus had no children, which contributed to the bitterness in their marriage.
- Thus c. 45 BC, Cornelia Africana Minor’s only surviving descendant was Fulvia Flacca Bambula. Fulvia was the first ever non-mythological Roman woman to appear on coinage, and through her three marriages gained access to power. Her first marriage to Publius Clodius Pulcher produced two children: a son, also named Publius Clodius Pulcher, and a daughter, Clodia Pulchra, who later married Octavian. Her second marriage to Gaius Scribonius Curio produced another son. Fulvia’s third and final marriage to Mark Antony produced two sons: Marcus Antonius Antyllus and Iullus Antonius. Further descendants, stemming from Iullus Antonius, were alive in the later reign of Augustus Caesar.
Dixon, Suzanne. “Polybius on Roman Women and Property, “ The American Journal of Philology, Vol. 106, No. 2 (Summer, 1985), pp. 147-170.. Google reference, not full article, retrieved 7 June 2007. The Dixon article claims that Aemilia died in 162 BC per her reading of Polybius. In Polybius The Histories Fragments of Book XXXI: 26-28, Aemilia’s death and funeral, and Scipio Aemilianus’s disposition of her effects are discussed, but no year is given for her death. However, her brother Lucius Aemilius Paulus Macedonicus is known to have died in 160 BC, and two years earlier, Scipio Aemilianus gave the remaining 50 talents owed the husbands of his adoptive paternal aunts. That transfer took place ten months after Aemilia’s death, at which point he had given Aemilia’s finery to his own mother. If Aemilius Paullus died in 160 BC, the money transfers took place in 162 BC and Aemilia died ten months earlier, either that year or in 163 BC
Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician by H. H. Scullard Cornell University Press Ithaca, New York 1970 printed in England. Standard Book Number 8014-0549-1;
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 76-98158 H. H. Scullard, Scipio Africanus: Soldier and Politician, Thames and Hudson, London, 1970. ISBN 0-500-40012-1