In my last post, I included the word “senatrix” as a descriptor of a Univ. of Wash. senate-type person of the female persuasion. One of my readers was kind enough to bring the following to my attention:
“First off, there is no such word as Senatrix. You don’t have to take my word for it, look it up in the OED. You won’t find it. “
Come with me, ladies and gentlemen, as we enter the Way Back Machine and take a brief gander at the wonderfully icky world of 10th Century Roman politics, a world which has gifted us with the term: pornocracy.
We’ve got Popes with concubines, Popes with illegitimate kiddies, back-stabbing, knee-biting, the odd bit of poison in Papal soup, a quiet strangulation or two, prostitutes, eyes getting put out, and the fatal applications of bed pillows — oh my.
And at the center of all this wholesome political goodness, we have a family of women.
Well, since “senatrix” is the Latin feminine derivative of “senator”, there’d bave to be women involved somewhere, wouldn’t there?
Anyhoo, let us start with Theodora I. De facto ruler of Rome, Theodora the One was also the reputed concubine of Pope Sergius Three. This little dalliance got Sergy a daughter, Marozia I, and got Theo the title Senatrix of Rome. Using this title, she wound up installing a couple of Popes in the Holy See, one of which was John X.
Her darling daughter Marozia was a busy little thing. Just as soon as Mama put John X on his throne, Mama’s Little Cupcake arranged for a husband or three to wind up snoozing with the fishies and jumped some Papal bones. Apparently, she was fairly talented, because the old boy was grateful enough to have her named Senatrix and Patricia of Rome.
This was before she had him locked up, blinded, and smothered with a pillow, of course.
Having learned well at Mama’s knee, Marozia I flung that Senatrix mojo around, eventually arranging to crown her bastard son (John XI) as Pope. Her grandson (Pope John XII) and a couple of great-grandsons also wound up as Pope.
Unfortunately, the title Senatrix of Rome wasn’t enough to keep one of her other sons from storming her castle, arresting her, and stuffing her into a very tall, very drafty tower cell before (allegedly) arranging to have her firmly escorted through the window.
Damned escape attempts.
Of course, some historians believe that the Senatrix’s son actually kept her locked in her tower for some decades, before having the Catholic Church exorcise her demons as a precursor to firmly applying a headsmans axe where it would do the most good.
And you think your family has issues.
Before you get all weepy, Marozia wasn’t Theodora’s only Darling Daughter. There was also Theodora the Two who wound up warming a papal bed or three, thus earning the title Senatrix, and a daughter. Theodora 2, being a sentimental type, and wanting only the best for her new daughter, promptly named said daughter after her dear sister Marozia.
Marozia II also wound up getting named as Senatrix, but things are a little fuzzy as to the particulars. She may have actually earned the title without sleeping with a Pope, appointing a Pope, poisoning a Pope or doing all three at once — something which would definently make her the black sheep of that rabid little family.
Voila! “Senatrix”. It may not be in the OED, but in Tenth Century Rome several strong willed, homicidal little beauties took “senatrix” and wrote it loudly and proudly into the pages of the Catholic Church and into history itself.