SMC How Ancient Rome Grew in Both Population and Territory Discussion

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How did expansion affect Roman society and culture? By the second century B.C.E., the Romans ruled much of the Mediterranean world, and tremendous wealth poured into Rome, especially from the East, though holding on to Roman provinces was also costly because of military expenditures. Roman institutions, social patterns, and ways of thinking changed to meet the new era. Some looked nostalgically back at what they fondly considered the good old days and idealized the traditional agrarian and family-centered way of life. Others embraced the new urban life and eagerly accepted Greek culture. Roman Families The core of traditional Roman society was the family, and the word family (familia) in ancient Rome actually meant all those under the authority of a male head of household, including nonrelated slaves, freedmen, and servants. In poor families, this group might be very small, but among the wealthy, it could include hundreds of slaves and servants. The male head of household was called the paterfamilias. Just as slave owners held power over their slaves, fathers held great power over their children, which technically lasted for their children’s whole lives. Initially this seems to have included power over life and death, but by the second century B.C.E., that had been limited by law and custom. Fathers continued to have the power to decide how family resources should be spent, however, and sons did not inherit until after their fathers had died. In the early republic, legal authority over a woman generally passed from her father to her husband on marriage, but the Laws of the Twelve Tables allowed it to remain with her father even after marriage. That was advantageous to the father, and could also be to the woman, because her father might be willing to take her side in a dispute with her husband, and she could return to her birth family if there was quarreling or abuse. By the late republic, more and more marriages were of this type, and during the time of the empire (27 B.C.E.–476 C.E.), almost all of them were. To marry, both spouses had to be free Roman citizens. Most citizens did marry, with women of wealthy families marrying in their midteens and non-elite women in their late teens. Grooms were generally somewhat older than their brides. Marital agreements, especially among the well-to-do, were stipulated with contracts between the families involved. According to Roman law, marriage required a dowry, a payment of money, property, and/or goods that went from the bride’s family to the groom. If their owner allowed it, slaves could enter a marriage-like relationship called contubernium, which benefited their owner because any children produced from it would be his. People who were not slaves or citizens certainly lived together in marriage-like relationships, but these had no standing before the law and their children could not legally inherit. Weddings were central occasions in a family’s life, with spouses chosen carefully by parents, other family members, or marriage brokers. Professional fortune-tellers were frequently consulted to determine whether a match was good or what day would be especially lucky or auspicious for a couple to marry. The ceremony typically began with the bride welcoming the groom and the wedding party to her home for a feast, and then later the whole group progressed with much noise to the groom’s household. It would be very unlucky if the bride tripped while going into the house, so the groom often carried her across the doorstep. The bride’s entrance into the groom’s house marked the point at which the two were married. As elsewhere in the ancient world, no public officials or priests were involved. Women could inherit and own property under Roman law, though they generally received a smaller portion of any family inheritance than their brothers did. A woman’s inheritance usually came as her dowry on marriage. In the earliest Roman marriage laws, men could divorce their wives without any grounds, and women could not divorce their husbands. By the second century B.C.E., however, these laws had changed, and both men and women could initiate divorce. By then, women had also gained greater control over their dowries and other family property, perhaps because Rome’s military conquests meant that many husbands were away for long periods of time and women needed some say over family finances. Although marriages were arranged by families primarily for the handing down of property, preserving wealth, and legitimizing children, the Romans, in something of a contradiction, viewed the model marriage as one in which husbands and wives were loyal to one another and shared interests and activities. The Romans praised women who were virtuous and loyal to their husbands and devoted to their children. (See “Viewpoints: Praise of Good Women in the Eulogy for Murdia and the Turia Inscription.”) Traditionally minded Romans thought that mothers should nurse their own children and personally see to their welfare. Non-elite Roman women did nurse their own children, although wealthy women increasingly employed slaves as wet nurses and to help them with child rearing. Very young children were under their mother’s care, and most children learned the skills they needed from their own parents. For children from wealthier urban families, opportunities for formal education increased in the late republic. Boys and girls might be educated in their homes by tutors, who were often Greek slaves, and boys also might go to a school run by a private teacher and paid for by their parents. Household Shrine to the Gods and Ancestors Two protector deities (lares), each holding a container for liquid, flank an ancestor-spirit (which the Romans called the “genius”), his head covered as a sign of reverence, who holds a box for incense and a bowl for offerings. At the bottom a snake, symbol of fertility and prosperity, approaches an altar. This elaborate shrine in the entryway of the house of two wealthy freedmen in Pompeii was a symbol of their prosperity and upward mobility, but even poor families had a designated space for protective lares figures. Most people in the expanding Roman Republic lived in the countryside. Farmers used oxen and donkeys to plow their fields, collecting the dung of the animals for fertilizer. Along with crops raised for local consumption and to pay their rents and taxes, many farmers raised crops to be sold. These included wheat, flax for making linen cloth, olives, and wine grapes. Until the late republic most Romans, rich and poor, ate the same plain meals of bread, olives, vegetables, and a little meat or fish, with fruit for dessert. They used fingers and wooden spoons to serve themselves from simple pottery or wooden bowls and plates. They usually drank water or wine mixed with water from clay cups. Drinking unmixed wine was considered a sign of degeneracy. The Romans took three meals a day: an early breakfast, a main meal or dinner in the middle of the day, and a light supper in the evening. Dinner was also a social event, the main time for Romans to visit, chat, and exchange news. Afterward everyone who could afford the time took a long nap, especially during the hot summer months. Most Romans worked long days, and an influx of slaves from Rome’s wars and conquests provided additional labor for the fields, mines, and cities. To the Romans, slavery was a misfortune that befell some people, but it did not entail any racial theories. Slave boys and girls were occasionally formally apprenticed in trades such as leatherworking, weaving, or metalworking. Well-educated slaves served as tutors or accountants, ran schools, and designed and made artwork and buildings. For loyal slaves, the Romans always held out the possibility of freedom, and manumission, the freeing of individual slaves by their masters, was fairly common, especially for household



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Describe how ancient Rome grew in both population and territory
The main way that Rome grew in both populations and territory was through countless years
spent on conquest. Through conquest the Romans were able to build an empire and expand
through vast areas of the world. Conquest was an integral part of the growth for the city of
Rome, however there are other key factors that can be l...


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