Family and Familia in Roman Law and Life

Family and Familia in Roman Law and Life

Family and Familia in Roman Law and Life

Family and Familia in Roman Law and Life

Synopsis

Ancient Roman families were very diverse, of course, but the basis of Roman civil law was the familia, a strictly defined group consisting of a head, called a paterfamilias, and his descendants in the male line. Recent work on the Roman family mainly ignores the familia, examining instead such matters as emotional relationships within families, the practical effects of control by a paterfamilias, and demographic factors producing families which did not fit the familia pattern. Gardner investigates the complex relationship that existed between family and familia, illustrating in particular how families exploited the legal rules for their own ends--and disrupted the familia--by use of emancipation (release from patria potestas) and adoption. She also traces legal responses to the effects of verious demographic factors, which gave increased importance to maternal connections, and to social effects, such as the troubles ex-slaves faced in conforming to the familia pattern.

Excerpt

This is a book about Roman law, for Roman social historians, although I hope that it will be of some interest also to social historians in other fields and to specialists in Roman law. Of necessity, much of the source material is drawn from Roman legal writings, both since relevant literary and epigraphic evidence is very limited in amount, and since legal writings are our largest single source for actual behaviour.

Juristic writings are by their nature crabbed and not easy to understand, for those unfamiliar with this sort of material. The texts are not only highly technical but also elliptical, since they tend to be concerned only with the specific points of law discussed, and usually neither provide a full description of the factual background, nor spell out all the legal implications. I have done what I can to remedy these drawbacks, both by unravelling in (I hope) fairly plain language the relevant legal points, and also by drawing attention to the actual human behaviour underlying the situations discussed and where possible making use of relevant literary and epigraphic material. I hope that the result is reasonably user-friendly.

The thinking which prompted this book originated in preparations for papers to be delivered at conferences in Paris in 1993 and in Canberra in 1994. I am grateful to the Comité National de la Recherche Scientifique, Paris, for their hospitality on the former occasion and to the British Academy for a grant towards the cost of travel. My warm thanks are also due to the Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University, Canberra, for making me a Conference Visitor, and so enabling me to participate in the third Roman Family conference held there.

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