The Queen’s Android (via http://bit.ly/Krr44d)
"This famous android was a collaborative effort by two Germans. Clockmaker Peter Kintzing created the mechanism and joiner David Roentgen crafted the cabinet; the dress dates from the 19th century. Automatons were in circulation and aroused much curiosity. Roentgen probably sent the tympanum to the French court and Marie-Antoinette bought it in 1784. The queen, aware of its perfection and scientific interest, had it deposited in the Academy of Sciences cabinet in 1785. The tympanum is a musical instrument that plays eight tunes when the female android strikes the 46 strings with two little hammers. Tradition has it that she is a depiction of Marie-Antoinette."
were families (esp. mothers) important in Ancient Rome? around Vergil’s time?
Mothers were what held the Roman family together. A Roman man had to become a vir, a Roman woman had to become a matrona. They had full power inside the house (they were supposed to run the household), and were usually highly educated, unless we’re talking about plebeian families with very low incomes. The matrona was supposed to be resourceful and smart, but also modest. The importance of Vesta, goddess of the hearth, in Roman culture also tells us how significant the figure of the matrona was. Vesta was a vastly worshipped goddess: she protected families and homes, and her priestesses were the most respected women in the Roman Empire (Augustus ensured their rights and privileges).
The emperor’s wife had to be a model for all Roman wives, so let’s take a look at darling Livia. Look at some portraits of her: she’s always depicted in a simple hairstyle, wearing no jewelry. She is even portrayed as Pietas in a coin. I remember seeing a coin which had a portrait of Livia as Vesta, but I’m not sure. The role of the matrona was crucial to Augustus’ moral reform. On the other hand, Livia was actually very persuasive and powerful, and a lot of people benefited from her intervention. Her son Tiberius wasn’t supposed to become emperor, but she convinced Augustus to name him his heir (some say she killed him with poisoned figs, believe what you will). What I’m trying to say is that matronae had a simple function (to run the household and take care of their families) but in reality, a lot of them were more powerful than one might think, always hidden in their husbands’ shadow.