chapter  11
11 Pages

Becoming a Roman student

Introduction How did Roman children come to think of themselves as students? And more fundamentally what did it mean, especially to the child, to be a student? These seem simple, perhaps even universal questions. But we know the danger of assuming that one century’s child, student, or soldier is the same as another century’s. For the historian, a term like student can be a perilous kind of homonym, especially since it is one of those words describing a humble, quotidian status. One is less tempted to believe that a Roman emperor had the same status, powers and costume as emperor Napoleon (even if he encouraged the belief). There is something about children and schooling, however, that kindles a certain sense of familiarity. We have all been students; most of the readers of this book have been students of Latin; perhaps we imagine that we are in some way continuing the culture of classical education. A hard look at the realities of childhood in the Roman empire (to be found in this volume) may be the cure for any such nostalgic act of identification.