Claudia Severa’s Birthday Invitation: A Rhetorical Analysis of the Earliest Artifact of Latin Written by a Woman’s Hand

Claudia Severa’s Birthday Invitation: A Rhetorical Analysis of the Earliest Artifact of Latin Written by a Woman’s Hand

Peitho Volume 18 Issue 2 Spring/Summer 2016

Author(s): Richard Leo Enos and Natasha Trace Robinson

Abstract: In the last few decades our discipline has greatly benefited from research focusing on the recovery of women in the history of rhetoric. This same research has made major contributions, but has also exposed the limitations of our historiography, calling attention to the need to reflect on our methods of analysis and the retrieval of our sources. A striking example of this need to discover new primary sources and new methods to analyze these sources emerged in 1973 when artifacts of ancient Roman writings were unearthed by archaeologists from a garbage dump whose damp, natural environment had sealed off oxygen and thereby miraculously preserved over 850 writing tablets from a remote Roman garrison in northern England. Among these priceless artifacts is evidence of the wives of Roman soldiers writing to each other as a normal feature of everyday activities. These artifacts of epistolary rhetoric provide a new perspective on the written rhetoric of women in c. 100 A.D., revealing yet another dimension of rhetoric undertaken by women in the history of our discipline. One particular artifact, Tablet 291, is especially relevant to our purposes, for it reveals a correspondence between two women concerning an invitation to a birthday party. Of special interest is the post-script that provides convincing evidence of the earliest specimen of a Latin text written by a woman’s hand. Benefiting from the inclusiveness of multi-modal research, this essay first summarizes and reviews archaeological and palaeographic research that provides a context for understanding the environment and conditions from which this artifact emerged and by which it was preserved. Subsequently, a rhetorical analysis of Tablet 291 is offered in order to lay groundwork for a more thorough and sensitive perspective of women and their uses of rhetoric in the history of our discipline.

 PDF

Tags: , , , , , , , ,

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.