GENSSEMPRONIA

Sempronia and the Catiline Conspiracy

Sempronia presents quite a contrast with the model Republican values displayed by her earlier relative, Cornelia. In fact, she was very much a "new woman" with interests, tastes and abilities that would become commonplace in women of succeeding generations.

Wife of D. Iunius Brutus, Sempronia was a woman of great personal attractions and literary accomplishments, but a profligate character, according to Sallust. She took part in Catiline's conspiracy, apparently without her husband's knowledge.

"In the number of these ladies was Sempronia, a woman who had committed many crimes with the spirit of a man. In birth and beauty, in her husband and her children, she was extremely fortunate; she was skilled in Greek and Roman literature; she could sing, play, and dance, with greater elegance than became a woman of virtue, and possessed many other accomplishments that tend to excite the passions. But nothing was ever less valued by her than honor or chastity. Whether she was more prodigal of her money or her reputation, it would have been difficult to decide.

"Her desires were so ardent that she oftener made advances to the other sex than waited for solicitation. She had frequently, before this period, forfeited her word, forsworn debts, been privy to murder, and hurried into the utmost excesses by her extravagance and poverty. But her abilities were by no means despicable; she could compose verses, jest, and join in conversation either modest, tender, or licentious. In a word, she was distinguished by much refinement of wit, and much grace of expression."

Gaius Sallustius Crispus, Conspiracy of Catiline XXV