Kyla Duffy (UQ MPhil): Disgust, Lust, and Excess: Cosmetics and the 'Bad' Women of Roman Literature

Anti-cosmetic sentiment was a prevalent feature of many pieces of Roman literature across a variety of genres including satire, comedy, poetry, love elegy, and moralising works. In the minds and opinions of many Roman authors cosmetics were a dangerous symbol, representative of deception, vanity, luxuria, excess, financial decadence, and sexual immorality. Cosmetics were perceived to be reflective of the inherent weakness of the female sex and their supposed ability to be easily corrupted. This paper will explore the anti-cosmetic sentiment that is apparent in Imperial period literature in order to understand the impact it had on the public presentation of Roman women. In doing so this paper aims to highlight the tension that existed between Roman ideals and the reality of everyday practices, and the resulting effect this had on representations of elite women in portraiture.  

About Classics and Ancient History Seminars

Event details

  • The seminars take place at 4pm, in the Michie Building (09), Room 536
  • Seminars are also on Zoom. Send an email to Duncan Keenan-Jones (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) for the link.
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  • Please be aware that we are still operating under Covid-19 regulations during public events. Masks are no longer required at UQ locations - however, UQ strongly encourages mask wearing when physical distancing is not possible. UQ strongly encourages all campus attendees to be up to date with vaccinations. And finally, those who are feeling unwell, have been diagnosed with COVID-19 in the previous 7 days or have been in close contact with a confirmed case in the last 7 days, are asked not to attend this seminar.
  • For those attending in person, if you would like to join us for drinks and/or dinner afterwards at UQ’s St. Lucy's from 5:15 pm, please RSVP by email to Duncan Keenan-Jones (d.keenanjones@uq.edu.au) by 9am on the day of the seminar.
  • Please also contact Duncan Keenan-Jones should you have questions about the event.

The Friends of Antiquity, an alumni organisation of the University, runs its own series of public lectures, which take place on Sunday afternoons. The Friends’ program for can be found at https://alumni.uq.edu.au/friends-of-antiquity