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 ( for the link.
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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