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CLA233 Midterm Notes 1

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Michael J.Dewar

CLA233 Midterm Notes patria potestas - literally means “father-rule” – patriarchal society - structure of Roman household - children, slaves, and sometimes wife – all under patria potestas of the man of the household, the paterfamilias – those under his ‘rule’ were in turn responsible for the welfare, support, and respectability of the family – important not to lose dignitas - paterfamilias had the responsibility to ensure that the family gained dignitas, and that children married into families who also had high dignitas – dignitas accumulated over generations and therefore family was often more important to the paterfamilias than the actual personality and looks of the prospective spouse – example of Pliny the Younger in his letter about finding a match for the niece of an acquaintance - considered shameful and without dignitas for a senator, praetor and consul especially, to allow a daughter or son to marry someone beneath their social standing, who therefore had less money and less dignitas – incredibly important for the paterfamilias to take these responsibilities seriously - also the responsibility of the paterfamilias to ensure pax deorum, ‘peace of the gods’, for their family – must make sure to sacrifice the pig, cow, etc. to the gods to ensure that they protect and watch over the family – pray to the gods and remember to pay back the debts when the gods grant their prayers – to incur the wrath of the gods could be disastrous - even when the paterfamilias did not believe in the religious practices – he was responsible for the wellbeing of an entire household, most of whom were a part of his family – could not afford to be so frivolous/careless and potentially ruin their family or cause harm to them - legal ways to retain patria potestas over wife from her father – not usually done – protect daughter from her husband - symbolic selling of daughter to her husband – ceremony using scale to pay for wife - example of patria potestas – father and son consulship and patria potestas – horse story - consul – male authority and fatherhood of the entire state - by law, a father could execute his own children if he felt it necessary/if displeased with him – in theory more than an actual practice - patria potestas never as absolute in practice - comparisons with other cultures to help illustrate patria potestas – Greek and other European societies – woman is completely subordinate to the man - reality was much less cruel and strict – cultural ideals are often undermined by cultural customs and habits - however, there were cruel and sadistic paterfamilias – story of Augustus and the lampreys - limit of patria potestas – Vedius Pollio – feeding the slave to the lampreys went too far – much too severe in practice, despite his legal right to do so - emperor was granted much more leeway in terms of the laws because of his status – however, this only went so far – if the population revolted, he could be deposed or assassinated to make way for a better successor - story of Augustus and the lampreys – emperor breaks the law by using his power as emperor to invoke patria potestas in another man’s house – however the emperor did not go so far as to countermand the order given by Pollio to execute the slave – instead, he broke the law in a less obvious way, by ordering the destruction of another man’s property – “lesser of two evils” sort of situation - eventually laws softened as time went on – limit of severity in law as well as practice - state did not often intervene in family matters – a convicted person was sometim
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