THE FIVEASH LEGACY LECTURE: Manly Women: The Political Status and Influence of Wives, Mothers, and Daughters in the Roman Empire


Tuesday, April 9, 2019 | WITH JACQUELINE CARLON

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Start Date: 04/09/2019, 1 meeting
Class Time: 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM
Location: Lexington Depot
Status: Running/Openings


While virtually no authentic voices of Roman women survive, their importance in social, political, and economic spheres can be inferred from surviving literature and inscriptions. They must always have had influence, but it is in the late Republic that their power first becomes patent. Under the emperors, Rome would remain the preserve of the imperial family, but opportunities for status outside of the city grew exponentially for both men and women who had the means and the desire to secure it. Who were these women who stepped beyond the ‘traditional’ boundaries of feminine behavior? What evidence of their influence did they leave behind? What was their importance in the changed political landscape of the Empire?

Jacqueline Carlon is Professor and Graduate Program Director of Classics at UMass Boston.  Her research focuses in two areas: elite identity in the early Principate and Latin pedagogy, particularly the ways in which Second Language Acquisition research should inform the Latin classroom. Her book Pliny’s Women was published by Cambridge University Press in 2009, and her commentary Selected Letters from Pliny the Younger’s Epistulae, the second volume in  the Oxford Greek and Latin Commentary series, was published in March 2016 by Oxford University Press.  


The Fiveash Legacy Lecture is intended to honor and keep vital the memory and teaching spirit of Dr. Michael Fiveash. Michael was a long time, and much loved Lexington High School teacher who taught Latin and Mythology and the Classics for decades and who inspired students to love literature and language while teaching how to seek substance and depth in their living… finding meaning in the great myths that resonated with their own lives. Many of Michael’s students have gone on to study Classics at University, and from there to be high school and/or University professors, authors, and scholars themselves. Each would  certainly say that their professional and academic destiny was first glimpsed in the classroom of Dr. Michael Fiveash.

After he retired, Lexington Community Education was fortunate to be able to have Michael teach with us in the evenings, offering classes for adults in topics of mythology and the literature of Homer, Ovid, Virgil, and Lucretius among others.  Michael’s classes and progressive use of technology brought the ancient would right into the classroom with images of art and culture curated into presentations good enough for PBS, and deep enough to set students (both young and older) to navigate the wine dark sea of the mysteries of liminality, and the majesty of living a life bigger than allowed most classrooms or cubicles.

Toward the end of Michael’s life, Karen Girondel and I (and others) were talking about a way to have Michael present a public lecture that would give a chance for the community to come out and hear and thank a teacher who was such an influence. Cancer robbed us of that lecture, and robbed us of our great teacher. With that thought/seed for a lecture by Michael in mind, and out of heart grief was born this series, intended to present thinkers and topics that Michael would have loved, and evenings that he would have loved to have attended. We have thus far welcomed to speak, Stephen Greenblatt, Emily Wilson, Gregory Nagy, Jonathan Shay, David Ferry, Fred S. Kleiner, Stephanie Brody, Madeline Miller, Emma Dench, Eric Adler, Ali Humayn Akhtar, Tom Cheetham, and Sarah Breitenfeld to name a few.

There are now two scholarships established in Micahel’s name. One for students who intend to study the Classics after high school, and the other for LHS teachers who inspire and light a fire in the hearts and minds of students in the way that Michael Fiveash (Doc Five) did.

– Craig Hall, Director of Lexington Community Education