Terentia, a woman of means in Late Republican Rome and the first wife of Cicero, is a woman who has been underestimated and misrepresented by historians until the late twentieth century. Scholars, especially nineteenth- and twentieth-century scholars, have presented Terentia as simply an overbearing housewife with a harsh temper and underestimated her importance in Cicero’s life. These misrepresentations result from scholars’ overreliance on Plutarch’s Life of Cicero as a source for Terentia, rather than investigation of the primary sources, namely Cicero’s letters to Terentia. Plutarch, an ancient biographer writing over a century after Cicero was assassinated, presents Terentia as domineering and manipulative, possibly based in his own misogynistic views on women as expressed in the Moralia. This project examines the ways in which Plutarch’s and institutionalized misogyny in classical studies led to the corruption of Terentia’s historiography. In opposition to these earlier representations of Terentia, I argue that Cicero’s letters to his wife show that Terentia was a courageous and talented woman who used her significant resources and influence on behalf of her family, even putting herself in danger to do so. Terentia is a woman whose influence and impact has long been underestimated and ignored, but this project seeks to show that the woman who married Cicero was more than simply his housewife.


Hettinger, Madonna

Second Advisor

Rhyan, Dianna


Classical Studies; History


Ancient History, Greek and Roman through Late Antiquity | Women's History


Women in the ancient world, feminism in classics, Terentia, Plutarch

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



© Copyright 2019 Mary McKinley