Department or Program

Classical and Medieval Studies


What does the Roman consolatory tradition reveal about the Romans’ expectations for proper behavior, especially in regards to gender? Can archeological evidence reveal the philosophical beliefs of individuals in Rome? This thesis addresses these questions in three parts. Part One offers an analysis of the consolatory letter tradition, represented by consolation letters found in Cicero’s Epistulae Ad Familiares, Seneca’s De Consolatione Ad Helviam, Ad Marciam, and Epistulae Morales, and Plutarch’s De Consolatione Ad Uxorem. In this section, I argue that consolation letters reinforced the gendered opposition of rational and irrational behavior in Roman society. This section also includes a discussion of the potential didactic purposes of female-addressed consolation letters. Part Two compares the consolation letters to the consolatory poems and laments of the Flavian poet Statius. I argue that Statius presents a competing philosophical framework of Roman behavior that valorizes the “feminine spheres” of mourning and lamentation. Additionally, Statius weakens the obligations of the individual to the political public of Rome in favor of a system that values pietas and community validation. In Part Three, I compare selected metrical epitaphs to Statius’ consolation poems in the Silvae. In doing this I attempt to relate the real-life practices of Romans with the philosophical frameworks presented in Parts One and Two in order to determine what contexts might lead individuals to prefer some funeral practices over others.

Level of Access

Restricted: Embargoed [Open Access After Expiration]

First Advisor

Cameron, Hamish

Date of Graduation


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

Number of Pages


Components of Thesis

1 pdf file


Available to all on Sunday, May 03, 2020