(Valerius Maximus, Memorable Deeds and Sayings 8.3. 1st cent. A.D. L)

We must be silent no longer about those women whom neither the condition of their nature nor the cloak of modesty could keep silent in the Forum or the courts.

Amasia Sentia, a defendant, pleaded her case before a great crowd of people and Lucius Titius, the praetor who presided over the court.[1] She pursued every aspect of her defence diligently and boldly and was acquitted, almost unanimously, in a single hearing. Because she bore a man’s spirit under the appearance of a woman, they called her Androgyne.

Gaia Afrania,[2] the wife of the senator Licinius Buccio, a woman disposed to bring suits, always represented herself before the praetor: not because she had no advocates, but because her impudence was abundant. And so, by constantly plaguing the tribunals with such barking as the Forum had seldom heard, she became the best-known example of women’s litigiousness. As a result, to charge a woman with low morals, it is enough to call her ‘Gaia Afrania’. She prolonged her life until Caesar’s second consulship[3] with Publius Servius as his colleague; for it is better to record when such a monster died than when it was born.

Hortensia, the daughter of Quintus Hortensius,[4] when the triumvirs burdened the matrons with a heavy tribute[5] and no man dared take their defence, plead the case before the triumvirs, both firmly and successfully. For by bringing back her father’s eloquence, she brought about the remission of the greater part of the tax. Quintus Hortensius lived again in the female line and breathed through his daughter’s words. If any of her male descendants had wished to follow her strength, the great heritage of Hortensian eloquence would not have ended with a woman’s action.


1. In 77 B.C.

2. Cf. Digest

3. 48 B.C.

4. Quintus Hortensius Hortalus (114-50 B.C.), consul in 69 B.C., was one of the Republic’s most famous orators and a great forensic rival of Cicero.

5. 42 B.C. The triumvirs Octavian, Antony, and Lepidus levied this tax to help pay for the war against Brutus and Cassius.