Seldom are books on ancient history written by more than one author. When we do find books with two names on them, they tend to be edited collections of essays or collections of translated texts. Typically, the historian works on her own to produce a monograph with the aid of experts who read and comment on the manuscript. However, there are some topics that cannot or should not be approached in this manner. To our minds, human ageing is one of those. The subject is topical in the current changes to the demographic structures of Western populations, which may result, for example, in the abolition of the retirement age. It also requires a sensitivity that causes two heads to be better than one. The dialogue between the authors has been enjoyable and stimulating, causing them to understand more clearly the process by which they individually write history.
This dialogue has caused restraint at some points and at others created the conditions for a bolder or more forthright text. Its intention is to focus on age and the life course in antiquity and to open these subjects up to scrutiny. It is not a book about daily life, nor is it a book about the Roman family, though both are central to the thesis. The origins of the book lie in the teaching in Reading of an undergraduate course—the Roman Life Cycle, received enthusiastically in 1996-7 and again in 1998-9. Much has been learnt from our students in Birmingham and Reading, who have pointed out alternative perspectives or simply revealed that they perceive their immediate family being over one hundred people. It is a book that could not have been written without the work of other Roman social historians over the last fifteen years, most notably that of Richard Saller and Susan Treggiari. The rate of change and publication in this area should not be under-estimated: since the completion of this text two additional books have been published—Suzanne Dixon’s Reading Roman Women and her edited collection Childhood, Class and Kin in the Roman World. The intention is not to summarise their work, or that of others, but to suggest we can take the subject of Roman social history further by focusing on the issue of age—in a similar way our subject in the past benefited from the catalyst of a new found interest or focus on the now mainstream topics of gender and the body.