Ancient/Classical History/Ancient Roman families


Dear Maria,

I learnt some culture of roman empire from class and books.
However, I am wondering why the family structure of ancient Rome was so valuable. What made the father so powerful in the family? And how much of ancient roman family structure influence nowadays,or the social status of men and women?

Thanks you.


the family structure of ancient Rome was really valuable as well as  the other charateristics of the Roman people such as patriotism, honour, discipline,respect for the ancestors.

What made the father so powerful in the family was the  firm belief that the “paterfamilias” (literally, “the father of the family”) was the head of the  family which was just the basic unit of ancient Roman society  ruled by its head, the paterfamilias, to whom his wife, his slaves, and his descendants were subject and in whom title to all property was vested, so that a son or any other member of the family, even as an adult, did not own anything until he had been released from membership by emancipation.

In short, the paterfamilias was responsible for all liabilities incurred by any member, according to the system of the Twelve Tables ( Latin, Lex XII Tabularum),  the earliest written legislation of ancient Roman law, traditionally dated 451–450 BC and posted, likely on bronze tablets, in the Roman Forum.

As for the social status of men and women, I have to point out that men, if Roman citizens, enjoyed a wide range of privileges and protections  such as civil and political rights, whereas Roman women had a limited form of citizenship, since they were not allowed to vote or stand for civil or public office, though  a rich woman might participate in public life by funding building projects or sponsoring religious ceremonies. Moreover  Roman women had the right to own property, to engage in business, and to obtain a divorce.

To sum up, citizenship in ancient Rome was a privileged political and legal status afforded to freeborn individuals with respect to laws, property, and governance, but the rights available to individual citizen of Rome varied over time, according to their place of origin, and their service to the state. They also varied under Roman law, according to the classification of the individual within the state, so that it would be too long to specify the different status of the inhabitant of ancient Rome, according to their census or origin.
For example, a Roman citizen (Civis Romanus) could not be tortured or whipped, nor could he receive the death penalty, unless he was found guilty of treason. In this case, however, no Roman citizen could be sentenced to die on the cross, so that St.Paul who was a Roman citizen did not die on the cross like Jesus, but was beheaded.

Finally, with regard to "how much of ancient roman family structure influence nowadays",I think that  no comparison  can be made between ancient Roman family structure and our modern families.

Hope that this  brief outline can be helpful to you.
Best regards,

Ancient/Classical History

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My field of expertise is Ancient Greek and Roman History.


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I received my Classics (summa cum laude) from Genova University (Italy).

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