Black chalk and acrylic markers on paper
P. Clodium, Appi filium, credo te audisse cum veste muliebri deprehensum domi C. Caesaris, cum pro populo fieret, eumque per manus servulae servatum et eductum; rem esse insigni infamia.
“I believe you have already heard that Publius Clodius, son of Appius, was caught in women's clothing in the house of Gaius Caesar while the ritual sacrifice (in honour of the Bona dea) was being performed for (the) salvation of the (Roman) people and that he managed to escape thanks to the help of a servant girl. What a grave scandal!”
Cicero, Letters to Atticus, I 12, 3
Even in republican Rome, there were cults in which women could actively participate in the rites or that were even reserved exclusively for women. Every December, for example, sacrifices took place by matrons alone, assisted by Vestal virgins, in honour of the Bona dea, of which these drawings recount some passages, which nevertheless remain largely secret.
In fact, a deity embodied the life and fertility of early Rome, and men and even male animals were excluded from celebrating her, so much so that they had to be removed from the house where the ritual took place, because their presence could upset the goddess and compromise her beneficial action on Rome.
Violation of this ban was considered serious and could lead to public repercussions. This was the case, for instance, when Clodius broke into Caesar's house in December 62 A.D., where his wife Pompeia led the ritual. The scandal was immense - and the ridicule for Clodius, caught in women's clothes, as Cicero tells his friend Atticus, far from Rome - a scandal that led to the trial for impiety against him, and to Caesar's decision to divorce his wife, in the name of the dictates of the mos maiorum that demanded that a matron be superior to any possible suspicion.