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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Lucretia

Legendary, reputed to have lived circa 500 B.C.E., ancient Rome

The legend of Lucretia figures prominently in the story of the rise of the Roman Republic. According to Livy’s Ab Urbe Condita (From the Founding of the City, circa 29 B.C.E.), which deals with a period of Roman history not confirmed by reliable historical records, Lucretia was the wife of nobleman Lucius Tarquinius Collatinus. She was raped by Sextus Tarquinius (often simply called Tarquin), who was the son of the tyrannical king of Rome, Lucius Tarquinius Superbus. Lucretia prompted her family to take action by gathering the men and telling them what happened, after which she committed suicide. Her family incited the people of Rome against the royal family by publicly displaying Lucretia’s body. The ensuing revolt culminated in the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of the Roman Republic in 510 B.C.E. Lucretia’s story is similar to that of Virginia.