Fulvia: The Woman of Passion (REVISED)Edit

By Joshua Rose

Fulvia is a well-known ancient Roman woman. In the book Roman Woman, Catherine Virlouvet writes a relatively brief biography about Fulvia. Virlouvet does a great job depicting Fulvia’s life to the reader, but there are patterns and themes that can be depicted from her writing style that affect the biography’s delivery. It is important as a biographer to be aware how the delivery of the life they’re writing about is. Many different biographers have different writing styles. These different styles impact, sometimes significantly, they’re overall depiction of the life they are writing about. Diogenes Laertius (an ancient biographer) has a distinct writing style that would show Fulvia in a somewhat different manner.

Diogenes Laertius was an ancient biographer. One feature about Diogenes’ work is that his biographies tend to be sporadic. They tend to deliver information about the person, but not in a chronological manner. His biographies almost seem to be a random collection of sentences that describe a person, rather than an overall organized assortment. If Diogenes finds an important point and expands on it, he tends to be organized when he is expanding on these points, but if he is simply trying to describe the person, his work can almost be confusing to the reader. For example, on page 329 of Diogenes’ Lives of Eminent Philosophers, he is describing the personality of the ancient philosopher Pythagoras. In which he states “He forbids us to pray for ourselves, because we do not know what will help us. Drinking he calls, in a word, a snare, and he discountenances all excess, saying that no one should go beyond due proportion either in drinking or eating.” (329 Laertius). With these sentences Diogenes gives, the reader interprets and finds a real feel for the personality of the philosopher. Diogenes loved to throw these one-liner sentences that would show how a person reacted to a question or event, and how that related to the reader’s understanding was phenomenal. In the next paragraph however, Diogenes goes onto how Pythagoras divides life into four separate quarters. This shows his lack of chronological order as most biographies have. But when he is describing a key point on page 347, he goes on for almost a page and a half of concise order describing what happens. Each sentence explains something for the next sentence, “The soul of man, he says, is divided into three parts, intelligence, reason, and passion. Intelligence and passion are possessed by other animals as well, but reason by man alone. The seat of the soul extends from the heart to the brain; the part of it which is in the heart is passion, while the parts located in the brain are for reason and intelligence.” (347 Laertius).

Diogenes’ writing style is a unique one. He would portray the life of Fulvia focusing on her personality, in the fact that he wouldn’t show her life chronological events explaining who she is, but leave it up to the reader to determine her personality thoroughly. He would do this by showing her reaction to an event or question or problem faced with her in her life, and based on her reaction, the reader would have to interpret and draw our conclusions about her personality. On page 51 of Diogenes’ Life of Eminent Philosophers, he is discussing how another man named Diogenes reacted to something, “A very superstitious person addressed him thus, “With one blow I will break your head.” “And I,” said Diogenes, “by a sneeze from the left will make you tremble.”” (Laertius, 51). This shows the biographer Diogenes, presenting his character Diogenes, with a man addressing him, and how Diogenes (the character) reacts to it. Since the character Diogenes reacted in a sarcastic manner towards the man addressing him, the reader can infer that his personality is one which looks down upon superstitious people, and believes strongly in other things. Based on Diogenes (the biographer) using this writing style, he would portray the life of Fulvia in the same manner. One of his sentences in this biography would sound something like this: Upon seeing a child unable to properly do his studies, Fulvia approached him thus, “Do not worry young child; if you maintain your work ethic, your studies will improve and you will begin to succeed at them.” Diogenes would say this sentence about Fulvia because from the biography by Virlouvet, the reader finds out that Fulvia inspired all three of her husbands, so Fulvia has that aspect to her personality. Virlouvet’s biography on Fulvia was concise, but written effectively. Her writing style seems to be a well-organized chronological timeline of the important parts of Fulvia’s life. She has breaks in her biography where she focuses solely on Fulvia’s first marriage to Publius Clodius, next on her second marriage to Scribonius Curio, and lastly her third marriage to Mark Antony. Virlouvet inputs other important info about Fulvia’s life based on these three major parts of her life. This is a good way to organize her biography chronologically. After the marriages, she breaks up the rest of the biography into important events of her life, such as “The Proscription of 43 B.C.” and “The Perusian War”.

Virlouvet also focuses on what she knows from sources to explain her biography’s details. If there is a gap in Fulvia’s life that isn’t well known, she takes a very well educated guess based from these various sources to come up with a great general idea to fill the unknown void. For example, when the proscriptions of 43 B.C. were taking place, Fulvia was getting a reputation as a very cruel and stern woman. How Virlouvet seemed to be writing it, was that she wasn’t going to believe that Fulvia was a cruel woman until there was enough evidence to prove her wrong. On page 75 of Roman Women, Virlouvet says this, “The macabre desecration of Cicero’s head, if it really did take place, and her refusal to hear the pleas of the proscribed men’s wives show that she may indeed have been a bit cruel” (75 Virlouvet). Virlouvet continues to provide more reasons to explain that Fulvia was a cruel woman after this sentence until the section is ended. These reasons almost ‘justify’ her being a cruel woman based off of Virlouvet’s writing style.

Another key point of Virlouvet’s writing style is her sources. A few points in the biography she throws in the opinions of various ancient writers and their thoughts of Fulvia at the time. When Virlouvet was trying to describe Fulvia’s personality, she uses Plutarch’s words as a source to describe her. “Plutarch tells us that she was by no means a woman “of humble thoughts, content to spin wool and tidy the house”” (68 Virlouvet). It is another interesting point to make that Fulvia was not known to be an attractive woman. Overall, Virlouvet’s writing style depicts a very strong image of Fulvia to the reader.

If Diogenes was to write a biography on the life of Fulvia, it would be an interesting biography. Diogenes’ writing styles portray a person that the reader has to take sentence by sentence and really grow a feeling for, in order to understand that person’s personality. This approach tends to keep the reader more interested and connected to the person they’re reading about, which in the case of a biography, a reader really wants to understand the person they are reading about. Despite Diogenes’ not-so-chronological ways, his style of these one-liner sentences really engages readers to think about the person, not just simply read about them. A perfect example would be on pages 69 into 71 of Lives of Eminent Philosophers, Diogenes said “Education, according to him, is a controlling grace to the young, consolation to the old, wealth to the poor, and ornament to the rich” (Laertius 69,71). A sentence like this makes Diogenes create a character in which the reader understands how the character feels about education on different levels of society; this style shows the character’s personality in ways that most biographers would not write in. Diogenes would put together a biography about Fulvia that is comprised mostly of one-liners describing her personality, such as stated above. Based on reading the biography Virlouvet wrote, it is understood that three important men, most of ancient Rome, and many modern scholars today were either influenced by her or wrote about her influence based on her personality, not looks. Diogenes’ biographies tends to throw much more description and focus on the character’s personality, instead of where he/she was from, what he/she did, etc. He certainly would not leave out her important events, such as the proscriptions, her marriages, and the battles of ancient Rome at the time that dealt with her influence. But primarily, his biography of Fulvia would deal mostly with her personality and how it related to her influence over many important men. Also, Diogenes may even focus on the men who bought into Fulvia’s influence as well, by describing their personalities with the same detail.

Diogenes’ writing style is a unique one. His biographies make the reader more connected to the person that he is writing about based off of their personality descriptions. It is interesting though because he does not simply state their attributes, he comprises sentences where the character is faced with a question or an event, and Diogenes says how the character reacts. These sentences tend to stray away from the chronological order that a traditional biography has, but they engage the reader to interpret their reactions to determine the character’s personality. This writing style focused on the life of Fulvia would be truly an interesting biography to read, seeing how Fulvia’s personality is what made her well known in ancient times. If the meaning behind a biography is to understand the person you are reading about, a biography of Fulvia written by Diogenes would be very ideal.


Laertius, D. (1965). Lives of Eminent Philosophers. Cambridge: Harvard Universtiy Press.

Virlouvet, C. (2001). Roman Women. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

“Virlouvet told by Laertius”

By Nolan Flike

The main problem I find with your paper is that you focus too much on what Virlouvet wrote on in Roman Woman and not enough on the assignment of how Laertius would have written Fulvia’s biography. You spend the first five paragraphs describing Fulvia and how Virlouvet wrote about her; this takes up a lot of wasted space in your essay that should have been used to show what techniques Laertius specifically would have used to describe Fulvia. I do believe it is good that you gave some background on Fulvia’s life but you gave way too much and did not present it in the way Laertius would have which was the main purpose of the assignment. Also there is no need to talk about Virlouvet’s writing style because that has nothing to do with the assignment of how Laertius would have written.

You do a decent job of describing how Laertius writes in a disorganized manner using many one liners and expanding on a topic when necessary to describe the philosopher. However you should have followed that up with what one-liners he would have used to describe Fulvia and what topics he would have expanded on for Fulvia. Also when you give quotes from Laertius to show these one-liners you should further expand on why these quotes were important in the biography he was writing and how they further expand the reader’s knowledge on the topic he was writing. Then give us an example of how he would have done this to illustrate Fulvia’s character and personality.

Your last paragraph is your best paragraph because it begins to dive into the subject of what laertius would have written for Fulvia but you should have been more specific in what he would have written and how it would have shown her personality. For example you talk about how Laertius would not have left out the important events such as; “the proscriptions, her marriages, and the battles of ancient Rome at the time that dealt with her influence”. This is a good start because you are beginning to think in terms of what Laertius would have written but you should expand it to include what he specifically would have said about these important events and how they influenced her personality. Then in the following sentence you should give an example from the text when Laertius wrote about a philosopher and included important events in their life to show how the events shaped their character.

"Virlouvet compared to Laertius"

Review by Isaiah Carpenter

This paper goes into great detail about the way that Virlouvet wrote the biography on Fulvia. Joshua elaborates on the way that she keeps Fulvia's life is chronological order. She attempts to do this to allow her biography to flow much smoother and be able to do a start to finish type of project. Joshua further elaborates that Virlouvet is able to write this biography very concisely and the few breaks that they did have was to focus on Fulvia's multiple marriages. Her writing technique was straight to the point with few make believe stories and plenty of facts. The difference between Virlouvet's style of writing and Diogenes style of writing is the mere fact that Diogenes made his biographies much more personal. Instead of dealing with straight facts, he tried to put his own personal thoughts and ideas about the individual. While telling a true story about an individual, Diogenes would give his own "two cents" and explain how he feels about the subject's actions in the story.

Diogenes was an individual that focused mainly on the subject's character and overall personality. If he felt that he/she was a negative influence in society do to their morality he would discuss it. But otherwise he attempts to elaborate on the positive characteristics of a person's life. Diogenes is a huge believer in living simple and not believing in material things. So when discussing how Laertius would have done it, explaining how he would have frowned upon Fulvia for courting just to live a pleasant lifestyle would have been a great point. Joshua does explain how Diogenes writes in an odd style, jumping from one idea to another, and citing quotes said by the individuals to get a further feel for them. But this does not explain or try and envision how he would write a biography about Fulvia. Due to his writing style, I believe that Diogenes would have enlightened the reader about her ability to better herself and work for a greater cause. He would have also used many quotes from her lifetime to show how she carried herself. Diogenes would have broken her life down into the immoral actions in her life and the moral action in her life. And by showing us both sides of the story, Diogenes allows the reader to make a decision about the person.

Joshua does a great job expressing the writing style of Virlouvet, but does not give the best explanation on how Diogenes would have written this biography due to his writing style. Chronological order shows how a writing style affects a biography, but without the further explanation of the biographer's life and writing techniques we are unable to access how he/she would have written a certain biography.