IN EARLY TIMES,
under the Kingdom and the Republic: (600
BCE to about 1c CE)
Before the Imperial Age, in very early
Roman times, a typical Roman family included unmarried children, married
sons and their families, other relatives, and family slaves.
Under the Kingdom, the ruler of the
family was the oldest male.
be the father, the grandfather, or perhaps even an uncle. His title was pater
familias. The pater familias led religious ceremonies, taught his
sons how to farm, and made all the important decisions. This word was
law as far as his family was concerned. He owned the property, and had
total authority, the power of life and death, over every member of his
Even when his children became adults, he
was still the boss. But, he was also responsible for the actions of any
member of his household. He could order a child or an adult out of his
house. If anyone in his household committed a crime, he could be
punished for something his family did. It was not against the law for
the head of the house to put a sick baby out to die or to sell members
of his family into slavery.
However, the Romans expected a pater
familias to treat his family fairly. There were no laws to stop him from
treating them unfairly, but there was social pressure.
Under the Kingdom, a women
had no legal protection. A woman's job was to take care of the house and
to have children. Mothers who could read and write taught
their children how to read and write, and taught her girls
how to cook and sew and care for a family.
But women did have some freedom. They could leave
their home to shop or see a play or visit a temple. Women who could
afford it used slaves to shop and cook. Wealthy women spent a large part of their day on personal
grooming - styling their hair, and dressing ornately.
were trained to obey their elders and be
loyal citizens. If you talked back, you
could find yourself kicked out of your house forever. You could try to go to a
friendís house, but the odds were good that they would not take
you in. Basically, if you were kicked out, the odds were very
high that you would die.
Some families kept slaves.
Slaves were treated well, in most cases,
because they were property. They had food to eat, jobs to do, and
clothes to wear. But they were not free to look for a better
family. They were slaves. They were owned.