Sunday, July 15, 2012

World History I: Characterizing Roman Society

Characterizing Roman Society

The family was the basic unit of Roman society. Under Roman law, the male head of the household—usually the father—had absolute power in the family. He enforced strict discipline and demanded total respect for his authority. His wife was subject to his authority and was not allowed to administer her own affairs. The ideal Roman woman was loving, dutiful, dignified, and strong.

The Role of Women Changes Over Time
Roman women played a larger role in society than did Greek women. They could own property, and, in later Roman times, women from all classes ran a variety of businesses, from small shops to major shipyards. Those who made their fortunes earned respect by supporting the arts or paying for public festivals. However, most women worked at home, raising their families, spinning, and weaving.

Over the centuries, Roman women gained greater freedom and influence. Patrician women went to the public baths, dined out, and attended the theater or other forms of public entertainment with their husbands. Some women, such as Livia and Agrippina the Younger, had highly visible public roles and exercised significant political influence.

Romans Educate all Children
Both girls and boys from the upper and lower classes, all learned to read and write. By the later years of the republic, many wealthy Romans would hire private tutors, often Greeks, to supervise the education of their children. Under their guidance, children memorized major events and developments in Roman history. Rhetoric was an important subject for boys who wanted to pursue political careers.

Roman Religious Practices
The Romans believed in numerous gods and goddesses, many of whom they adapted from Greek religion. Like the Greek god Zeus, the Roman god Jupiter ruled over the sky and the other gods. His wife Juno, like the Greek goddess Hera, protected marriage. Romans also prayed to Neptune, god of the sea, whose powers were the same as those of the Greek god Poseidon. On the battlefield, they turned to Mars, the god of war.

The Roman calendar was full of feasts and other celebrations to honor the gods and goddesses and to ensure divine favor for the city. As loyal citizens, most Romans joined in these festivals, which inspired a sense of community. Throughout Rome, dozens of temples housed statues of the gods. In front of these temples, Romans took part in ritual activities such as worshipping the gods and asking for divine assistance.

What social rights did Roman women have?