Women, Sexuality and the Family
DOI link for Women, Sexuality and the Family
Women, Sexuality and the Family book
The Roman family was typically an extended one, under the authority of the eldest male (the paterfamilias, or ‘father of the family’), and included all descendants except those who had been emancipated (given their independence by the paterfamilias). Hence the family might comprise not only the head of the household but children and grandchildren, the wives of married sons and grandsons, adopted children, and slaves (doc. 7.1). The paterfamilias had almost total control over all members of the household and was the only one to own property, unless he had speciﬁcally allowed any of his sons a peculium, or fund, of their own or to enter into legal contracts. This authority over family members was called patria potestas (doc. 7.2). While he had total power to kill slaves as and when he chose, it appears that his power of ‘life or death’ over his children was tempered by the custom of consulting a family council beforehand. However, should the advice of the council be in favour, then the offending family member would be put to death with no guilt incurred by the father (docs 7.12, 14-15, 17). Should the paterfamilias wish, he could emancipate any of his children, and a son would then be a paterfamilias in his own right, just as if his father had died (doc. 7.4).