Family life was very important to the Romans, whether they were rich or poor. The family was, in a sense, a miniature version of the empire. The same values that were expected of people in society were expected and taught at home, within the family. The paterfamilias was the emperor of his household, and the emperor was the father of Rome.
Roman Family structure was not quite the same as a modern day family unit. In Ancient Rome a family, or familia, was a legal construction that included all of the people under the power of the father, or paterfamilias. A familia included husband, wife, married sons and their wives and children, unmarried children, slaves and clients.
The paterfamilias was the eldest living male in the familia and he had absolute authority over the lives and property of his family. This authority was known as patria potestas. In law, a paterfamilias could kill his wife or children, sell them into slavery, or formally expel them from the family.
Such actions seem rare, but the fact that they were legalized serves to emphasize the limitlessness of patriarchal authority in Imperial Rome. Most paterfamiliases would seek the advice of a family council before making any important decisions, such as who their children would marry, but they still had the final say in everything concerning those under their control.
The paterfamilias, for social, political or financial gain arranged marriages for his children. Girls married at around thirteen or fourteen years of age, men usually older. For girls, their "coming of age" was their wedding, which was held at the bride's home. The night before the wedding the bride would offer her bulla, or amulet, and childhood toys to the gods at the household shrine. On the wedding day the bride's domus, or home,