Megullia Dotata

Megullia, surnamed Dotata ('richly dowered'), was an ancient Roman noblewoman.


Megullia is one of the one hundred and six subjects of Giovanni Boccaccio's On Famous Women (De mulieribus claris, 1362). She is famous (as Boccaccio says) "more through the lavishness of her ancestors than through the worthiness of any of her own deeds. For at that time it seemed such a marvellous thing to give 50,000 bronze coins as dowry to one's husband..." Boccaccio used manuscripts of Valerius Maximus as his source, but they "disagree widely about the amount of money in Megullia's dowry". Valerius says in his Book 4 (4.10) that Gnaeus Cornelius Scipio Calvus wrote to the Senate from Spain asking to be replaced. He wanted to go home to build up a dowry for his daughter that just became of marrying age. The Senate wanted Scipio to stay in command, so they consulted with the bride to be and Scipio's family and agreed on an amount that would be acceptable for a dowry of a daughter of a person of such high rank. They raised a dowry for Scipio's daughter from the treasury of 40,000 asses. Valerius compares this sum of a family fortune to those raised for "Tuccia, daughter of Caeso Quinctius" (10,000 asses) and for Megullia, daughter of a consul (50,000 asses) - from which the name "Dotata" (dowried) came when she entered her husband's house with this large amount. It was added to make then the name of the woman with such a large dowry that of Megullia Dotata. Besides Scipio and Fabricius, the Senate raised dowries for the daughters of others they wished to keep in service if there were no family funds for a dowry, like in the case of Fabricius Luscinus.


At the beginning of the Roman republic dowries were small. For example the dowry given by the senate to the daughter of Scipio Africanus was only 35 pounds or 11,000 asses of brass. If the dowry was about five times this amount, 160 - 175 pounds (50,000 asses of brass), then it was considered a Great Fortune and Megullia was nicknamed Dotata. The name dotata was synonymous with "dowry girl" and was the name given to the bride that had a dowry. This trend continued for a long time and if anything above a normal amount was given then the female giver was called a Megullia Dotata.

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