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April 16, 2024 42 mins

Why did the Roman Empire do away with kings? Simone de Beauvior would write that, through women, "certain historical events have been set off, but the women have been pretexts rather than agents. The suicide of Lucretia has had value only as symbol." CW: Sexual assault, suicide

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to Noble Blood, a production of iHeartRadio and Grim
and Mild from Aaron Manky. Listener discretion advised.

Speaker 2 (00:10):
One brief content note before I begin, I talk about
sexual violence and suicide in this episode, so if those
themes are something that you are particularly sensitive to, this
might be an episode to skip. The story of Medusa,
like many ancient legends, plays out differently depending on which

(00:35):
version you're reading. It was Avid, in his Greek mythology
fan fiction Metamorphoses, who introduced the version of Medusa's story
that most listeners are probably familiar with today. In that version,
Medusa was the daughter of a sea god who grew
up to be a beautiful young priestess of Athena or Minerva,

(00:57):
as the goddess would have been known to Avid and
the Romans. Medusa tragically caught the attention of Poseidon or Neptune,
who proceeded to rape her in Minerva's temple. Avid uses
the brutal word vitiace injure, defile, or damage to describe

(01:18):
the act. You might know what happens next in the story.
It's not Neptune who's punished, but Medusa herself. Her hair
is transformed into snakes by her own goddess. There is
a feminist reading of that outcome, in which some see
Minerva giving Medusa a means to protect herself against future assault.

(01:45):
That's a generous reading, as classic scholar Natalie Haynes reminds
us Minerva wasn't exactly a girl's girl, but it's also
a fairly depressing reading. In my view. Protected may be,
but Medusa's fate is also sealed. She will be a
monster to be hunted, and her severed head will later

(02:08):
be turned into a weapon for another's use. Avid's Metamorphosies
is far from a light read, both in terms of
its length and content. Sexual violence is pervasive throughout many
of its stories. Jokingly calling Metamorphoses Greek mythology fan fiction

(02:29):
is not really inaccurate, but it's also not fully painting
the whole picture. The text was meant to serve as
a history of the world from creation to the death
of Caesar. Just as it's pervasive in the pages of
the text, sexual violence is also pervasive in the history

(02:51):
of the world. Avid followed Metamorphosies with Fasti, which, instead
of focusing on Greek legends, finished wishes what the last
three books of Metamorphoses began turning the lens to Roman history, religion, culture,
and figures. Because both books blend genre, and because of

(03:13):
the time they were written, much of the content in
both Metamorphoses and Fosti fall somewhere in between myth and history.
The noble woman Lucretia and the famous story of the
rape she suffered at the hands of Sextus Tarquinius, who
is also known as Tarquin, is one such mythohistory found

(03:38):
in the pages of Avid's Fasti. Some historians take an
extreme view on Lucretia's story, claiming that it was a
complete fabrication, but the more widely accepted understanding is that
the legend probably grew out of real events, but that
it was later shaped or metamorphosed over time to create

(04:03):
a poignant, symbolic narrative. Though Medusa and Lucretia hail from
different cultures and different Ovid poems, their stories say a
lot in conversation with one another. They were both daughters
of powerful fathers, both hailed for their beauty and purity,

(04:26):
both were raped by men with more power than they had,
and in death they both became weapons to be yielded
by yet more powerful men. But where Medusa's head was
quite literally wielded by Perseus, who used it to turn
his own enemies to stone, Lucretia's body became more of

(04:49):
a symbolic weapon. After her rape and subsequent suicide, her
body was displayed on the streets by revolutionaries to incite rebellion.
Lucretia's suicide after her assault is known as the catalyst
that led to the fall of the Roman monarchy, the

(05:11):
reason that the Roman Empire no longer had kings. The
story of the ideal Roman woman driven to take her
own life because of the actions of a man drunk
on his own power became itself a powerful enough narrative
to be, as the French philosopher Pierre Bale put it, quote,

(05:32):
one of the hinges on which the history of the
Romans turns. Perhaps more critically, we can look at Lucretia
through the words of Simone de Beauvois, who wrote that
it is through women that quote certain historical events have
been set off, but the women have been pretexts rather

(05:55):
than agents. The suicide of Lucretia has had value only
as symbol. But where did the story and the symbol
come from? What role has it played in different moments
and history? And is it possible to know who Lucretia
was really or will she always be in the hands

(06:19):
of men using her for their ends. I'm Dana Schwartz,
and this is noble blood. Just as with the myth
of Medusa, the story of Lucretia will differ from historian
to historian, storyteller to storyteller. The first recorded account of

(06:43):
Lucretia's story comes from the Roman historian Livy in his
History of Rome, written nearly five hundred years after the
event described. Before Livy, the story existed in oral tradition,
and after him it would continue on in the hands
of other writers and historians like Dionysus of Halikarnassis, Dio,

(07:07):
Cassius Avid, and eventually Shakespeare, Machiavelli, and Rousseau, each with
their own interpretation and agenda in their tellings. The scholar
ian Donaldson, in his book Rapes of Lucretia, A Myth
and Its Transformations, reconstructs the earliest versions of the story

(07:30):
to give a composite picture of what might have been
the quote historic event. It goes like this. In five
hundred and nine BC, the Roman King Tarquinis Superbus was
attempting a siege of the town of Ardea. One night
during the siege, a group of noblemen, the king's son

(07:51):
among them, were having a wife off, boasting about whose
wife was the most virtuous, the most beautiful, the most exemplary.
One nobleman, Calatinus, insisted that his wife, Lucretia, daughter of
the magistrate Lucretius, was second to none, her virtue the

(08:12):
most virtuous, her beauty the most beauteous. When the boasting
turned competitive, it was suggested that the group would make
the twenty somethingter mile trip back to Rome to assess
each wife themselves. Most of the wives were found together
chatting and engaging in idle pastimes, but Lucretia hashtag not

(08:37):
like other girls, was found at home alone spinning wool
homemaking while her husband was away on the front lines.
Lucretia won the contest of best and most wife. Though
the story begins light and even a little bit silly
to our modern ears, the story takes a dark turn.

(09:00):
In Livy's words in translation, the king's son quote Sextus
Tarquinius was seized with a wicked desire to debauch Lucretia
by force. Not only her beauty, but her proved chastity
as well provoked him. The men returned to Ardia, but

(09:20):
Tarquin later returned alone. Lucretia courteously received the king's son
as anyone would be expected to, giving him food and
a room to stay in for the night, but when
the household was asleep, he entered her bedroom in the
middle of the night with a sword on his person.
Tarquin first attempted to seduce Lucretia with promises to marry

(09:45):
her and make her queen, but when that didn't work,
he turned to threats. If he couldn't have her, he
would kill her. She continued to deny him, and so
he came up with another plan. He threatened to kill
not only her but also one of his slaves, and
to place their naked bodies in her bed together and

(10:07):
then claim he found them together and killed them in outrage.
The posthumous shame of that final threat was too much
for Lucretia. She stopped resisting, and Tarquin proceeded to rape her.
The following morning, Lucretia summoned her father, Lucretius and her

(10:28):
husband Calatinus, to their home, and she asked each of
them to bring a trusted friend. Calatinus brought Lucius Junius Brutus,
not the A two guy, to be very clear, but
a nephew of King Superbus, a nephew and not a fan.

(10:48):
Brutus was generally thought of as an idiot, but he
was in reality putting on an act of ignorance, waiting
for his moment to get revenge on the king who
murdered his father and brother. And so with those four
men gathered, Lucretia told the story of what happened the
night before, and when she was done telling the story,

(11:11):
she revealed a knife beneath her garments, which she used
to stab herself and die. Brudus removed the knife from
her body and swore an oath by the blood of
Lucretia none more chaste. Tell a tyrant wronged her that
he would drive the Tarquins from Rome. With that, a

(11:33):
revolution began to form. Lucretia's body was displayed at the
Forum in Rome, where Brudus rallied the Romans by showing
them the tyranny of the Tarquins and its consequences. It
was a successful publicity campaign and the people drove the
royal family out of Rome, vowing to have no more kings.

(11:56):
Brudus and Lucretia's husband Calatinus were installed as the first
consuls of the Roman Republic. The end or is it?
That is the SparkNotes version of events, but technically yeah.
The last mention of Lucretia in her story is that

(12:17):
of her body on display while she was alive. However,
she does get a bit more characterization in other versions
of her story. In Livy's telling, Lucretia has a poignant
rallying speech before she takes her life, quote, my body

(12:41):
alone has been violated. My heart is guiltless, as death
shall be my witness. But pledge your right hands and
your words that the adulterer shall not go unpunished. Her
death is than heroic, even masculine in a sense, as
death by night was not traditionally associated with women at

(13:03):
the time, It's portrayed as a morally virtuous death. Lucretia
is killing herself, she explains, so that promiscuous women cannot
use her as an example to justify their own actions. Avid,
for his part, gives Lucretia more dialogue in the story's
beginning when she laments the danger her husband may be

(13:26):
in on the front lines, and when she joyously throws
herself into his arms upon his return, even in front
of all of his comrades. Lucretia is portrayed as devoted
and tender, while also sheltered and a little naive. Avid
also gives us a physical description for the first time.

(13:47):
Her complexion is snowy, she uses no cosmetics, her hair
is golden and flowing freely. It's this physical Lucretia that
we will most often see in artistic depictions to come.
Her appearance was a feminine ideal. By Avid's time, most
Roman women had dark hair and an olive complexion to

(14:11):
imitate the desirable German beauty standard. Sex workers were actually
known to wear blonde wigs, while women across classes wore
chalk on their faces to appear paler. Lucretia's characterization through
her words, actions, and appearance, then all serves to portray

(14:32):
her as an ideal in every sense. But what happens
when you kill an ideal? Avid's telling takes an arguably
more human approach when compared to Livy. His Lucretia does
not die grandly, calling for revenge. Instead, the morning after

(14:53):
the horrific event, she's visibly disheveled and wearing a morning gown.
She's distraught and finds herself having trouble telling her father
and husband what has happened. This Lucretia is overcome by
grief and cannot find her heart guiltless. Instead, her last
words are quote, though you forgive me, I cannot forgive myself.

(15:18):
Only through death does Lucretia believe that she can preserve
her virtues. But her death becomes far bigger than that.
In the end, she doesn't just die for what she
saw as her sins, she also dies for the birth
of the republic. As the ideal woman of the Roman Republic,

(15:40):
Lucretia's death both literally and metaphorically expunged the tyrant and
his lineage from Rome, literally because she might have been
pregnant with the son of the son of the king.
Lucretia's role in Roman history is not completely dissimilar from
that of an earlier woman in Roman mythology, one of

(16:03):
the famed Vestal virgins, Raya Silvia, who according to legend,
was raped by Mars and gave birth to Ramus and Romulus.
The wolf raised twins, whose battle for divine favor is
remembered as the traditional founding story of Rome. Both stories

(16:23):
were that of a chaste woman. One would bring about
the Kingdom of Rome and the other the Roman Republic.
If we remember Simon de Beauvoir's words here quote, women
have been pretexts rather than agents. Livy states in his
history that his writing is not just intended to be

(16:46):
a history lesson, but also moral instruction, hoping Roman readers
of the day could learn from Romans of the past,
which probably explains Lucretia's inspirational speech. Ofvid was less concerned
with the morality of the average Roman. His Lucretius story
was actually written during his exile from Rome by the

(17:08):
Emperor Augustus. The reasons for this exile were never actually documented,
but do not worry, the city of Rome did revoke
his exile in twenty seventeen, only two thousand years later.
Both Avid and Livy had a vested interest in portraying
the corruption of power, emphasizing in their stories the inherent

(17:32):
wickedness and immorality of the son of the king, Sextus Tarquinius.
This is how the story would be understood for many years,
with Tarquin as a monster and Lucretia as both a
victim and a martyr. It wasn't until Augustine, the bishop

(17:58):
and theologian, who wrote on the City of God against
the Pagans, that Lucretia's role would be altered in the
public consciousness. Regarded today as a cornerstone of Western thought.
Augustine's work was written between four hundred and thirteen and
four hundred and twenty six a d. In the context

(18:20):
of the ongoing conflict between Christians and Pagans. After the
sack of Rome by the Goths in four hundred and ten,
Pagans were beginning to fear that Christianity and the abandonment
of Roman gods was the cause of their suffering, and
with City of God, Augustine, from the Roman province in

(18:44):
North Africa, was seeking to counter those arguments and bolster
the faith of Christians. The title comes from the idea
that even if earthly empires fall, the City of God
will ultimately prevail. When it comes to Augustine's writing on Lucretia,

(19:04):
he begins quote they, as in Pagans, will certainly bring
out Lucretia with great praises for her chastity. If that
feels a little mocking, it's because it was. Augustine goes
on to question why Lucretia killed herself if she was
truly guilty of nothing. He argues that she actually killed

(19:28):
herself because even though she was attacked, she eventually consented,
and her consent, rather than being out of fear of
the consequences as in the original tellings, was in Augustine's
mind because she secretly desired Tarquin Eleanor Glendinning writes in

(19:49):
her analysis that quote, a person committed to the Christian
faith could suffer any bodily suffering and emerge with an
even stronger mind and conviction in the existence of God.
By doing so, Augustine's City of God also laid the
foundations for early Christian beliefs surrounding suicide. In general. Augustine

(20:11):
believed that thou shalt not kill also referred to oneself.
Augustine is disparaging a pagan hero using a Christian narrative,
and the Western world will of course only continue to
move further from paganism and towards Christianity as time marches. On.

(20:33):
The other change, Augustine makes here is distancing Lucretia from
the revolutionary narrative. Augustine does not care about the Tarquins
or Brutus. He has just focused on Lucretia as an
unworthy pagan martyr figure. It's important to discuss Augustine because
his words will have permeated the culture of every writer

(20:57):
that tells the story of Lucretia going far forward, whether
they agreed with him or not. Disconnecting her from politics
also gave way to new narratives want about chastity, lust,
and temptation. There are many Renaissance paintings of Lucretia, but
most are domestic, not political scenes, domestic scenes with her

(21:21):
in various states of undress, either fending off her attacker
or pointing the knife at her own chest. There's also
an eroticism to these paintings that can arguably be traced
back to Augustine. All of this brings me to Shakespeare.

(21:44):
Shakespeare's main source for his narrative poem The Rape of
Lucrece wasn't Augustine, but actually the originals Avid and Livy.
There are, though, a number of ways in which Shakespeare's
poem depart arts from its source material. But one in
particular is shockingly different. Lucretia's suicide in Shakespeare's poem does

(22:10):
not lead to a revolution. In fact, there is no
mention of the Roman Republic at all. Late in the poem,
Lucretia has a lengthy speech reflecting back on her rapist's crime. Quote,
thou seemest not what thou art a god? A king?
For kings, like gods, should govern everything. How wilt thy

(22:34):
shame be seated in thine age? When thus thy vices
bud before thy spring? If in thy hope thou darst
do such outrage? What darst thou not? When once thou
art a king? Right off the bat? We are in
a very different political atmosphere than the world of Livy

(22:57):
and Avid. Maybe it's obvious Shakespeare lived in England under
a monarchy. His Lucretia is comparing kings and gods in
a positive way, going so far as to say that
they should govern everything. The message is not that absolute
power corrupts absolutely. It's that Tarquin is corrupted absolutely. One

(23:21):
bad apple. Shakespeare's Lucretia continues, quote, this deed will make
thee only loved for fear. But happy monarchs are still
feared for love with foul offenders, Thou perforce must bear
when they in thee the like offenses prove, if but

(23:42):
for fear of this, thy will remove. For princes are
the glass, the school, the book where subjects, eyes do learn,
do read, do look. Lucretia is speaking with more political
language than she has in any other version of her story,
but it is a far cry from what the original

(24:03):
political purpose of her story was. Shakespeare is instead working
within the genre of mirrors for Princes, a literary genre
that was popular throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance,
which sought to, as the title implies, provide advice and
examples for rulers to give advice on how to be

(24:26):
a good prince. Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece ends with
Brutus declaring to avenge her death, but this is done
by banishing Tarquin from Rome, not starting the republic. The
poem ends quote, when they had sworn to this advised doom,
they did conclude to bear dead Lucrece, thence to show

(24:50):
her bleeding body through Rome, and so to publish Tarquin's
foul offense, which being done with speedy diligence, The Roman
plausibly did give consent to Tarquin's everlasting banishment. Lucretia's body
is still a political weapon, but as a symbol she

(25:11):
carries much less weight when Tarquin is simply banished, as
opposed to he and his family being forever removed from
power and the entire system of government of Rome changing forever.
Shakespeare is much more focused on the actions of the individual,

(25:32):
and make no mistake, he thinks Tarquinius is corrupt. Though
he is writing in a post Augustine world. It is
clear that what Lucretia feels towards her attacker in Shakespeare's
poem is fear she is not consenting. Shakespeare uses a
metaphor of Tarquin as a predator, the wolf hath seized

(25:54):
his prey, the poor lamb cries. Compared to Augustine, Shakespeare
also displays a far greater understanding of the reality of
the physiological repercussions of rape. While Lucretia's family believes quote
her bodies stain, her mind untainted clears, he writes that

(26:16):
quote with a joyless smile. She turns away the face
that map, which deep impression bears of hard misfortune carved
in it with tears. Her suicide is not the result
of her secretly being unchased. In Shakespeare's version, it is,

(26:36):
as it was in the beginning, a preservation of her chastity.
We know this because Shakespeare has her tell us quote
for me, I am the mistress of my fate, she
states as she contemplates what to do in the aftermath
of her assault. She's given more dialogue, more of an
inner life here than in any other telling, aligning her

(27:00):
more with Shakespeare's other tragic heroines. Shakespeare's telling of Lucretia
may appear to be removed from key points of its
original context, but again, it fits quite nicely in Elizabethan England.
It's not a stretch to draw parallels between the virgin
queen who proudly sacrificed marriage for her country, and Lucretia,

(27:25):
who was so chaste that she died for hers. The
poem was written around the same time Shakespeare would make
another reference to the virgin Queen in A Midsummer Night's Dream,
when Oberon speaks of quote a fair vestal throned by
the west. Shakespeare's flattery also appears in Richard the Third,

(27:50):
in which the mad villainous hunchbacked king is overthrown not
by a revolution but by combat with the next king,
who have to be Elizabeth's great grandfather. But for a
prospective on Lucretia's story that returns to the original revolutionary sentiments,

(28:15):
let's go where else to France or more specifically, Geneva.
As Jean Jacques Rousseau bounced between European countries throughout his life,
His unfinished tragic play LaMonte de Lucrece was composed around
seventeen fifty four seventeen fifty six, still early years in

(28:36):
Rousseau's career. Seventeen fifty four was the same year he
wrote his foundational Discourse on the Origin and Basis of
Inequality among Men, in which he argued that moral inequality
is not innate to humans, rather a product of quote, wealth,
nobility or rank, power, and personal merit. Given Russeau's lofty

(29:02):
Enlightenment ideals, his play does, as you might imagine, return
Lucretia's story to its Republican roots, the roots that we're
lacking in Shakespeare's telling. But like in Shakespeare's a number
of details have been changed for storytelling purposes. Lucretia begins

(29:22):
Russeau's story engaged to sexist Tarquinius, but her father breaks
it off despite the wishes of the king, and Lucretia
instead marries the less powerful Calatin for different political reasons.
There may have once been something between the two, but
Lucretia tells her handmaiden that she prefers quote the constant

(29:44):
and peaceful love of Coltan to the fiery passions of Sextus.
Referring to Tarquin still, she prays, quote, O God who
sees my heart, clarify my judgment. Guarantee I do not
cease to be virtuous. You know that although I want
to be, I will always be if you want it

(30:06):
as well. So in this version there is a temptation
to return to Tarquin, but Lucretia fights against it. Because
this is theater, we're given a story that's a more
dramatic and be an introduction to a number of additional
moving parts that weren't present in any other version. In

(30:28):
Rousseau's version, Tarquin has promised that he'll arrange a marriage
between two lovers, his servant and Lucretia's handmaiden, if the
two of them can arrange a secret meeting between him
and his ex fiancee, Lucretia. Lucretia's maid is wary, believing
her lady is quote not capable of feeling anything but

(30:49):
for her spouse and her duty. But Tarquin's servant argues
that Lucretia only puts up appearances of virtue, and no
one would ultimately but virtue above personal passions. While all
of that is going on, Brutus is already plotting his
revolution to overthrow the Tarquins. He tries to persuade Colton

(31:12):
to join his cause by telling him about how Tarquin
is in love with his wife, but Coltan simply tells
him quote, I know the virtues of Lucretia's heart. On
top of that, Colton fears war and the possibility of anarchy, slavery,
and civil strife after the monarchs are driven out. Lucretius,

(31:34):
his father in law, accuses him of being childish, taking
the easy way out by continuing to live in comfort
under tyrants rather than fighting for the greater good of
liberty and equality. The rest of Rousseau's play is only
available to us in fragments. Tarquin laments that Lucretia's quote

(31:56):
virtue deserving of adoration by the gods has been soiled
by him quote the violist of mortals, before in a twist,
he kills himself. It's unclear in this version whether rape
or consensual sex happened, but Lucretia ultimately kills herself as well.

(32:21):
In Rousseau's autobiographical work Confessions, he describes his reasoning for
writing about Lucretia quote, I planned a prose tragedy on
no less a subject than Lucrece, with which I had
some hope of overcoming derision, even though I ventured to
bring that unfortunate woman back to the stage when she

(32:43):
had become an impossible subject for the French theater. He
was referring to two failed productions by French playwrights, first
Jean Francois Rignard and Charles de Francais, who had produced
comedies of the story, notes, which I have to imagine
is probably why they didn't work. Rousseau instead believed Lucretia

(33:08):
could be a quote useful heroine with whom Parisian audiences
could identify. Melissa M. Mathis, in her book The Rape
of Lucretia and the Founding of Republics, writes that quote.
For Rousseau, the story of the rape of Lucretia is
in part an apt encapsulation of deterioration and renewal, an

(33:32):
allegory for the loss and potential rebirth of the Republic.
And for Rousseau, women are the perfect emblem of both
corruption and the possibility of renewal. Who else in eighteenth
century French society has fallen further than women, specifically the

(33:52):
bourgeois women of the salons. Yet upon whom else can
the possibility for renewal be placed? Even the wretched can
be redeemed, made into the virtuous nursemaids of the republic.
Surely there is still reason to believe in the possibility
of a Republican rebirth.

Speaker 1 (34:12):
That is why.

Speaker 2 (34:13):
Rousseau's Lucretia struggles with temptation, not because she is ultimately sinful,
but because she is virtuous but human. Rousseau isn't as
obsessed with innocence as other Enlightenment figures. He believes that
redemption and rebirth can come from places of corruption. This

(34:34):
Lucretia's world is one of scheming fathers and maids and servants,
all using her as a pawn in their larger games.
Even Calatinus, her husband, is corrupt here, fitting the model
of the nouveau bourgeois that Rousseau detested. He, like the bourgeois,

(34:56):
is absorbed in his own comfort, reluctant to give up
his privileges even for the greater good. In Rousseau's version,
we don't see Lucretia's body weaponized as literally as in
the others, but it's still used as a tool, only
this time for Tarquin's redemption. Tarquin is so horrified by

(35:18):
what he has done, whether it was tempting Lucretia or
assaulting her, that he is driven to kill himself, as
she usually exclusively is. In the wake of his transgression,
he realizes that he is the vilest of mortals, reaching
a quite literal moment of enlightenment, his violation of Lucretia

(35:42):
was his path to redemption. Lucretia, for her part, kills
herself in one part to preserve her virtue, but also
because of Quote having shared in the crime. Because these
parts of the play are only available to us as fragments,
it's hard to do a complete analysis, but it does

(36:04):
present an interesting contrast with Augustine. Augustine believed Lucretia killed
herself because she was guilty of desiring Tarquin, and therefore
she was unworthy of pagan admiration. Rousseau believes that she
potentially killed herself for the same reasons, but he presents

(36:25):
it as heroic. There's not a sense that killing herself
is purifying her body and her country, as there was
in the original version, but rather the larger idea that
the republic can still be born from an imperfect mother.
But no matter which narrative we look at from any date, place,

(36:47):
or time, Lucretia is always the pretext rather than the agent.
Her value is mostly that of symbol. In some of
these tellings, she's given a greater inner life, a richer carecterzation,
but it's always to serve the ultimate goal of saying
something about the place and time in which her story

(37:07):
is being retold. It's difficult to answer the question I
posed at the beginning of this episode, who is Lucretia really?
Because she's something different to every writer that she's been
the subject of. Maybe there isn't even a real Lucretia
at all. But that's also a question that's impossible to

(37:30):
answer ultimately. For better or for worse, Lucretia exists, but
she exists as legend. That's the story of Lucretia and
the many, many ways she's been interpreted over the course
of history. But keep listening after a brief sponsor break

(37:51):
for a very important artistic interpretation of Lucretia by a woman.
Artemisia Gentileschi was a Baroque painter, the first woman to
become a member of the Academia in Florence, perhaps best

(38:15):
known for her paintings of Judith, the Jewish heroine. Not
only did several of her paintings focus on Judith, but
Lucretia was also a subject that Artemisia returned to multiple times.
Her sixteen twenty five portrait of Lucretia, fittingly entitled Lucretia,

(38:35):
shows a well known scene with new nuance. Lucretia is
moments from suicide, her left hand clutching the knife and
her right hand clutching her breast. She's disheveled in the
aftermath of her assault, but the painting doesn't feel erotic
as it sometimes does in the hands of other masters.
She is not fair haired or flawless. Her brow is

(38:59):
tightly wrinkled and The distress is evident on her face,
and she looks up in contemplation. We see the defined
muscles of her legs and the strength in her hands.
There is clear pain, but there's also clear strength. When
Artemisia was seventeen, she herself was raped by another Italian painter,

(39:23):
Agostino Tassi, and when the case went to trial on
the grounds of Tossi dishonoring her family, Artemisia was subjected
to torture during her testimony to prove she was telling
the truth. Her experiences have affected the way art historians
view her paintings, and while many have believed she sought

(39:46):
to portray vengeance, a newer school of thought argues that
what Artemisia was actually interested in was showing strength in
her female heroines. There are even some art historians who
see similarities between Artemisia's self portraits, one entitled quite Poignantly

(40:07):
Self Portrait as a Female Martyr, and her sixteen twenty
five portrait of Lucretia. I encourage you to look at
these works for yourself, along with Artemisia's other masterful compositions.
She is wonderful both as an artist and just a
name that we get to say Artemisia Gentileschi, who ultimately

(40:32):
whether or not Artemisia Genta Leschi's past influenced her future
decision to paint Lucretia, her perspective introduced a new depth
that was lacking amongst her peers.

Speaker 1 (40:55):
Noble Blood is a production of iHeartRadio and Grim and
miniled from Aaron Manke. Noble Blood is created and hosted
by me Dana Shwarts, with additional writing and researching by
Hannah Johnston, Hannah Zwick, Mira Hayward, Courtney Sender, and Lori Goodman.
The show is edited and produced by Noemi Griffin and

(41:19):
rima Il Kahali, with supervising producer Josh Thain and executive
producers Aaron Manke, Alex Williams, and Matt Frederick. For more
podcasts from iHeartRadio, visit the iHeartRadio app, Apple Podcasts, or
wherever you listen to your favorite shows.
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