The History of Rome - Early Roman Society Facts
- Still today in Italian culture the father, grandfather, or great grandfather
has the greatest authority and respect. The eldest father, or patriarch is
similar to a mafia Godfather.
- The father of the Roman family had the power over everyone and everything in
the home. He could sell his wife or children into slavery and order their
deaths at will. He could extend this power to his slaves and tenant farmers as
-The Roman father also had the duties of pietas
, or offering proper sacrifices to the household gods at the right times.
- The family gods were the lares, or gods of the fields and the penates, or
gods of the household stores and food supply.
- Education of children in the Roman world was done much differently from the
way we educate our own children today. Though athletic training and sports were
done in groups the essential learning skills were never done in groups like we
do today. Much of the Roman education of children was adopted from the Greeks.
- Education varied with social class despite their efforts to provide a
uniform education to all citizens.
- There were three phases to a proper Roman education, primary instruction,
reading of literature (called grammar
by the Romans) and formal schooling in rhetoric.
- Mythology was popular, and the works of Plato, Aristotle, and other Greek
scholars were important in the education of the young Roman.
- A son of a rich merchant of the Equestrian class would receive an education
that included personal training in business management. A noblewoman's
education would prepare her for administration of a large estate and hundreds of slaves
during her husband's absence. The sons of craftsmen would be apprentices,
either in their father's shop or in the shop of another local craftsman of the same
- The father in the traditional Roman home was a very stern figure, and
believed his sons shouldn't be pampered but must build character. It was important
that the young man develop gravitas
, a serious and sturdy sense of purpose.
- The little amount of comfort and physical love the child was allowed came
from his mother or his nurse, who might be either male or female. This nurse
often remained the boy's loyal servant even after he had grown up.
- A child might never see his mother and father except in the evenings for a
formal dinner with the family.
- As the boy grew, he was given a pedagogue
or private tutor. The pedagogue was responsible for teaching the child basic
reading ad writing skills and also prepared him for learning the important art
of rhetoric, or public speaking.
- Writing was done on a wax tablet with an ivory, bone, or metal stylus with
an eraser (smoother) on the opposite end to correct mistakes.
- The Grammaticus
taught the sons of craftsmen and merchants correct sentence structure and
speaking form. He had the right to swat the child across the back with a stick if
he made grammar mistakes. In early times the Grammaticus was not always highly
respected in Roman society and during the Republican period, the Senate
banned all philosophers and grammaticii from Rome because they corrupted the
minds of young Romans by teaching them to be "lazy and overly clever."
- Great universities also existed in the Mediterranean world. The best were at
Athens and alexandria, and also Rome herself, although Rome had the best
schools for the practice of law and government. In Athens, a student could get a
classical education studying Greek dramas, poetry, logic, mathematics, or
philosopy (science, mathematics, and other branches of knowledge).
- Children always learned rigorous military discipline which included the arts
of war, swordsmanship, hand to hand combat, and the way of life in an army
camp. Basic training was very harsh and the boy learned quickly to endure cold and
hunger in order to teach him to survive while in a war. This stern training
was valued by all Romans.
- Some families provided an education to their girls and others considered an
educated woman to be lacking in the feminine virtues.
- The first and last name of a Roman were similar to the way we use them
today. The first two names, the praenomen
, were much like first and last names in our time. The nomen was the family
name, passed from a father to all of his children. Just like today, certain
family names carried more prestige than others. A boy was given a praenomen name at
birth and was known by it to his family and close friends. Many boys were given
exactly the same praenomen and nomen.
- It is almost always noticed that most Roman names end with the letters "us",
all the truly Roman praenomen and nomen ended in the letters "us," even the
ones often given different endings in modern translations.
- The cognomen
was the third name and usually was given later in life as a title of
distinction, for example Gaius Julius Caesar, or might refer to some physical
characteristic, for example Rufus meant "red-haired". The cognomen might be handed down
to a man's children, or it might not.
- Most popular praenomina were always represented on official documents and
inscriptions with a standard abbreviation.
- Women carried, as their legal names, only the feminine form of their
father's nomen. For example, all the daughters of all the Julius family were legally
named Julia. A woman might also use a form of her father's cognomen and so be
known as Julia Caesaria.
- A slave freed by his master adopted the master's first two names and added
his own slave name as cognomen. For example, Marcus Tullius Tiro was the freed
slave secretary of Marcus Tullius Cicero.
- Women were usually Noble Ladies, Warrior Queens, Soldiers' Wives, Farmer's
Daughters, and Slaves
- Food for the common people consisted of wheat or barley, olive oil. a little
fish, wine, home grown vegetables, and few owned a goat or cow or chickens.
The grain was ground into flour and baked into loaves of bread, much like the
round Italian loaves today.
- Round loaves have been popular amongst almost all Mediterranean people since
ancient times. They were baked in round ceramic bowls, like the plaster casts
of loaves found at Pompeii which was destroyed in the eruption of Mount
Vesuvius in 79 AD.
- Barley was considered the food of slaves.
- Roman soldiers carried their grain (high gluten wheat) and flour grindstones
with them on the march. At night, after their 20 mile daily march they would
have pasta and baked bread. They preferred this even over meat. When they did
eat meat they considered it to be "barbarian food."
- Plaster casts of Roman bread from Pompeii can be seen today exactly as they
came from the oven 1913 years ago.