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Mother of the Gracchi

Cornelia Africana

Mangala Darshini and Christabelle Ilankovan

Hi guys we are down to our last blog post and we decided to continue on our path of researching on women which brings us to our next person of interest, Ms Cornelia Africana! 

Our post basically timelines her life and how she was a woman of significant power in the lives of her sons so do enjoy reading it! :)

Post 1: Levi Schofield,  These are my jewels, 1893

Post 2: Jules CaveliarCornélie, mère des Gracques, 1861

Post 3: Guillaume Rouille, Tiberius Gracchus, 1553

Post 4: Angelica Kauffman, Cornelia Africana, 1785

Post 5: John Leech, Melancholy end of Tib. Gracchus, 1850

Post 6: Laurent de La Hyre, Cornelia rejects the crown of the Ptolemies, 1646

Post 7: Eugene Guillaume, the Gracchi, nd

Post 8: Noel Halle, Cornelia Mother Of The Gracchi, 1779

Post 9: Jules CaveliarCornélie, mère des Gracques, 1861


Extra reading material about cornelia

In the English translation of  Joost Douma's historical novel, we see how much Cornelia really loved her children as she talks about them through this account in her old age. She says, “In my long life I have known no greater happiness than to feel the body of a nursing infant falling asleep on my bosom and to brush my lips over the soft skin of its head. I spent hours in the bath, holding Gaius like that. After I gave birth to him, my monthly bleeding diminished, a sign that my womb had closed once and for all, and I knew that Gaius would be the last person with whom I would ever share my body.” These words show us the tenderness and purity with which Cornelia loved her children.

Cornelia’s pain over the death of most of her children. In the English translation of Joost Douma's historical novel that recounts the life of the Gracchi brothers and the demise of the Republic through the reflections of a woman, Cornelia Africana, in her old age Cornelia talks about her struggles and how she felt at different points in her life. At one point she talks about the death of her many children. She says, “In times of war parents outlive their children; in times of peace children outlive their parents; but it is my fate to have lost my children in peacetime. My mother always said I had the task of raising my children to honour their parents and to serve their homeland. She never taught me how to outlive my homeland, let alone my children”… “For a long time after my first-born died, it was hard for me to look my husband in the eyes. His features would always remind me of the boy. Midwives assured me that once a child reached the age of ten, I no longer had to be so afraid. But of the twelve children that I bore, only three survived their childhood: my daughter Sempronia and my two sons, Tiberius and Gaius. Now only my daughter remains.” These words show us the amount of pain Cornelia endured when her children died.

significance of cornelia africana

I think what we found significant about Cornelia is the amount of influence she, a woman, had in the lives of men. Even if the men were her sons, her influence was something that should be noticed. The values she taught them was very evident in the way they exercised their authority. 

Also, it brings about a different perspective on the role of women. All this while we have seen women as neglected and left at home, not allowed to have careers but Cornelia made us realize that motherhood was viewed as an esteemed career for the women. What Cornelia was most well known for was her focus on the needs of others in the upbringing of her children and because of this, they turned out so influential. This means that because she did her 'job' well, her children prospered. 

Another significance is how Cornelia was a role model for many roman women on how to be a good mother and wife. She represented loyalty, both to her husband and to her children and this is seen throughout her life timeline on instagram, from her rejecting the proposal and referring to her children as jewels. 

Cornelia offers a new perspective on the subordination of women because at that point of time, motherhood was their empowerment and that is why she is significant.