Rome started as a tiny city top top the banks of the Tiber river in Italy. The Latin people (also known as the Latini or Latians) occupied the an ar c. 1000 BCE yet the establishing of the city is date to 753 BCE. They to be a patrilineal culture (legitimate descent and inheritance indigenous the father"s bloodline) who, amongst many other deities, venerated the can be fried the skies god Deus Pater (“Father God”) – much better known together Jupiter – that was associated with horses, thunder, lightning, storms, and fire. The male divine being as head that the pantheon reflected the value 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 would continue along those very same lines through the background of the roman Republic (590-27 BE) and also Roman empire (27 BCE-476 CE in the west, 330-1453 CE in the east). Although over there is a legend the a Trojan woman called Roma, travelling v the hero Aeneas, started Rome, the far much more popular and also better-known structure myth is the the city was started in 753 BCE through the demi-god Romulus after ~ he killed his brother Remus.

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Part of Romulus" story requires the Rape of the Sabine females which speak of the beforehand Romans abducting ladies from other tribes, especially the Sabines. This tribes elevated an equipped force to obtain their women earlier but one of the females – Hersilia, that had come to be Romulus" mam – rallied the other women to stop unnecessary bloodshed and also insisted on staying with the Romans. This story is assumed to represent, in mythological form, the an essential role of women in Roman culture in linking families and also maintaining serene relations between rival factions with marriage.

Stable families were the most crucial component of a strict hierarchy based on gender, citizenship, ancestry, & census rank.

Classes & Conflict

The family members was the cell core of Roman culture and created the communication of every community. Stable families made because that a stable culture and to be the most crucial component that a strictly hierarchy based upon gender, citizenship, ancestry, and also census location (where one lived and also how lot land one owned). A citizens was initially identified as any kind of male over the age of fifteen that was a member of among the initial three tribes of the Latins who then dictated the resides of the human being politically and socially.

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Politically, there was a leader in ~ the optimal (the consul throughout the republic, emperor during the empire), the senate, judges, and assemblies while, socially, there was the head of the home (pater familias), his wife, youngsters and, in some cases, his expanded family (unmarried sisters, widowed mothers, ageing fathers). The patriarchy, in both spheres (political and social) operated according come the rules of patronage: those in power were mandatory to care for those beneath them. The consul, emperor, or head-of-the-house listed their charges through parental care and necessities and, in return, got their loyalty and also service.


Roman Politicians

Society was split in 2 classes – the upper-class Patricians and the working-class Plebeians – whose social standing and rights under the regulation were initially rigidly identified in donate of the upper class until the period characterized by the dispute of the order (c. 500-287 BCE), a power struggle in between the Plebeians and the Patricians.

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The dispute of the Orders began when roman Patricians to be campaigning against neighboring people for prominence in the an ar and needed males for your armies. In 494 BCE, the Plebeians, who comprised the mass of the fighting force, refused to offer in the military until lock were offered a voice in government. Your grievances to be addressed by new laws which allowed them come send their own representative (a tribune) come the senate and, in 449 BCE, by the Twelve Tables, the laws of Rome which to be publicly posted for every to see and also guaranteed that no one was over the law.

Prior come the conflict, Plebeians to be strictly second-class citizens that were forbidden come marry Patricians while, after ~ 445 BCE, this regulation was readjusted and Plebeians could marry whomever lock chose and also had a voice in politics. By the time the dispute of the order ended, Roman culture was identified by 5 social classes:

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Although Patricians have traditionally to be presented as landed gentry and the Plebeians as the landless poor, this is a misconception. The Patricians certainly did consist of the senate and also were the judgment class yet there were many powerful Plebeian family members and, as Roman history progressed, plenty of Patrician families lost their wealth and standing if Plebeian families" fortunes enhanced dramatically. Basically, the Patricians to be the aristocracy – one had actually to be born a Patrician – when the Plebeians were anyone else; however plebeian did no necessarily equate come poor. Farmers, plumbers, artisans, teachers, contractors, architects, and many other respectable and rewarding professions were all stood for by the Plebeian class.


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

The Equites (equestrian class, cavalry) were initially the royal an installed knights who were provided a certain amount of money to purchase and care for their horse in the duration of the early republic and also so became linked with commerce and also trade. They ultimately formed component of the upper-class dealing with business. In 218 BCE, a law was happen prohibiting senators native engaging in commerce because it might compromise your legislative decisions. The equites were patrician-class males, socially inferior to the senatorial class, who ran the banks, accumulated taxes, operated import-export that goods, and managed trade houses as well as the slave trade.

Freedmen were servants who had managed to to buy their liberty or whose owners had collection them free. The freedman (or woman) then became a client of their previous owner, relying top top his or she patronage. Freed slaves were granted citizenship but could not host political office. Any children the freed slaves, however, to be given complete rights as citizens. Freedmen could work any type of job they to be qualified for but often ongoing in whatever duties they had actually performed because that their former master as soon as a slave.

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Slaves to be the lowest course in culture without any kind of rights and also considered building of the master. The top quality of life as a Roman servant varied follow to one"s master and also one"s job. Life in the mines or in structure roads was significantly more difficult than skilled artisan-slaves who worked for craftsmen or offered their masters together tutors or musicians. Also so, no matter just how easy a slave"s responsibilities could seem, they were still topic to the whims the their grasp who could have lock beaten, or even killed, for any type of reason.

Romans relied heavily on slaves to do every little thing jobs they go not want to. Mrs slaves served their mistresses in every facet of their resides from helping them bathe, dress, and put on make-up come tending the children, clean the home, and assisting in shopping. Masculine slaves offered the grasp of the home in numerous capacities, including an individual assistants, children"s tutor, waiter, butler, bodyguard, overseer top top estates amongst many others. In ~ one point, the Romans considered instituting a law requiring servants to stay a certain uniform to identify themselves but decided versus this together they feared it would certainly alert the servants 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 revolt of 73-71 BCE i m sorry terrorized the Romans and haunted them for years after.


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

Most slaves were foreigners recorded in battle or bring away by slavers but some Romans marketed themselves or their youngsters into enslavement as a means of paying turn off a debt. Patrician families sometimes hosted as plenty of as 1,000 servants on a small estate and more elsewhere and these slaves offered the understand of the state through business to the nucleus of the state: the family.

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There is far more documentation top top Patrician family members than those that the lower class and also yet the straightforward paradigm was the same for both. The father to be the head that the family and also made all the decisions about finance and the elevating of children. Fathers had complete control over your children, no issue their period or marital status, indigenous birth till his death (although a son can go to court to demand emancipation for his dad if he could prove his father to be incompetent or clearly acting versus the son"s ideal interests). The father even had the best to decide whether his newborn child would be raised in the house or abandoned.

Childbirth took ar in the home, attend by a mid-wife and also the servants of the mother. Males did not participate in childbirth although sometimes, in upper-class homes, a male medical professional was referred to as to be on-hand in instance of a complicated birth. When the boy was born and cleaned, it was inserted on the floor in a blanket and the father referred to as into the room. At this point, the father could either choose the child up – signifying that was welcomed into the family – or revolve away indigenous it.

If the father rejected the child, it was taken from the house and also left in the highways to die. A father might reject the child for any reason and, every little thing it was, his will could not it is in challenged. It is likely that more daughters were rejected than sons, since sons were forced to lug on the family members name and also fortune, yet newborns could be abandoned merely because another child would ar too great a financial load on the home and, particularly if a family already had a healthy and balanced son, there was no require for another. This abandoned infants were often rescued by slave-traders that then raised and also sold them together slaves.


Women were subject to the will certainly of their fathers throughout your lives, also after they to be married, and had no politics voice or power. Daughters to be taught just how to keep and run a household, take care of their husbands and development his career. In the late stages of the roman inn Republic, women gained much more rights however were still under the regulate of their fathers and husbands.


Even so, ladies could paper for divorce, achieve abortions (with a man"s consent), inherit, manage, and also sell property, and lower-class women can run businesses, occupational in stores and also restaurants, and also operate their very own boutiques selling their wares such as jewelry, clothing, and ceramics. Women had actually no legal best over their youngsters and, in the event of a divorce, the children instantly went to the father. When a woman reached the period of about 15, her father would certainly have already found she a an ideal match however some girls were betrothed – often to much older males – at previously ages.


There to be no marital relationship ceremony as known in the contemporary day. Marital relationship was just legal in between two consenting roman inn citizens but “consent” was more than likely not constantly given freely. If a father had actually arranged a marriage for his kid or daughter, unless he was exceptionally lenient, the child was expected to go with with it even if they would like not to.

Marriage ceremonies normally took place just after sunrise, symbolizing the new life the pair was embarking on. The ceremony compelled ten witnesses in bespeak to be legal and, return there was a priest present, he did no officiate. The bride would certainly recite a traditional vow and, afterwards, the wedding party would join in a an excellent feast and then monitor the bride and groom come their brand-new home (or the father of the groom"s home).

The bride, as she walked, would certainly drop one coin devoted to the soul of roadways (an offering to carry luck to she future course in marriage) and gave two coins to her brand-new husband, one to respect him personally and the various other honoring the soul of his home. As they go together, the groom threw nuts and sweets right into the crowd and also the world who complied with them scattered the same in return (a routine remembered in the existing day in throw rice in ~ weddings) till they reached the groom"s house.


Once there, the groom would certainly lift his bride over the threshold to lug her in. Scholar Harold W. Johnston suggests that this may have been “another survive of marital relationship by capture” express the story the the Rape that the Sabine ladies (Nardo, 79). When this is possible, that could likewise have to be to avoid the bride tripping and also falling (a negative omen) or, more likely, was a symbolic gesture removing she from she old life and also carrying her quickly into her brand-new one. Nearby friends and family were climate invited right into the home where the husband available his brand-new wife fire and also water as essential aspects of the home and she kindled the an initial fire in the hearth. Afterwards, there was more feasting till the new couple retired because that the night.

Home & family

The minimum legal age for a girl to be married to be 12 and, for a boy, 15 however most males married later, about the age of 26. This was because males were thought to be mentally unbalanced between the periods of 15-25. Lock were assumed to be ruled totally by your passions and unable to do sound judgements. Girl were thought to it is in far an ext mature in ~ an earlier age (an accepted fact in the modern-day day) and so were prepared for the duties of marital relationship when lock were, frequently considerably, younger than the groom.

The main purpose that the marital relationship was come produce and also raise children who would become responsible and productive members of society. Due to the fact that males conquered the society hierarchy, the emphasis of the residence was mostly on the first-born son. Nine days after ~ the bear of a male child (eight days because that a female), the infant was offered a surname in the purification ceremony recognized as the Lustratio and also received an amulet come ward off angry spirits. The amulet for boys was called a bulla if a girls" amulet was referred to as a lunula. This objects were made of command or towel and, in wealthier homes, gold.

Boys wore the bulla daily until the age of 15 once they were thought about a man after a coming-of-age ceremony and became a citizen. Girl wore the lunula until shortly prior to their marital relationship when castle discarded it together with their childhood toys and clothes and also put ~ above women"s garments and accessories. The young would have been raised to discover his father"s service and, if a Patrician or Equites, come ride, hunt, and also fight. During the roman inn Republic, military service was compulsory and so every male was teach martial an abilities regardless of course while, during the empire, military business was voluntary. Girls, as noted, were increased to come to be wives and mothers and even despite there room notable examples of powerful women in roman inn history, these were still married women through children.


The residence may have been administrate by the father yet it was kept by the mom on every level and this included making it a haven the peace and harmony. Although everyone in the household was responsible because that pleasing the gods and spirits, it dropped primarily come the mrs of the house to ensure the the family members spirits to be honored daily. These spirits included the panes and penates (spirits the the pantry and kitchen) and also the genius (spirit of manhood that the head the the separation, personal, instance home). The lares (spirits of one"s ancestors) and parentes (spirits the one"s immediate family) to be honored through the festival of Parentalia. There were likewise the manes (collective spirits of the dead) and the lemures (wrathful dead) honored and also appeased in the communal festival that Lemuria.

Religion & the State

Religion informed each home, community, and also the state. The state sponsored and also encouraged homogeneous spiritual belief and ritual and also religion empowered the state. All through the year there were festivals celebrating the gods, good deeds the the past attached with the gods, and the harvest listed by providence. The birthday of the head that the family honored the genius of that household who permitted the father to recognize what necessary to be done in any given situation and also find the stamin and ability to carry out it. Daily rituals in the residence honoring the panes and penates to be echoed through the state honoring national gods, exemplified in the function of the Vestal Virgins and the spiritual fire that the goddess the hearth, home, and family, Vesta.

The biggest festival of the roman inn calendar to be Saturnalia, honoring the farming god the seed, sowing, and also the harvest, Saturn. Saturnalia to be celebrated, in some periods, from the 17th-23rd that December and during the festival all work stopped, enterprise closed, and also traditions to be suspended. This was the only time that the year when the head the the family relinquished responsibility and a junior member the the house took control. All laws and rituals were relaxed, servants were allowed to sign up with the festivities together equals, and also parties replaced council meetings, assemblies, and building-project planning boards.

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People pull in colorful clothes, decorated their houses with flowers, wreaths, and also ceramic figurines, and also invited friends and also family in because that feasts and also drink if communal celebrations invited everyone in the neighborhood. Presents were exchanged, typically including tiny figurines the Saturn as the giver of all good gifts and, the following day, everyone recovered from the festivities and went back to their regular lives.

Saturnalia, obviously, to be the ancient precursor come the modern-day Christmas celebration. Scholars generally agree the Jesus Christ was most likely born in the spring yet the Church, in keeping with its plan of Christianizing well-known pagan holidays, made decision the 25th the December come celebrate Christ"s birth in stimulate to replace Saturnalia with their own holiday. Saturnalia was only the many popular and also welcome of many spiritual festivals transparent the year, however, and also these all served to bind Roman society together together a solitary unit through the head-of-state as the head-of-the-household that the cohesive family of the roman inn people.