Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Roman Family and Private Life

Today in my Ancient Roman History class I am giving a presentation about Roman Family and Private life (along with another girl, but, as she told me multiple times while I worked on our project, she isn't here to do school...girls like her are the reason I hate group projects). But frustrations aside, I thought I would give you the annotated version.

We've been talking a lot in class about the public lives of Romans and Rome in general, but we haven't really gone into depth about the private lives of Romans--what they did when they were done conquering for the day and went home. Multiple sources have stated that Rome the city was merely an extension of the Roman household and the household was synonymous with the family. So just as everyone under the roof of one house was included in the family, all of the places Rome conquered and annexed were also included as part of Rome. Also, just as the Vestal Virgins had to keep the eternal flame of the public hearth lit, the women of the household had to keep the private hearth lit. Each household also included the household gods.

The houses themselves varied on how wealthy its inhabitants were. Poorer Romans might have small farms in the country or live in the city in small apartments above shops. The wealthier Romans could have a villa in the country as well as a house in the city. These houses of the well-off Romans featured a private area in the back which was windowless and included the bedrooms and other rooms for family use as well as an area in the front of the house which was used for social purposes like dining and entertaining. This front part was more luxurious than the back part. The dining room in Roman houses was located in the middle, between the private and social areas, but was arguably the most important room of the house.

Dinner traditions varied only slightly between rich and poor Romans; the biggest difference was the menu and mealtime entertainment. All Romans treated their houses as their retreats, a place to keep work and home distinct, and as such they respected mealtime. The actual room was set up like a theater with couches arranged on three sides of the table. The fourth side was where the slaves would serve the meal. People ate reclining on their left elbows to show just how relaxed they were. The dinner consisted of three courses or more with entertainment between each course and usually a reading after.

Weddings in ancient Rome were more of a formality than anything. Marriages were arranged to make political/economic ties and the weddings reflected this in their structure. They were basically just a public declaration of intent to live together, since that's all marriage was. Because of this divorce was easy, only a declaration not to live together had to be made in front of witnesses. The resulting marriage after the wedding continued to be the joining of two families and love was not nearly as important as harmony between man and woman. Sex between married couples was only for procreation. The men held the power and the women found value only in being mothers.

As the heads of the households, fathers made most decisions--even the decision of life and death for their children. They might teach their own children in the home or they would hire a Greek slave to tutor them. All in all, though, most men spent the majority of their time out of the household and left it to the women.

Roman women, who were encouraged to become Roman mothers, oversaw the day to day running of the household. Women could read and write but more important were their talents in weaving and spinning. A woman did not have legal status until she bore three living children, more proof that women were only valued as mothers. Sometimes wet nurses lived in the home to help raise the children, both free and slave.

Though procreation was important, Romans also practiced adoption (usually of family members). The free and slave children grew up together in the house and this caused bonds of great loyalty between them. Education in ancient Rome was diverse since most children were taught within the home. It was seen as more of an apprenticeship where the children learned to become Roman so each household decided the specific curriculum. They all learned to read and write while girls also had to learn spinning and weaving and the boys focused more on political and economical studies.

So there you have it. It took me almost an hour to type that all up so I should be good to go for my presentation. I mean, our presentation. Other things planned for today: Marina has a viewing assignment at an art gallery and I am joining her for that and I need to get to bed earlier since I am once again going to try to make it to that high school to speak to the English class there. I got modified directions and printed out some maps so I think I'll make it this time.

1 comment:

  1. Good luck on the presentation, it is quite interesting. You're probably finished with it by now I guess. I'm looking forward to hearing about the high school experience. Hope you found your way okay.