Episode 114 – The Tale of Verginia

CW: The accounts of Verginia include paedophilic desire, violence against women

The story of Verginia is an achingly tragic tale central to understanding the Second Decemvirate. Both Livy and Dionysius of Halicarnassus go into some detail about what happens and how it unfolds and we’ll explore both accounts to compare and contrast them.

Episode 114 – The Tale of Verginia

Reading our Sources on Verginia

Dr Rad takes us through the complexities of thinking about Livy’s context and how that might influence his presentation of the material. Dr G explores the connection between the Latin term virgo (virgin) and her name Verginia. There’s plenty of parallels that will emerge between Verginia’s story and the story of Lucretia, whose fate seals the demise of the Roman monarchy.

What Horror…

Verginia is the daughter of a well-known centurion who is fighting on one of Rome’s frontiers. But conflict emerges when Appius Claudius decides that he wants her for himself. He seems heedless to reason or morality when it comes to Verginia and this leads him to engage in a set of behaviours that are appalling.

What to listen out for

Verginia’s story is one that involves a number of strange and dangerous concepts:

  • Claiming people from the street as slaves
  • Convoluted plans to remove a young woman from her family
  • Legal arguments around the claim that someone is a slave
  • Arguments for how to protect women’s virginity
  • What does it mean to be a citizen?
  • Official summons and strategies to foil summons
  • Groups of women akin to a tragic chorus
  • A butcher stand and the connection of Venus with the Cloaca Maxima

Our Players


  • Appius Claudius. Ap. f. M. n. Crassus Inregillensis Sabinus Pat – Cos. 471, 451
  • Spurius Oppius Cornicen
  • Quintus Fabius M. f. M. n. Vibulanus Pat – Cos. 467, 465, 459
  • Quintus Poetelius Libo Visolus
  • Manius Rabuleius
  • Marcus Cornelius – f. Ser. n. Maluginenesis Pat
  • Lucius Minucius P. f. M. n. Esquilinus Augurinus Pat – Cos. 458
  • Marcus? Sergius Esquilinus Pat
  • Titus Antonius Merenda
  • Caeso Duillius Longus?

Appius Claudius’ client

  • Marcus Claudius

The Verginii and Supporters

  • Verginia
  • Verginius – father of Verginia
  • Numitoria – mother of Verginia
  • Publius Numitorius – Verginia’s maternal uncle
  • Lucius(?) Icilius – former tribune of the plebs and Verginia’s betrothed

Our Sources

  • Dr Rad reads Livy 3.44-48
  • Dr G reads Dionysius of Halicarnassus Rom. Ant. 11.28-37
  • Joshel, S. 2002. ‘The Body Female and the Body Politic: Livy’s Lucretia and Verginia.’ In Sexuality and gender in the classical world: readings and sources, edited by Sandra R. Joshel & Laura K. McClure, 163-190. Oxford: Blackwell.
  • Keegan, P. 2021. Livy’s Women. New York: Oxon.

Sound Credits

Additional music and sound in this episode includes an original composition for our podcast by the fabulous Bettina Joy de Guzman

The death of Virginia or Verginia by Heinrich Friedrich Fuger

Heinrich Friedrich Fuger – The Death of Virginia.
Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons user Jbribeiro1

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Drs R and G laugh and spar their way through the ancient Roman world!


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