Most Powerful Women in Rom
Cleopatra – Perhaps one of the most powerful women in history, the Queen of Egypt was not actually Egyptian. Cleopatra (whose origins traced back to Greece) is usually depicted as a beautiful seductress, but she was more than just a pretty face. A respected diplomat, naval commander and linguist who spoke almost a dozen languages, her intelligence was unprecedented. She was also extremely influential – especially when it came to Julius Caesar. Cleopatra was living in Rome with their love child when Caesar was assassinated and soon after that, aligned with Mark Antony – both politically and romantically.
Her life famously ended in suicide and following her death, Egypt became a province of the Roman Empire. While many Romans were not a fan of her meddling, they apparently loved her sense of fashion, coining her exotic hairstyle and jewelry as the ‘Cleopatra look’.
Agrippina the Younger – The mother of Nero (Emperor of Rome during the Julio-Claudian Dynasty) had a ruthless reputation. And there was no shortage of family drama here. Some historians accuse Agrippina of poisoning her husband (and uncle) Claudius in order to secure the throne for her own son, Nero, who a few years later would order his own mother’s execution.
Olimpia Maidalchini Pamphilj - Everyone knows of the Pamphilj’s - the most famous family in Rome with deep roots in the Catholic Church during the 16th and 17th centuries. But the sister-in-law of Pope Innocent X was notorious for being the most influential member. Always by Innocent’s side right up until his death, Olimpia was one of his key advisors who controlled not only his papal appointments but most of his affairs. Some saw this as dedication, others as greed, but there is no denying that Olimpia was one of the most prominent members of the Pamphili family.
Beatrice Cenci – The story of Beatrice Cenci, the young noblewoman of one of the most prominent Roman families is a tragic one. Beatrice endured years of sexual and physical abuse by her father, Count Francesco Cenci. After reporting it to the authorities several times without any justice being served, she and her family members decided to take matters into their own hands by murdering the Count. While the Pope who ordered the family execution showed no mercy, the common people of Rome protested the decision, knowing the reason behind the crime. An important story of feminism and violence in Renaissance Rome to this day.
Artemisia Gentileschi – One of the most accomplished Baroque painters post-Caravaggio. During a time where women painters were not well-received by fellow artists, Artemisia was the first woman to become a member of the Accademia di Arte del Disegno in Florence with an international following and clientele. Sadly, she was also a victim of rape prior to her career but played a key role in his prosecution. For that reason and due to her artistic talents, Artemisia is regarded as one of the most progressive and inspirational women to be born in Rome.
Catherine of Siena – While Saint Catherine was born in Siena, she died and was canonized in Rome. Regarded as one of the strongest spiritual writers and advocates for peace within the Catholic Church, her letters played a significant role in reorganizing it. Which was a real accomplishment, being a woman at that time.
Margherita Luti - Daughter of a local baker, Margherita was the infatuation of famed painter, Raphael. So much so, that she became his lover and the subject of his two portraits – La Fornarina and La Donna Velata. Yet, little is known about her actual life.