Family Organization in Ancient Rome

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Family Organization

To imagine family life consisting of anything else that it is today may be a difficult notion to apprehend. Obscure as it is to believe, family life, in Ancient Rome, although seemingly similar, was an entirely different concept. The saying, “Dad’s going to kill me!” might just be taken literally.

Family, or Familia, is composed of a paterfamilias, our equivalent of a father; his male children, married or unmarried; his wife; his unmarried daughters; his daughters-in-law; his servants; the servants’ family; and the family slaves.

A Familia is begun by the conjugal pair, domus, and the land and property they own. The bond they share is solely legal, for in these times religion was not involved with marriage.
The relationship was a “partnership of all life, sharing rights human and divine” through the “union of a man and woman.” Emotions between the paterfamilias and his wife was not romantic, yet it was an emotional bond created for stability and wealth. Children did emerge from this bond, and extramarital affairs by the paterfamilias were not only common, but were regular events.

The Domus is composed of a wife and the all powerful paterfamilias. This figure can be represented as the father. The paterfamilias is the oldest male member of the household, and has total control over his domain.

The children were allowed to have possessions, as long as under the power of their paterfamilias. The possessions the children owned were subject to removal by the paterfamilias into their own possession. Children were not bothered by this law, because in these times life expectancy was short, thus the paterfamilias’ reign did not last long over the household.

While in reign, the paterfamilias would arrange marriages for all his children. Personal financial growth was one of his main concerns. Girls would marry from the ages of twelve to fifteen, and boys from fourteen and on.

The paterfamilias had the power to sell his children, as well...
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