How Important Was The Stable Family To Roman Society?

2388 words - 10 pages

The concept of the 'stable family' is one with which most people are familiar with. Throughout time it would appear the family unit has always been viewed with significance and has been the vehicle through which support and stability are provided in an individuals life.Whilst evidence to support the importance of the stable family unit is vast, it would appear that interpretations and loyalties have varied during different periods. I will be looking at how important the stable family unit was to Roman Citizens in both periods of Republic and Empire.Evidence suggests that from around 600BC to the 1st Century AD, families were organized in a similar way to mini Greek city-states. Everybody in one family lived in the same home. Those sharing a home would have included great grandparents, grandparents, parents and children.The family was an important institution to citizens of Ancient Rome. It was essential for the family to be seen as a strong, untouchable unit and Roman family members worked together to maintain this family structure.The family unit in this period had its foundations in strong discipline, responsibility for each family member, which in turn would create a sense of belonging and loyalty and perhaps most importantly, respect for their elders.Dixon, 1992 (page 28) draws attention to the way the family, throughout the period provided the 'basis of economic production and the most important locus of the preservation and redistribution of property through marriage and between the generations upon death'. This appears to be a trend with a number of historians emphasising the material aspects of the family. However this is not to assume that a materialistic attitude was prevalent. Dixon further points out that an emotional aspect to family life was very much a factor in Roman society. She illustrates in her work how literary sources on the family have drawn attention to the emotional aspect of family life. It would appear that as well as providing material sustenance; the family was seen 'as a refuge from the other problems of life' (cited in Dixon, 1992,page 29).A typical Roman family would include the head of the family, who was always the oldest male. The 'paterfamilias', which means father of the family could be the father or grandfather, or maybe even an uncle.Each family followed a range of different customs and rules. The 'pater' had the ultimate power to decide exactly what rules would be followed by his family.Throughout his life he also retained ownership of any property. In addition he had total authority and the power of both life and death, over each member of his household. Even when his children reached adulthood, he was still the ultimate charge. It would appear that this was a typical arrangement in the majority of homes. And a way of life that was both adhered to and respected by other family members.In addition to being responsible for the actions of family members under his charge, he was also able to order a member of...

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