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Abstract

This thesis employs arguments developed by historians on the British Empire to explore the essential relationship between empire and the control of female bodies. I argue that the imperative to regulate the reproductive habits of women to expand imperial projects and state power is not a modern British phenomenon; rather, a careful analysis of Roman sources on the early imperial period reveals that the integral link between empire and female bodies was recognized during the Augustan era. Prior to the passage of the Augustan legislation, Roman women were certainly viewed as vehicles for the transmission of wealth and property. Yet, I highlight that the laws are particularly significant because they regulate this function within the legal sphere; furthermore, I demonstrate how upper-class Roman women subsequently increased their ideological presence in the legal and public realms as a consequence of the Augustan laws. Ancient sources expose how Roman women played a crucial role in Augustus’ efforts to increase the population by encouraging the production of legitimate children among the upper-classes. Therefore, this legislation can be viewed as part of a broader imperial strategy carefully enacted by the emperor as a means of cultivating the power and longevity of the Roman Empire. In utilizing gender and sexuality as central categories of analysis, I make an intervention into a broader discussion on empire-building. A comparative historical approach reveals several parallels between the British and Roman cases; thus, I argue that the method of managing the reproductive capacities of women in order to increase specific classes among the population is visible during ancient periods of imperialism. My analysis suggests that this strategy of controlling female bodies that was practiced under Augustus can be understood as part of an “imperial paradigm” that resurfaces in modern imperial endeavors.

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