In this final chapter, we wish to draw out a number of general points raised through the book. It is not intended as a summary of the key characteristics of the Roman life course, which have been discussed in the individual chapters already. Instead we raise issues not only for the study of the life course, but also for the more general historical approach to the reading of texts and writing of ancient history and archaeology, as well as some implications of our work for the modern study of gerontology. We wish to stress that the life course was not simply a series of stages that can be studied in isolation from each other; for instance, it is impossible to study Roman childhood without reference to the stages of life from which it is viewed. There is an importance in understanding each stage, or mode of transition between stages, in relationship to the whole life course of a society. For us, the life course should be viewed as an informal social institution that provided a structure to Roman society. The interaction between age cohorts that can only take place via the demographic simulation produced by Richard Saller (1994) aids our understanding of texts or inscriptions that provide information at the specific level of individual action.
The emphasis placed on the study of age and the life course in this book has raised a number of general issues for the study of ancient history and archaeology. We have set out to demonstrate that age, as well as gender and status, accounted for the actions of individuals we find referred to in the texts we read to construct or reconfigure the lives and actions of people in the Roman past. Age was something that was experienced and, at the same time, created an expectation of certain forms of behaviour. The young and the old were marginalised in this world of ages, in preference to men in middle age. However, in our texts, some men were forever represented and seen from a perspective of their old age. This is particularly apparent in the writing of Roman emperors. Tiberius never seems to have had a youthful stage in Suetonius’ Life—he takes on the character of his age and personality once