Elite father and son relationships in Republican Rome
Murray, Lauren Donna
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The focus of this study is aristocratic fathers and sons in the middle and late Roman Republic (264 – 27 B.C.). By considering legal, literary, and material evidence, it addresses the behaviour of elite families throughout this period. Although there is a great deal of important research conducted on family relations in the ancient world more generally, there is no extensive study which analyses the bonds of duty, obligation, and affection between fathers and sons in republican Rome. It is this gap in the scholarship which is addressed in my thesis. The key aspects of this relationship are considered through several interconnected chapters. Each reflects the social nature of this analysis, and demonstrates that traditional values, dynastic considerations, and social ideals promoted a sense of common identity and unity within the household. Although the hierarchical nature of Roman family life also provided opportunities for conflict between father and son, ultimately the relationship between the two was governed by these three concerns, as well as the close correlation between public and private in the lives of the republican elite. The discussion begins by considering the high valuation of fatherhood at Rome, evidenced by the use of terms derived from pater, and argues that the qualities expected of this individual were similar to those associated with the ideal statesman (Ch. I). From there, depictions of the Roman father by Greek and Roman authors are analysed to show that the former often emphasised the morality of the episode in question, while the latter stressed the conflict between the well-being of the family and the safety of the state (Ch. II). The argument then moves on to explore social expectations. Cicero’s Pro Roscio Amerino provides an example in which the ideals for father and son relationships are manipulated in order to persuade an audience (Ch. III). This shows that pietas, duty, companionship, and support towards one another were recognised as norms for these individuals. The discussion of the paterfamilias in the following chapter demonstrates that he was expected to act as a role model for future generations, and to provide education and protection to his dependants (Ch. IV). The reputation and continuity of the family line were also important considerations for the aristocratic head of household. From there, traditional values, dynastic considerations, and social ideals are explored through the family life-cycle (Ch. V). This section establishes that these three areas fostered a sense of common identity and unity within the household, and exerted significant pressure upon fathers and sons to maintain relatively harmonious relationships. The final chapter considers literary portrayals of Rome’s founders in order to reiterate the close correlation between the ideal of the father and the ideal of the statesman (Ch. VI). It concludes that the use of the father-figure by Augustus and later emperors to legitimise their position in the state develops from the ideological significance of fatherhood in the Republic.