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This paper focuses on the interaction of Roman moral discourse and autonomous female voices in the Argonautica and Ovid’s Heroides. It argues that Valerius’ heroines use the moral language of the Heroides to reflect on the function of traditional language. By assigning culturally encoded roles to themselves and one another, these heroines present the audience with alternative versions of their stories that undermine the very terms they employ: they thus enact the problems inherent in using the language of the past to interpret the present. The cultural vocabulary that authorizes their voices to an internal audience presents a serious threat to the community, when coming from the mouths of marginalized characters. In illustrating the slippage between the roles of wife, witch, heroine and whore, Valerius invites his audience to consider the function of tradition, both social and literary, as a lens through which to understand the present.