Pudentilla speaks:

I made one of the biggest mistakes of my life when recently I married that roguish philosopher-magician (whatever it's convenient for him to call himself today) Apuleius. My relationship with him was arguably the death of one of my sons,[1] forced my other son to run off to his uncles and caused my name and family to be dragged through the forum. Atleast the court proceedings happened a good distance away in Sabratha and maybe most of my acquaintances in Oea won't hear about it. At any rate, I want to tell you a little about my perspective, seeing as how that Apuleius and his side-show tricks always get all the attention.

At age 15, I was married into a prominent family, the Sicinii. However, make no mistake, I was no small catch. I'm well educated and can speak and write Greek, in fact, better than many of the men in my family, who stubbornly cling to Punic.[2] I own a great deal of property which I manage competently on my own,[3] although law requires me to have a guardian and trustee.[4] I happen to be one of the wealthiest women around from a most prestigious family in these parts. I have no doubt that a member of my family will one day soon make it big in the emperor's government.[5] Back to my dead husband though, dis manibus, Sicinius Amicus lived up to his name and was a pleasant enough husband, while he lasted. He died soon after our second son, Pudens (named after my family, of course) was born. You might have heard of this silly, ungrateful boy. Actually, who am I kidding, you probably all lined up at his recent coming out party to get your share of my money! [6] At any rate, after Amicus died (leaving me a widow, not even twenty-five years old), his wretch of a father blackmailed me with my sons' own inheritance insisting that I marry that sniveling brother-in-law of mine, Sicinius Clarus. [7] I fooled the old geezer though, making a marriage contract that I delayed consummating for fourteen years til the old man died.

However, this delay did me no good. Upon consulting with the doctors and midwives[8] (who after all know much more than those doctors anyway), it was determined that I was suffering from a deprivation of... he he... well you know, and that my uterus had begun to wander. [9] That foolish brother-in-law of mine Aemilianus and my brother Tannonius of all people, thinking they know more about womanhood than I do, assumed that I must be going through "the change" and tried to say that I'm twenty years older than I truly am, [10] just to try and make me look hysteric, but I'll get back to such slanders on my character later. As a result of my condition, though, I decided to find a husband and discussed the choice with my young son Pontianus, dis manibus. Pontianus, understandably enough, was most concerned about how my remarriage might affect his inheritance and wanted a role in finding a suitable match. [11] This idealistic son of mine, he could have gone places, had met a philosopher in his travels. This philosopher just happened to get stuck in Oea on his way to Alexandria. Eventually he ended up staying at my house for a year, making a play for my affections, at my son's instigation. He seemed a decent enough match so I agreed to marry him. Apuleius had gone through his own inheritance from his father, [12] only half of what I'm worth, [13] so I knew he'd be dependent on me and that I could still call all the shots, as I'd become accustomed to do in my long widowhood.

What I didn't account for though was all the jealousy this marriage would provoke in the men in my life... so much so that they actually instigated a case before the provincial governor, no less, against Apuleius on trumped up charges of magic. Despite my generosity, giving some of their inheritance to them now in the form of farms, a house, goods and four hundred slaves, [14] my sons Pontianus and Pudens began to show their ungratefulness. Pontianus was egged on by his father-in-law, Herrenius Rufinus to doubt my promise of further inheritance to him. Rufinus, I'm convinced, just wanted to use that slut[15] daughter of his (unfortunately, soon to be my daughter-in-law twice over) [16] to get at my money. [17] My brother-in-law, Sicinius Aemilianus, was most concerned over what I would do with the money of his family which I controlled, you'll recall that money which I procured for my sons through fourteen years of engagement. And Tannonius, my brother no less, got involved, as any good paternal uncle ought, for Pudens' sake. In fact, it was due to my brother's admirable family oriented motive that Apuleius went light on him in the court case, as compared with his rough treatment of those other two, Rufinus and Aemilianus.

Had I never settled for Apuleius, I could have avoided all this dispute. Before I go though, you know that Apuleius and I are moving as a result of the backlash from these court proceedings, I had just wanted to let you know a little about myself so you won't be left only with the impression my husband gave in his defense of himself. As I said to you at first, marrying Apuleius has completely changed my life, and not for the better. I've become a public spectacle, with my age, [18] my property and even my sanity[19] debated in public. My husband has as much as called me used goods.[20] My letters, my private thoughts, have been exposed in court for all to see. The culprit in all this, my only remaining son, Pudens, is as good as lost to me. I suppose that's just as well though. To think that I harbored that viper in my womb[21] makes me shudder. I won't hold a grudge though. As you've heard from Apuleius, in fact as you've heard from the record of my own will, [22] I'll not forget Pudens. Nevertheless, there is hope for the future. I have some more child-bearing years left in me and Apuleius and I have plans to start a new family. [23] Perhaps you think I'm a bit self-centered and have a skewed perception of how things have actually transpired in this last year. That's up to you. I just wanted to remind you, as is too often forgotten, that I have a side of the story too!

Postscript: This monologue by Pudentilla is based one author's impression of how a second century AD woman embroiled in such a dispute as outlined in the Apologia might have reacted to her position in such matters. It is important to keep in mind, when reading the Apologia, that Pudentilla and her money are the center of attention, yet Pudentilla herself never speaks. All the reader has today is the Pudentilla portrayed by the prosecution (as represented by Apuleius) and Pudentilla as portrayed by Apuleius. Although her letter may appear to be her voice, recall Apuleius' own charges against the prosecution for their selective reading of her letter, to realize that whatever is known of Pudentilla has been manipulated both by the prosecutors of the case against Apuleius and Apuleius himself. In investigating the inheritance and dowry aspects of the Apologia, it becomes obvious that Pudentilla deserves a closer look. The entire case revolves around the dispute for her money and how she handles it in terms of her dowries (to both Sicinius Clarus and Apuleius) and her will.

1Apologia 1 for Apuleius' brief mention of his alleged involvement in Pontianus' death.

2Apologia 98 for Sicinius Pudens' speaking exclusively Punic, with no Latin or Greek.

3Apologia 87 for Pudentilla's shrewd management of her property in her examination of the accounts of her bailiffs, grooms and shepherds.

4 Apologia 101 for Pudentilla's "tutor auctor" Cassius Longinus.

5Inscriptions of Roman Tripolitania 230 for the entablature of the temple to the genius of the Roman colony at Oea, perhaps by a younger kinsman, L. Aemilius Frontinus, cos and procos of Asia a generation later.

6Apologia 87.

7Apologia 68.

8Apologia 69.

9G. Clark, Women in Late Antiquity 71 discusses the belief among doctors of late antiquity "that a uterus which became too dry-- usually from lack of intercourse--moved in search of moisture."

10Apologia 89 for Apuleius' explanation that Pudentilla is not sixty but scarcely even forty.

11Apologia 71for Pontianus' concern for his own inheritance as a result of Pudentilla's remarrying.

12 Apologia 23 for Apuleius' patrimont of two million sesterces.

13Apologia 71 for Pudentilla's wealth valued at four million sesterces.

14 Apologia 93 for Apuleius' account of his role in encouraging Pudentilla to make these gifts to her sons.

15 Apologia 76, for Rufina's bad reputation.

16 Apologia 97 for the marriage, at Rufinus' instigation, of Sicinius Pudens to Rufina, his dead brother's widow.

17Apologia 77 for Rufinus' manipulation of Pontianus.

18 Apologia 89.

19Apologia 79-80 for the discussion of Pudentilla's letter to Pontianus, manipulated by the prosecution to make it appear that Pudentilla was out of her mind through Apuleius' magic.

20 Apologia 92 for Apuleius' discussion on virginity as the gift a woman takes into her first marriage and can never get back. A divorcee or widow, in Pudentilla's case, can make no such offer.

21 Apologia 85 for this imagery presented by Apuleius.

22 Apologia 99 for Apulieus' urging of Pudentilla to keep Pudens in her will. Apologia 100 for Apuleius' breaking open in court the actual document which states "Sicinius Pudens filius meus mihi heres esto."

23 Apologia 91 relates the provisions of Pudentilla's dowry, providing for half of it to go to any children of her marriage to Apuleius and the other half to go the Pontianus and Pudens.