The Roman Household (Paterfamilias)

Information about the paterfamilias in a Roman household, key words to learn are written in bold.

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  • Created on: 14-05-11 19:18
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The Roman Household
The paterfamilias was the male head of a Roman household. The Roman word
`familia' meant more than our notion of `family'; it included all the slaves and
property of the house and so really meant something more like `household'.
The paterfamilias had legal power over the whole household. In early Roman
times, this included the power of life and death. Although by the time of the
empire, this was only really the case for a new-born child. If a baby born into
the household was unwanted or illegitimate, then the paterfamilias could
choose to have it abandoned or left to die.
The paterfamilias was responsible for the welfare of his family. He would
certainly want to oversee the education of his children (particularly his sons),
and might appoint a slave known as a paedagogus to act as a tutor. He would
speak regularly with the paedagogus about how the studies were progressing.
When his daughter reached puberty, the father was responsible for arranging
her marriage ­ very offten this happened without the girl having any say at all.
The paterfamilias would expect his wife to be loyal and hard-working in the
home. While he would also have to manage the purchase of any slaves for the
household.

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