When we hear about the ancient Rome, first, a well-organized empire comes to mind. Less frequently, we hear about the basic unity of Roman society, the family, which was also well-organized structure of the Roman state.
In the narrowest sense, the family means married parents and their children in the community, but it often refers to “close relatives”. Usually marriage or blood relation is the relation between persons within a family. This definition only partly consistent for the ancient Roman family. Family meant all people, who lived together, including the slaves too. On the other hand scientists believe that the original concept of family some important property (land, draft animals) also included. So the ancient Roman family was an unique, complex concept. This is confirmed by The Law of the Twelve Tables, which explains the family like wealth.
Pater Familias – Power of head of the family
Originally a father had almost unlimited power over his wife and children (including adult children), so their situation in ancient times, in a sense, not much different from that of the slave. The head of the family could sell or kill, just like slaves, family of legal terms. On the other hand we can also say, the slave position of the patriarchal era are nearly as favorable as the family member. They are also about a family member was considered. Therefore, such as least once a year, at the Saturn-feast they could to eat with their lord at the table of family. A wife completely but the children some extend escaped from the the original head of household is almost unlimited power many centuries. Marcianus, Roman jurisconsult who lived in the era of the Severus already stated that power is not the father of the atrocities (bullying), but pietas (grace) to be expressed. The Roman family does not just power bond based on the community, but also a kind of producing firm too, in which members of the family and the slaves plowed, sowed, produced, traded, etc under the direction of father or often with him. The head of the family often gave to the slaves or to him adult children a special property (peculium) with which the latter are free could run a farm, for example, open a shop or other business caught, but it was may be withdrawn at any time. The Roman family was religious community and cult too, which had its own home-gods (Lares, Penates, Manes) and ordinances. The position of priest was the head of the family. The home-gods worship was very important. The relationships between family members is obviously not only of power, economic and cult were. The Roman family, just like today, it was an emotional community and the Roman marriage’s specifically aimed at children blessing and the children’s upbringing. Maintenance of the family, the official and the main economic affairs of the petty cash book (Codex et Expense) accepted head of the family was responsible. The mother (Mater familias), led the household, raised the little children with help of slaves.
In Rome, the marriage for a long time meant that the woman who came under the rule of a man. The Roman jurists thought that need subject the inherently frivolous and weak woman to some man power ( husbands paternal power, or guardianship in their absence). However, it was important too because the women were able to exert too much influence on men. It had two ancient forms. One of them was the buying (coemptio). At the buying were present five witnesses, an operator of scale, who hold the balance in his hand, this piece of copper symbolized the purchase price. The man asked the woman is she wants to be his wife. Less commonly used in the more solemn religious ceremony. This usually held in church with two high priests and ten witnesses.
In the early republic era every form without regard to valid marriage recognized as a man and a woman marriage intention (maritalis affection) to live together. Such marriages were not accompanied by her husband of power but had to care othe woman, even if the woman’s separate property possessed. Every children were legitimate in these marriage. During the late republic number of marriages has declined significantly because of the moral deterioration. More and more people lived with only a concubine. This in turn led to the decline of the Roman population, but also among children born to become more and more illegal and classified as low origin. Emperor Augustus tried to restoration the old Roman morals. His unprecedentedly strict rules of the Roman population has tried to stop this. Family Law punished with behead for adultery, and declared that all parents, and a Roman citizen of reproductive age, even widows too statutory duty to marry and bear children, concerning to beget. Otherwise they no or only limited got inheritance. These laws had very little practical result, so Constantine, the Christian emperor removed them.
The family lives of prominent events was a child’s birth. Depend on mother’s status may have been born from a slave or free man. In a Roman marriage, children could not be completely safe, because the father was not obliged to accept the baby into the family. Because of the originally almost unlimited paternal power of the pater familias put the baby to public places, as well as sell or kill. These rights, however, after a while, especially in the imperial age restricted or eliminated. The father’s absolute power kept to the father’s death. Thus it was possible that 50-60 year old children or 30-40 year-old grandchildren lived under power of a 80 years old father. A father in succession three times sold the child, but the third sell he lost his power of the child over. If a child his father died, the children got a guardian. The husband or father’s power over the women stayed end of their lives. But the Roman women cleverly circumvented these less rules, and the legal institutions of the imperial age, so they gradually disappeared. If someone could not have own child, in ancient Rome was also possible to arrange adoptions. The adoptions were often for political reasons. Present days relatives of persons means to have blood relationship with each other, or because each other ( parent and child) or a common ancestor (siblings) come from. Of course, the Romans also knew from the beginning of this natural notion of relatives. However, the adopted children had fully rights for everything. Even after death of his father.
The legal order of succession only Iustinianus placed entirely in the base of consanguinity, thus despising the modern law of succession is based on orders. However, the legal order of succession rarely succeeded in practice. Because the Roman citizens is usually observed the three advices of older Cato’s: don’t get board, never tell a secret to your wife, and don’t live without last will and testament!
Written by Ilona Kaszanyi