Growing Up and Growing Old in Ancient Rome: A Life Course Approach

By Mary Harlow; Ray Laurence | Go to book overview

10

DEATH AND MEMORY

Death, as we have seen in Chapter 1, could occur at any point during the Roman life span with a concentration of deaths in childhood, early adulthood, in childbirth, and later, after about fifty years of age. This pattern and its associated greater frequency of death than that experienced in the West today would suggest that during the Roman life course an individual witnessed the loss of relatives at every stage. Famously, the grandsons of Augustus, Gaius and Lucius, died in early adulthood. Events Augustus recalled in the Res Gestae (14) on his death, recounting in the same passage the honours they had held and their achievements even though still young:

My sons, Gaius and Lucius, of whom Fortuna bereaved me in their youth, were for my honour designated consuls by the Senate and People of Rome when they were fourteen, with the provision that they should enter on that magistracy after the lapse of five years [i.e. at the age of nineteen]. Further, the senate decreed that from that day when they were led to the forum they should take part in the public councils. Furthermore each of them was presented with silver shields and spears by the whole body of the Roman equites and hailed princeps iuventutis (emperor of youths).

The emphasis, in this public text, was on the honours decreed to these two young men and the recognition of their value in life by the public bodies: the Senate and People of Rome and the equites. It is this which is highlighted here as a memorial to their brief lives. The role of the goddess Fortuna (Luck) illustrates a resignation to the deaths of the young, who had such great potential in their later lives in the eyes of their parents (compare Suet.Aug.65). Little appears here of the private grief Augustus experienced, instead we have a statement about the status of his adopted sons in the eyes of other Romans. This illustrates a facet of Roman commemoration—a life is seen from the point of view of the community or its public manifestation. In funerary inscriptions, the offices held by a man are recalled and his public prominence measured; or in the case of women their role as wives or mothers. This form of representation displayed the public values of Roman society, but need not

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Growing Up and Growing Old in Ancient Rome: A Life Course Approach
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents v
  • List of Illustrations vi
  • Preface vii
  • 1 - Introduction 1
  • 2 - The Location of the Life Course 20
  • 3 - The Beginning of Life 34
  • 4 - Transition to Adulthood 1 54
  • 5 - Transition to Adulthood 2 65
  • 6 - The Place of Marriage in the Life Course 79
  • 7 - Kinship Extension and Age Mixing Through Marriage 92
  • 8 - Age and Politics 104
  • 9 - Getting Old 117
  • 10 - Death and Memory 132
  • 11 - Age and Ageing in the Roman Empire and Beyond 144
  • Appendix 151
  • Bibliography 165
  • Index 175
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