This particular Roman family was referred to as ‘familia’, putting into consideration the fact that the Latin word ‘family’ owes its origin the word ‘familia’. Normally, the ‘familia’ just like most of the modern families, included the triad with two parents and children who could either be biological or adopted, slaves and grantparents. The overall head of the family referred to as ‘pater familias’ had exclusive control over the entire ‘familia’, all adult males inclusive. It is also relevant to note that the Roman ‘familia’ entirely included all those who lived under the same roof, including all members of the particular extended relatives, the close family and finally the household slaves
Similar practices, of which the modern families are familiar with, like in the heading of the family responsibility being left for men to take care of, were common in the Roman ‘familia’. The ‘pater familias’ him being the overall authority , usually the father, the grandfather or even the uncle, had ‘patria potestas’, meaning absolute power, over his children whether biological or adopted, his slaves, and to some extent, his wife. All these were considered as being under his ‘manus’, otherwise under is authority influence , until his death. Still this could include his male children as well. A close scrutiny as pertains to powers of the ‘pater familias’ reveals that he even had power over life and death over any family member.
He further had the power to sell his own children to slavery at will. In fact, just like the justifications by the ‘Twelve Tables’, the ‘pater familias’ in accordance to the ruling of the law, the ‘pater familias’ was supposed to expose the deformed child, if one happens to exist. However, studies have proved that after the exposure of the deformed children, they would be picked by traders and may not have naccessarly died. It was also the role of the ‘pater familias’ to be in the position of a patron in a system of duties cum responsibilities to clients, otherwise the lower class Romans, referred to as ‘patronage.
The ‘mater familias’, also referred to as ‘matrona’ happened to be the wife of the family. She was responsible for the affairs of the household. Further, one of her crucial responsibilities was to support her husband’s views, regardless of whether they contravened with her own. An ideal ‘matrona’ in Roman society had to be obedient, chaste, modest and loyal. She had to demonstrate ‘piestas’ besides spinning wool and looking after her children. Generally, the Roman women had much more rights compared to the women in other ancient societies. Surprisingly, in some cases, they could own their own property, work at far distances from their homes and even divorce their husbands freely if circumstances demanded so, though this would depend on the type of marriage ceremony.
The final branch of the Roman ‘familia’ normally was the household slaves. Slavery was very common throughout the entire ancient communities and even the poorest Romans could usually afford at least one slave. It was the duty of the family to ensure the maintenance of slaves, this referring to their welfare and provision of their basic necessities namely clothing and shelter, none of which were guaranteed for the non-slaved individuals. Slavery was not just a mere economic relationship. The relationship between the slaves and the entire members of the ‘familia’ was very common. It was the slaves’ duty to take care of the young ones and also educating the children from a young age.
Unlike the trend in most of the modern families, daughters even if adult would remain under the control of the close male relative incase the father died. One of the major differences between the Roman families and the modern ones shows up when considering that today women are not under the coverage of the ‘pater familias’ nor do they even have a guardian after becoming adults. The ones referred to as the upper class women would get married while quite young. Lots of these would die while delivering, and this was referred to as hazardous occupation in those ancient times. Nowadays, fewer mothers die during childbirth and fewer children as well.
One of the Roman laws declared that men had to raise all the boys born to the family, but only the first born female. This meant that the rest of the daughters were vulnerable to being abandoned to die, depending on the father’s will. This kind of practice would be considered as violation of the provisions of the human rights charter hence one may even be sued for a similar action. Infanticide cases are also not common today and such an action could even lead to death sentence to the culprit.
In actual fact, most of the practices in this particular community have proved unworthy and inhuman whatsoever. It is against the social and also religion provision worldwide and general feeling by the entire is that slavery was only meant to intimidate the unfortunate in the society and it is not acceptable, whether executed directly or indirectly. Other actions like infanticide are totally unacceptable and the few cases that have occurred have been strongly criticized and condemned by the society, thanks to the standing social codes amongst the people.
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