How important was the stable family to Roman society?

Essay by juschillinhoneyUniversity, Bachelor'sB-, January 2003

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The concept of the 'stable family' is one with which most people are familiar with. Throughout time it would appear the family unit has always been viewed with significance and has been the vehicle through which support and stability are provided in an individuals life.

Whilst evidence to support the importance of the stable family unit is vast, it would appear that interpretations and loyalties have varied during different periods. I will be looking at how important the stable family unit was to Roman Citizens in both periods of Republic and Empire.

Evidence suggests that from around 600BC to the 1st Century AD, families were organized in a similar way to mini Greek city-states. Everybody in one family lived in the same home. Those sharing a home would have included great grandparents, grandparents, parents and children.

The family was an important institution to citizens of Ancient Rome. It was essential for the family to be seen as a strong, untouchable unit and Roman family members worked together to maintain this family structure.

The family unit in this period had its foundations in strong discipline, responsibility for each family member, which in turn would create a sense of belonging and loyalty and perhaps most importantly, respect for their elders.

Dixon, 1992 (page 28) draws attention to the way the family, throughout the period provided the 'basis of economic production and the most important locus of the preservation and redistribution of property through marriage and between the generations upon death'. This appears to be a trend with a number of historians emphasising the material aspects of the family. However this is not to assume that a materialistic attitude was prevalent. Dixon further points out that an emotional aspect to family life was very much a factor in Roman society. She illustrates in...