Chapter 4 The Roman Family

The Roman Family
A Man’s World
At the end of this
presentations you should
be able to identify the
members of a Roman
family. You should know
that freedmen become
clients of their masters
who then become their
patrons. You should
know about the basic
education of children.
The Familia
The Roman family or
familia included more
than the parents and
their children. It also
included the slaves,
freedmen and other
clients who were under
the control of the pater
familias. This highest
ranking male legally was
responsible for every
member of the family.
Pater Familias
•The highest ranking male
•Legally was responsible for every
member of the family.
•Owned all of the property,
•Made the decisions about the
•Acted as the family priest and
•Could deny a child was his by
refusing to acknowledge it
•Could decide to punish, adopt,
sell or kill a member of the
Pater Familias...the end
•He retained his power until his
•At that time any married sons
would at that point become the
pater familias of their own
•The widow, daughters and
unmarried sons would be placed
under a pre-determined guardian,
perhaps another male relative.
**So, a widow could be placed into
the family of her oldest son! **
Slavery for all
•Slaves were an instrumental part of the Roman society.
•Not all Romans liked slavery but accepted it as a law of man.
•Romans enslaved anyone that they conquered.
***Thus, any ethnic group could be a slave, unlike slavery with
which you may be familiar.***
•Romans could sell themselves into slavery if a family was
extremely poor.
•Slaves could also be married, although the marriage was not
legally recognized plus any children were still the property of
the master.
• Another contrast to slavery in other societies is that Roman
slaves could hope for freedom.
Freedom for many
•Slaves were often freed upon the death of their master
•Some received their freedom as a gift for exceptional service
•Some bought their freedom outright.
***Yes, they could but it. Roman slaves could earn a small
amount of money as they worked. They could use the money to
buy the freedom of loved ones as well.***
•Once a slave was freed, he (or she) became a freedman.
Tombstone of a freed couple.
•A Freedmen did have limited citizenship.
•They could not ascend to the senator and were
looked down upon for having been a slave in
social circles.
•The children of
freedmen had full
citizenship and were
neither indebted to
the father’s former
master nor limited to
the rank they could
Freedmen are Clients
•A freedman was still part of the
familia and as such under the
control of the pater familias.
•Freedmen were also still indebted to
their former master as a client.
•Clients relied on their patrons for
advice about politics, careers and
•Patrons relied on clients for political
and moral support.
•The larger a man’s family, including
the clients, the larger his status.
•Therefore this new patron/client
relationship benefited both the
former master and the new
The Ladies
•The wife of a pater familias was known as a
mater familias.
•Status was obtained through the virtue of
being a dutiful wife and a
good mother.
•She was responsible for the running of the
•She had few rights
•She had citizenship, but it was in title only.
***She could not vote since she could not
serve in the
military or pay taxes***.
•Women remained under the rule of their
father or husband.
•When they married, they family provided a
•Women who failed to produce an heir could be
•Upon a divorce, the dowry was retained by the woman.
•Upon divorce, children were retained by their father.
Dowries were often placed in chests.
•Children were a reason to get married; but it was the male child
who could be the heir and was favored.
•A child was named about 8 days after it was born. (high infant mortality)
•A father acknowledged paternity by picking up the child at the
naming ceremony.
•If he did not pick up the child then he had no legal obligation to it.
•Unwanted children could be exposed (Left out in the elements)
***Unwanted because they had a deformity or even for being a girl!***
•Also at the naming ceremony, a child was give a bulla, or good luck
***The bulla was made of leather, wood or metal and was filled
with items to bring luck and ward off evil sprits. ***
Nannies and Mannies
•The wealthiest Roman families would have nurses to care for
•Later a male slave, called a paedogogus, would accompany the
child to school, or anywhere else tending to his studies and
•There was no public education, thus a child’s education was only
as good as its family could afford.
•Girls were generally taught at home, since their education
focused on how to run a household efficiently.
•Girls in very wealthy families whose father favored education
might have received a basic education similar to that of a boy.
A Boy’s Education
•School was held at the home of
the teacher or in public places.
•The richest families hired a
private tutor to come to them.
•A rhetor would teach the art of
public speaking to the wealthiest
•Boys of the most wealthy families
received a basic education or
reading writing and arithmetic.
•Other subjects considered essential for a future career in the
military or politics included literature, music, astronomy,
philosophy, rhetoric and oratory.
•If it could be afforded, next was a grammar school with
Greek and Latin.
•The very wealthy might also send the son to Greece to study.
In the End
The Roman family was the basis
for the Roman society. The
familia was headed by the pater
familias and included the wife,
children (even if grown), slaves,
freedmen and other clients.
The pater familias had absolute
power and legally owned
everything within the family.
The wife saw to the house and
children. The children were
named several days after they
were born and given a bulla to
bring good luck and ward off evil
spirits. If they were born into a
wealthy family they might have a
nurse, a paedagogus and a top
Create a Power Point (you may use another
similar program). Your slide show should
include your family members, those people who
live in your home and how they are related to
you. Also include a slide on family your family interacts. If you
live with both parents, who does what? Who
makes the decisions? Does one parent complete
certain tasks regularly or do your parents take
turns. If you live with one parent, do the
children or other family members help out?
Lastly include a slide that would be your bulla.
You will want to include objects (words, colors,
numbers, pictures) that you feel bring you good