To Tell A Life: Concubinage, Roman Slavery, and our Imperfect Sources
The republican statesman Cato the Elder is one of the first individuals in Roman history for whom we have real biographical information. The sources have allowed us to populate his household with his wives, his sons, his daughter-in-law, but not, of course, with the many people he enslaved. In this paper, I offer an experiment in historical method: I use the abundant data we have about Cato and his family to produce a speculative biographical sketch of the anonymous enslaved woman who labored as his concubine. My reconstruction of her life and its many inflection points exposes both the precarity of concubinage and the limitations of conventional approaches to women's experience of slavery.