Roman Adoption

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New Testament Survey

CHAL 1733

Vincent Facione

Roman Adoption

October 14, 2010

Julie Turner


The Romans took their adoption very seriously. The process they used is quite different than the American adoption process. Not to say that Americans do not take it seriously, but it is drastically different than that of the Romans. The Romans essentially looked at adoption as a parallel to the human and God in that once you have been adopted, you leave your old life behind, much like when you become a Christian, you confess your sins and start over.

In Roman law, the father had absolute control over his children just as he had over his slaves. This was referred to as patria potestas. In this patria potestas, a son did not have the right to own property and the father could even sell his son as well as submit his son any punishment he deemed necessary.

Adoption was also irrevocable in ancient Rome, as stated in the Roman-Syrian law book, a father can never put away his adopted son, although he can put his biological son away as long as there is strong ground to support it. It is very amazing that an adopted son could have more privileges than a blood born son but that is the way the Roman law was. If you were adopted, you were made a promise.

There were two steps to the patria potestas:


It was carried out by a symbolic sale, in which copper and scales were symbolically used. Three times the symbolism of sale was carried out. Twice the father symbolically sold his son, and twice he bought him back; and the third time he did not buy...