Rome started as a little city ~ above the financial institutions of the Tiber flow in Italy. The Latin people (also known as the Latini or Latians) lived in the an ar c. 1000 BCE however the founding of the city is date to 753 BCE. They were a patrilineal culture (legitimate descent and inheritance from the father"s bloodline) who, among many other deities, venerated the supreme the skies god Deus Pater (“Father God”) – much better known together Jupiter – that was connected with horses, thunder, lightning, storms, and also fire. The male divine being as head the the pantheon reflected the worth of masculinity end femininity in the Latin culture.

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Fresco, Pompeii
Mary Harrsch (Photographed in ~ the Museo Archaeologico Nazionale di Napoli) (CC BY-SA)

The society was plainly patriarchal from an early stage and also would proceed along those same lines v the history of the roman Republic (590-27 BE) and also Roman realm (27 BCE-476 CE in the west, 330-1453 CE in the east). Although there is a legend that a Trojan woman named Roma, travelling v the hero Aeneas, founded Rome, the far an ext popular and better-known foundation myth is that the city was started in 753 BCE through the demi-god Romulus after he eliminated his brothers Remus.

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Part the Romulus" story entails the Rape the the Sabine ladies which tells of the at an early stage Romans abducting women from other tribes, notably the Sabines. This tribes raised an equipped force to get their women back but one of the females – Hersilia, who had end up being Romulus" mam – rallied the other women to protect against unnecessary bloodshed and also insisted on continuing to be with the Romans. This story is thought to represent, in supernatural form, the crucial role of women in Roman culture in linking families and also maintaining relaxed relations between rival factions through marriage.

Stable families were the most vital component that a strictly hierarchy based on gender, citizenship, ancestry, & census rank.

Classes & Conflict

The household was the cell core of Roman society and developed the basis of every community. Stable family members made for a stable society and were the most crucial component of a strictly hierarchy based on gender, citizenship, ancestry, and also census location (where one lived and how lot land one owned). A citizen was initially defined as any male above the age of fifteen who was a member of one of the original three people of the Latins who then dictated the lives of the civilization politically and socially.

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Politically, there was a leader at the optimal (the consul during the republic, emperor during the empire), the senate, judges, and assemblies while, socially, there was the head that the home (pater familias), his wife, kids and, in some cases, his prolonged family (unmarried sisters, widowed mothers, ageing fathers). The patriarchy, in both spheres (political and also social) operated according come the rule of patronage: those in strength were obligated to care for those beneath them. The consul, emperor, or head-of-the-house detailed their charges v parental care and also necessities and, in return, received their loyalty and also service.


Roman Politicians

Society was separated in two classes – the upper-class Patricians and also the working-class Plebeians – whose social standing and also rights under the law were originally rigidly defined in donate of the upper class until the period characterized through the problem of the orders (c. 500-287 BCE), a strength struggle in between the Plebeians and the Patricians.

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The dispute of the Orders began when roman inn Patricians to be campaigning against neighboring tribes for supremacy in the an ar and needed guys for their armies. In 494 BCE, the Plebeians, who made up the bulk of the fighting force, refused to serve in the army until castle were given a voice in government. Their grievances to be addressed by brand-new laws which permitted them to send their very own representative (a tribune) come the senate and, in 449 BCE, through the Twelve Tables, the regulations of Rome which were publicly post for all to see and guaranteed the no one was above the law.

Prior come the conflict, Plebeians to be strictly second-class citizens that were forbidden come marry Patricians while, after 445 BCE, this legislation was changed and Plebeians could marry whomever castle chose and also had a voice in politics. By the moment the dispute of the assignment ended, Roman society was identified by five social classes:

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Although Patricians have actually traditionally been presented together landed gentry and also the Plebeians together the landless poor, this is a misconception. The Patricians absolutely did make up the senate and also were the judgment class however there to be many an effective Plebeian families and, as Roman history progressed, many Patrician family members lost your wealth and standing if Plebeian families" fortunes boosted dramatically. Basically, the Patricians to be the aristocracy – one had actually to it is in born a Patrician – if the Plebeians were anyone else; but plebeian did no necessarily equate come poor. Farmers, plumbers, artisans, teachers, contractors, architects, and also many other respectable and rewarding professions were all represented by the Plebeian class.


Roman Toga, Tarragona
Mark Cartwright (CC BY-NC-SA)

The Equites (equestrian class, cavalry) were initially the royal placed knights that were given a details amount of money to purchase and also care because that their equine in the period of the at an early stage republic and so became linked with commerce and trade. They at some point formed component of the upper-class dealing with business. In 218 BCE, a law was pass prohibiting senators indigenous engaging in commerce since it might compromise their legislative decisions. The equites were patrician-class males, socially inferior to the senatorial class, who ran the banks, gathered taxes, operated import-export that goods, and also managed trade houses and also the servant trade.

Freedmen were slaves who had regulated to buy their flexibility or whose owner had collection them free. The freedman (or woman) then became a client of their previous owner, relying ~ above his or she patronage. Freed servants were granted citizenship yet could not hold political office. Any children the freed slaves, however, were given full rights together citizens. Freedmen could work any type of job they were qualified for yet often continued in every little thing duties they had performed for their former master as soon as a slave.

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Slaves were the lowest course in society without any kind of rights and considered home of the master. The top quality of life as a Roman slave varied follow to one"s master and one"s job. Life in the mines or in building roads was considerably more daunting than skilled artisan-slaves who worked for craftsmen or served their masters as tutors or musicians. Also so, no matter how easy a slave"s responsibilities can seem, they to be still subject to the whims that their understand who might have them beaten, or also killed, for any type of reason.

Romans relied heavily on slaves to do whatever jobs they did not desire to. Woman slaves served their mistresses in every aspect of their stays from help them bathe, dress, and put ~ above make-up to tending the children, cleaning the home, and also assisting in shopping. Masculine slaves offered the master of the home in plenty of capacities, including personal assistants, children"s tutor, waiter, butler, bodyguard, overseer top top estates among many others. At one point, the Romans taken into consideration instituting a law requiring servants to wear a certain uniform to recognize themselves but decided versus this as they fear it would alert the slaves to how countless they were and possibly encourage a revolt. Slave revolts were a perennial are afraid of the Romans which to be realized in the Spartacus Slave rebellion of 73-71 BCE which terrorized the Romans and also haunted them for years after.


Roman slaves Relief Slab
Carole Raddato (CC BY-NC-SA)

Most servants were foreigners recorded in battle or taken by slavers however some Romans marketed themselves or their kids into enslavement as a method of paying turn off a debt. Patrician families sometimes organized as plenty of as 1,000 slaves on a little estate and more elsewhere and these slaves served the understanding of the state through organization to the cell core of the state: the family.

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There is far an ext documentation top top Patrician families than those of the lower class and also yet the simple paradigm was the very same for both. The father was the head the the family and made every the decisions regarding finance and the elevating of children. Fathers had finish control over your children, no issue their period or marital status, native birth until his fatality (although a son can go come court to demand emancipation because that his dad if he can prove his father was incompetent or plainly acting versus the son"s ideal interests). The father also had the right to decision whether his newborn son would be increased in the residence or abandoned.

Childbirth took place in the home, attended by a mid-wife and also the servants of the mother. Males did not take part in childbirth although sometimes, in upper-class homes, a male doctor was referred to as to it is in on-hand in instance of a daunting birth. Once the child was born and cleaned, it was inserted on the floor in a blanket and also the father referred to as into the room. In ~ this point, the father can either pick the boy up – signifying the was accepted into the family – or rotate away indigenous it.

If the dad rejected the child, it was taken indigenous the house and left in the roads to die. A father could reject the kid for any type of reason and, every little thing it was, his will might not be challenged. It is likely that much more daughters were rejected than sons, since sons were compelled to lug on the family name and fortune, but newborns could be abandoned just because another child would ar too an excellent a financial load on the home and, particularly if a family currently had a healthy son, there was no need for another. These abandoned babies were frequently rescued by slave-traders that then raised and sold them as slaves.


Women were subject to the will of their fathers throughout their lives, also after they were married, and also had no political voice or power. Daughters to be taught how to keep and also run a household, take treatment of their husbands and advance his career. In the so late stages of the roman Republic, females gained much more rights yet were tho under the regulate of your fathers and husbands.


Even so, ladies could document for divorce, achieve abortions (with a man"s consent), inherit, manage, and sell property, and also lower-class women might run businesses, work in stores and restaurants, and also operate their own boutiques offering their wares such as jewelry, clothing, and also ceramics. Women had actually no legal appropriate over their children and, in the event of a divorce, the children automatically went come the father. Once a woman got to the age of about 15, she father would have currently found she a an ideal match however some girls were betrothed – frequently to lot older men – at earlier ages.


There was no marital relationship ceremony as recognized in the modern day. Marriage was just legal between two consenting roman citizens yet “consent” was more than likely not always given freely. If a father had actually arranged a marriage for his kid or daughter, unless he was very lenient, the kid was intended to go through with it even if castle would like not to.

Marriage ceremonies commonly took place simply after sunrise, symbolizing the brand-new life the couple was embarking on. The ceremony forced ten witnesses in stimulate to it is in legal and, back there was a priest present, the did not officiate. The bride would certainly recite a traditional vow and, afterwards, the wedding party would join in a an excellent feast and also then monitor the bride and also groom come their new home (or the dad of the groom"s home).

The bride, as she walked, would certainly drop one coin committed to the soul of roads (an offering to bring luck to she future route in marriage) and gave two coins come her brand-new husband, one to respect him personally and the various other honoring the spirits of his home. As they walked together, the groom threw nuts and sweets right into the crowd and also the civilization who adhered to them scattered the very same in return (a routine remembered in the existing day in throw rice at weddings) till they got to the groom"s house.


Once there, the groom would lift his bride end the threshold to carry her in. Scholar Harold W. Johnston argues that this may have been “another survival of marriage by capture” to express the story the the Rape that the Sabine females (Nardo, 79). If this is possible, it could also have to be to prevent the bride tripping and also falling (a bad omen) or, an ext likely, to be a symbolic gesture removing her from her old life and also carrying her conveniently into her brand-new one. Close friends and family were then invited right into the house where the husband available his new wife fire and water as essential facets of the home and she kindled the first fire in the hearth. Afterwards, there was much more feasting until the new couple retired because that the night.

Home & household

The minimum legal period for a girl to be married was 12 and, because that a boy, 15 however most men married later, roughly the period of 26. This was since males were assumed to be mentally unbalanced between the periods of 15-25. They were thought to be ruled entirely by your passions and unable to make sound judgements. Girl were believed to it is in far an ext mature at an earlier age (an embraced fact in the modern-day day) and so were all set for the responsibilities of marital relationship when castle were, frequently considerably, younger than the groom.

The main purpose the the marriage was to produce and raise kids who would become responsible and also productive members of society. Since males dominated the society hierarchy, the emphasis of the house was largely on the first-born son. Ripe days after the birth of a male boy (eight days for a female), the infant was given a surname in the purification ceremony recognized as the Lustratio and received an amulet to ward off evil spirits. The amulet for guys was referred to as a bulla if a girls" amulet was dubbed a lunula. This objects were made of lead or fabric and, in wealthier homes, gold.

Boys wore the bulla everyday until the age of 15 when they were considered a guy after a coming-of-age ceremony and also became a citizen. Girls wore the lunula till shortly before their marital relationship when castle discarded it along with their childhood toys and also clothes and put on women"s garments and accessories. The boy would have actually been increased to learn his father"s organization and, if a Patrician or Equites, come ride, hunt, and also fight. In the time of the roman inn Republic, military organization was compulsory and also so every masculine was teach martial an abilities regardless of class while, throughout the empire, military business was voluntary. Girls, as noted, were increased to end up being wives and mothers and also even despite there space notable examples of powerful women in roman history, these to be still married women with children.


The residence may have been governed by the father but it was maintained by the mommy on every level and this included making it a haven the peace and harmony. Although anyone in the household was responsible because that pleasing the gods and spirits, it fell primarily to the mrs of the home to ensure the the family members spirits were honored daily. This spirits included the panes and penates (spirits the the pantry and kitchen) and the genius (spirit of manhood the the head of the separation, personal, instance home). The lares (spirits of one"s ancestors) and parentes (spirits that one"s prompt family) to be honored with the festival of Parentalia. Over there were likewise the manes (collective soul of the dead) and the lemures (wrathful dead) honored and also appeased in the communal festival of Lemuria.

Religion & the State

Religion notified each home, community, and the state. The state sponsored and also encouraged homogeneous spiritual belief and ritual and religion empowered the state. All with the year there to be festivals celebrate the gods, good deeds the the past connected with the gods, and also the harvest detailed by providence. The date of birth of the head that the household honored the genius that that family who enabled the dad to identify what needed to be excellent in any given situation and find the stamin and capacity to do it. Everyday rituals in the house honoring the panes and penates were echoed by the state honoring nationwide gods, exemplified in the function of the Vestal Virgins and the spiritual fire of the goddess the hearth, home, and family, Vesta.

The biggest festival of the roman calendar to be Saturnalia, honoring the agricultural god that seed, sowing, and the harvest, Saturn. Saturnalia to be celebrated, in some periods, indigenous the 17th-23rd of December and during the festival all work-related stopped, companies closed, and traditions were suspended. This was the only time of the year when the head of the family members relinquished responsibility and a small member of the home took control. All laws and also rituals to be relaxed, servants were enabled to join the festivities as equals, and also parties replaced council meetings, assemblies, and building-project plan boards.

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People dressed in vibrant clothes, decorated their residences with flowers, wreaths, and ceramic figurines, and also invited friends and family in because that feasts and drink while communal celebrations welcomed everyone in the neighborhood. Gifts were exchanged, normally including tiny figurines that Saturn together the giver of all good gifts and, the following day, everyone recovered from the festivities and also went earlier to their normal lives.

Saturnalia, obviously, to be the ancient precursor to the modern Christmas celebration. Scholars usually agree that Jesus Christ was most likely born in the spring however the Church, in keeping with its plan of Christianizing popular pagan holidays, determined the 25th that December come celebrate Christ"s bear in stimulate to change Saturnalia through their very own holiday. Saturnalia was only the most popular and also welcome of many spiritual festivals transparent the year, however, and these all served to bind Roman culture together together a single unit through the head-of-state together the head-of-the-household that the cohesive family members of the roman inn people.