Marriage, Divorce, and Children in Ancient Rome

Marriage, Divorce, and Children in Ancient Rome

Marriage, Divorce, and Children in Ancient Rome

Marriage, Divorce, and Children in Ancient Rome

Synopsis

The family has played a central role in most societies, and the complexity and variety of that role demonstrates there is no single definition or pattern of "the family" in any society. Recent studies of ancient Rome have shown that the sentimental ideal of a core nuclear family was strong throughout the period, but that reality often diverged from the ideal. This study examines many aspects of the composition and inner workings of the Roman family, and provides an illuminating case study of the sentimental ideal versus everyday reality. In addition, Rawson considers the effect of divorce, high mortality rates, status, and fostering on the family in ancient Rome.

Excerpt

In an attempt to make this volume as accessible as possible to non-specialists, we have explained or translated most technical terms and quotations in Latin and Greek as they occur through the chapters. Some specific historical examples recur, e.g. Pompey's marriages, divorces, remarriages, and children; the Cato--Marcia-- Hortensius triangle; Augustus' family. This involves some repetition of detail, in order to make the context intelligible on each occasion. The Index provides a means to compare these contexts, and further details can be found in any basic reference work such as the Oxford Classical Dictionary.

A few general matters are best explained here, as they underlie much of what follows: chronological boundaries and descriptive terms, the system of family and personal names in Roman society, and common terms in Roman legislation.

The period covered by this volume is approximately four centuries, from the early second century BC to the early third century AD, although there are some references to times before and after this. The focus is particularly on the first century BC and the first two centuries AD. There are a few references to Christian thought and legislation, but no serious attempt to analyse the social behaviour of the Christian groups which were developing in various parts of the Roman world at this time. The interaction of Christians and pagans, and their influence on each other, are large subjects, and of great relevance to the topics of this book--marriage, divorce, and children --but they require a separate study, and the chronological focus for such a study would be somewhat later than that of this volume. The Roman Republic, established in the sixth century BC, was transformed into an autocracy in the latter half of the first century BC. The transition date is usually taken to be 31 BC, the year when Octavian won the battle of Actium and thus established one-man military supremacy in the Roman world. Over the next forty-five years he consolidated his position as Augustus, and the new system became known as the Principate because of his title princeps ('the leading citizen'). Modern writers often describe the Principate as the 'imperial' period, with 'emperors' ruling the Roman . . .

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