Published on February 4, 2008
Roman Childhood & Adolescence: Roman Childhood & Adolescence Roman Infancy: Roman Infancy Because of high infant/child mortality rates, women had to bear many children to ensure a good chance that one or two would survive to adulthood (to inherit the domus, to further the familia with their own children). Position of Children: Position of Children Roamed throughout the domus, confined to certain areas depending on time of day. In the care of slaves: nurses, pedagogi. Romans presented children as in need of molding and control. Wore special clothing (toga praetexta) and jewelry (apotropaic amulets, rings, etc.) The Stage of Childhood: The Stage of Childhood Marked by particular (gendered) rituals, codes of behavior (status determined), personnel and emotions. Age of childhood: birth to puberty (legally defined as age 12 for girls and 14 for boys). All children were under the potestas of their paterfamilias until his death. Latin Words for Children: Latin Words for Children infans: birth to 7 years old. Romans had no word for ‘baby’ per se - infans used until age 7. Cicero spoke of his son when he was an infant as his filiolo (‘sonlet’, ‘little son’). Catullus speaks of a parvulus (little tiny one); Suetonius gives us pupus/a (doll). Latin Words for Children: Latin Words for Children liberi: freeborn legitimate children (any age) progeni/filii: offspring, sons and daughters (any age) pueri: young male and female children (not youths). puella: diminuative; arose from puera, used for both young children (7-12) and young women between puberty & marriage; also a term of affection for one’s married lover (Catullus: vale, puella!) Birth: Birth Birth was surrounded by rituals to ensure health and good luck. Midwife checks the baby for any deformities. Sublatus ceremony: father formally acknowledge the newborn by picking it up (tollere liberos). If he did not pick it up, it would be exposed (perhaps to die, perhaps to be picked up by another family to raise). Protective Deities: Protective Deities Diespater - birth Mena and Lucina - menstruation & childbirth Opis - placing the baby on the earth Vaticanus - the first cry Levana - to lift the baby from the earth Cunina - to guard the cradle Rumina - for breastfeeding (wet-nurses common) “This list reflects anxiety about a dangerous process and the need for protection of the child & mother.” Naming Ceremony (Purification Rite): Naming Ceremony (Purification Rite) Non-blood sacrifice, party with gifts. Girls were named on the 8th day after birth (feminine versions of their father’s names- Claudia, Tullia, Agrippina). Boys were named on the 9th day after birth (his own praenomen, the nomen & cognomen of his father). Children (just boys?) were given bullae, signs of free birth and protective amulets. Parents registered births within 30 days (Temple of Saturn). Body Control - Shaping: Body Control - Shaping Swaddling in different ways according to gender: Breast area: bound more tightly around girls Pelvic area: left loose around girls Feet: bound broad at the end, narrow in the middle Knees: straightened Arms: bond to the sides Head: bound separately Swaddling released gradually between 40th-60th day postpartum. Childhood Games: Childhood Games Those children who survived infancy had a variety of games to play. Knucklebones (astragali; of bronze, glass, or onyx) were thrown like dice, with each side having a different value. Marbles, Board games, Dolls, pet animals, sports, sandcastles, miniature chariots, etc. End of Early Childhood: End of Early Childhood The end of infantia (infancy) was marked by the loss of baby teeth (legally the 7th birthday). Boys now began participating in public arena by beginning their education outside of the domus. It is estimated that 50% of children who survived infancy would die before the age of 10. Socialization: Socialization Until the age of puberty, socialization took place at home for girls, and at home and school for boys. Caregivers: slaves/nurses, pedagogues, the child’s extended family. There is evidence for affection between caregivers and children. Mark of Childhood: Mark of Childhood Roman citizens, as children, were subject to physical punishment. Slave caregivers/teachers could beat their free charges. Equivalence of slaves and children in this respect. Gendered Play: Gendered Play Females were encouraged to identify themselves with their future roles as wives/mothers (dolls are not baby dolls, but young women). Males were encouraged to model their games after their future occupations (war, politics, oratory). Character Forecasting: Character Forecasting Romans believed you could see the man/woman in the child [Horace’s satire portraying his sons’ characters as revealed in how they played with their knucklebones; one too generous, the other, too miserly] Symbolic Moments in Childhood: Symbolic Moments in Childhood Sarcophagi reliefs show us how certain moments in childhood were thought to be symbolic for the movement from infancy to puberty/adulthood. Sentimentality: parents loved the child Practicality: the loss of the child means the loss of the productive adult Education: Education Both boys and girls were educated Elementary school: basic reading, writing, arithmetic. Memorization of Roman legends, laws, poetry. Self-control of body and emotions. Girls: educated at home in both the skills above and those that would make them successful wives and mothers (running the domus, working wool, etc.). Higher Education: Higher Education Grammar School: taught by a grammaticus, learned Greek and Latin grammar (upper class only). Rhetoric School: a rhetor taught the art of rhetoric, of speaking and writing formally in the most effective and persuasive way. The study and analysis of oratorical texts. Training of the body and voice. Male Transition to Adulthood: Male Transition to Adulthood Male: between 14-19, boys celebrated their formal coming of age, usually on March 17, the festival of Liber and Libera. Dedicated his childhood clothes to the household gods (along with his bulla) Put on the new white toga virilis (toga of manhood), symbolizing his new status as full citizen. Registered himself at the Tabularium. Attended large banquet given for families and friends. Female Transition to Adulthood: Female Transition to Adulthood The transition from childhood to adult was marked by marriage. Considered marriageable after age 12, but age of actual marriage varied from 15-20 depending on class and circumstance. Adolescent girls would have been carefully protected and watched, to ensure chastity. Latin Words of Female Transition: Latin Words of Female Transition puella virgo: virgin, maiden [heavy chaperoning] uxor: wife mater: mother Betrothal: Betrothal Among the elite, could happen in infancy. Parents selected husband, negotiated dowry. Bride expected to be chaste, modest, domestically capable. Groom: good character, good looks, good health. Betrothal party optional: the male sponsus often gave his sponsa a ring. Marriage: Marriage Night before wedding: girls may have dedicated their clothing and toys in a ritual. Brides donned and slept in a tunica recta and a yellow hairnet, both woven by themselves. On the wedding day, they wore belts woven from ewes’ wool to symbolize fertility, tied with special knot. Dress marked the final transition from virgo to uxor. Hairstyle: sex crines, flower garland around head. Flammeum: bridal veil covered head, face, body.