7 “Early Roman Society, Religion, and Values”
Early Roman Society, Religion, and Values
From: Schultz, Celia E., Allen M. Ward, F. M. Heichelheim, and C. A. Yeo. 2019a. “Early Roman Society, Religion, and Values” In A History of the Roman People, 7th edition. New York: Routledge
To understand Roman history, it is necessary to understand the nature of Roman personal and social relations and the religious and ethical frameworks within which they functioned.
THE PRINCIPLE OF HIERARCHY
An operative principle in all aspects of Roman life was hierarchy, the ranking of people or things from higher status, power, privilege, or value to lower. Inequality was an accepted condition of life in the Romans’ view. Under ideal circumstances, those lower down in the hierarchy owed obedience to those above. In return, those above had a duty to benefit those lower down.
The Roman family was at the center of the hierarchical social and political system. Each family itself was hierarchically structured. A patriarch, called the paterfamilias (father of the family), stood at the top (pp. 54-5). The English word family is used to translate the Latin word familia, from which it is derived. The Roman concept is not so wide ranging as the English concept in some respects and is more extensive in others. The Romans recognized different types of  kinship connections that
English often loosely lumps under the term family. There were three major classes of kin in descending order of closeness: agnates (agnati), cognates (cognati), and affines (adfines/affines). Agnates were those related by blood or adoption through a father and his male relatives up and down the line: for example, a father’s brother or sister, a paternal grandfather, a brother or sister, a brother’s children, a son, or a son’s children. Cognates were those related by blood or adoption in general, but often were those specifically in the female line, the maternum genus: for example, a mother’s brother or sister, a maternal grandfather, a sister’s children, or a daughter’s children. Affines were relatives by marriage more broadly conceived than the English term in-fall’s designates. For example, a Roman would be an affine not only to a mother-in-law, father-in-law, sister-in-law. or son-in-law but also to their parents. A stepparent, stepsibing, or stepgrandchild would also be an affine because of the relationship created by the marriage of a blood relation such as one’s mother, father, or child.
Agnates were very important in Roman law for such things as determining one’s paterfamilias, inheriting property, or choosing the guardian of a minor child in case of intestacy. Cognates and affines, however, were also highly valued and important. Along with agnates, they provided the dense networks of relations that could support one’s position in the social and political hierarchy.
Somewhat confusingly, the term cognates was also used to refer to one’s immediate family, the domus (house): one’s parents, siblings, children, and siblings’ children. The familia was closely associated with the domus but included much more. It was, rather, a hierarchical association of housemates: one’s immediate family, clients (freeborn dependents), freed slaves (liberati), and slaves. Moreover, it included the spirits of deceased ancestors, the “greater ones” (maiores). They stood at the top of a generational hierarchy. Next were the living generations. Last were those yet unborn. The living had to serve the spirits of the dead, Di Manes, by maintaining the sacrifices and rituals of the family cult and following the mos maiorum (custom of the ancestors) with utmost respect. They also would seek to earn the respect of the unborn generations by enhancing the wealth and status of the family, of which the unborn would be the heirs.
The familia consisted of property as well as persons. It was an economic unit operating under self-given rules within the community’s larger economic framework. It was also a system of defense, law, and government-a miniature state. In the earliest phase of Roman law, it was recognized as a closed, self-sufficient, self-contained association. Finally, the familia was a religious organization, a community of worship centered on the cult of the hearth and the cult of the dead.
THE PATERFAMILIAS AND PATRIA POTESTAS
The paterfamilias, the patriarchal head of the Roman family, controlled the children in the family’s male, agnatic line. He continued to do so until he died or chose to release them from his control. He might have no children of his own; he might even be a bachelor. The only qualification was that he be subject to no authority save that of the state-that he be sui iuris. That is, he was legally independent and self-sufficient  in dealing with other families and the state. In a legal sense, he was the family, and without him, there was no family or household.
The paterfamilias‘ power within his family was called patria potestas (father’s power). It was., almost absolute. The paterfamilias was the legal owner of all family property. Only he could lend, mortgage, or sell it or engage in contracts involving the family. He was also the source of law within the family. His orders were recognized by the state as having the force of law. His authority was based on ancestral custom, of which he was legally the sole judge and interpreter. He was the judge of the household. His rulings normally could not be set aside by any external authority. Unless he was declared insane, he could kill, mutilate, expel, or give into bondage his children or housemates and could break or dispose of the household property as he wished.
The patria potestas was not supposed to be despotic or tyrannical power. The father was supposed to consult other members of the family, especially the adult males and his wife, the materfamilias. Together they constituted the family council (concilium). Along with patria potestas came a duty to promote the welfare of the entire family, not destroy it by abuse. Religiously reinforced respect for and obedience to tradition usually tempered the exercise of paternal authority. It was not a brutal display of force, but a recognized distribution of the only justice that could be secured until the “moral imperative” of custom was replaced later by the “legal imperative” established by the state.
FIGURE 4.1 Junius Brutus, a Roman noble, with busts of his ancestors; lifesize marble, first century CE. 
Men within the family and marriage
Unless a paterfamilias became insane or mentally incompetent or voluntarily emancipated those under his patria potestas, his role as head of the family terminated only at his death. During his lifetime, his power extended to all of his descendants in the direct male line. In theory, an adult Roman man, his wife (if she were not still under the authority of her own paterfamilias), his children, and his dependents could be under the authority of his grandfather or even great-grandfather. In practice, the low average life expectancy in ancient times made that highly unlikely.
Inscribed burial stones, monuments, and other documents from the late Republic and early Empire, especially from Roman Egypt, indicate that the average life expectancy at birth for upper-class men was about thirty years, and that the majority of men who survived to adulthood and married did so for the first time in their mid- to late twenties. Therefore, by the age of seventeen, more than half of the men documented would have lost their fathers. These ages may be even lower for the poorer classes, for whom some evidence suggests lower life expectancy and lower age at first marriage. Still, something less than 1 percent of the population may have reached eighty, and a few even attained one hundred.
A Roman boy could legally marry after he reached puberty, which came to be defined in law as fourteen years of age for males. That coincides with the usual practice of giving a boy his toga of manhood (toga virilis) in his fifteenth year. Still, there were many reasons for a man to put off marriage until his twenties or thirties. Beginning at age seventeen, citizens of middling wealth had to serve as many as six consecutive military campaigns in the infantry, and the wealthiest citizens had to serve ten in the cavalry. It took time for both small landholders and wealthy members of the elite to acquire the resources necessary to support an independent family and household. Sons of elite families needed to acquire the training and lower military and public offices that would show their promise as suitable mates for the daughters of other prominent families. Some who were still subject to the patria potestas of long-lived fathers might have preferred to wait until they were free of such control.
A paterfamilias might choose to emancipate a son from his patria potestas. To do so, he followed a procedure known as emancipatio. He sold the son three times to a cooperative third party, who freed the son after each “sale.” The son then became sui iuris (independent). Any male, even a minor too young to father children, became a paterfamilias after the death of his own paterfamilias. A paterfamilias usually provided in his will that a minor child be provided with a tutor (guardian), who would protect the child in his place. If he did not, one of his close male agnates automatically assumed the role. For boys, guardianship ended when they reached fourteen.
Women within the family and marriage
Within the familial hierarchy, women and children were always subject to the power of some adult male. It was a world where labor was scarce and only a father’s legitimate offspring, unless explicitly excluded in a will, had a guaranteed right to inherit  the property on which a family’s welfare depended. Men viewed the strict control of access to women’s labor and power of reproduction as an absolute necessity. A law in the Twelve Tables, about 450 b.c. (p. 66), specified that a woman was always to be in the position of a daughter or ward to some adult male: her father, her husband, or a tutor (guardian). Her tutor could be a close male relative among her father’s or husband’s agnates or someone named in her father’s or husband’s will.
A woman who had no living father and no husband who had acquired control over her was sui iuris, independent, to a certain extent despite having a tutor. She could not, however, buy or sell property or make contracts without the tutor’s permission. The only exceptions were the Vestal Virgins (p. 53). During the Republic, they were free of both the patria potestas and the requirement of a tutor. Still, the Vestal Virgins were supervised by the pontifex maximus, Rome’s male chief priest.
A husband acquired control over a wife and the property that came with her as a dowry through her transference co his manus (hand). He could acquire manus over his wife in three ways. The first was a complex religious marriage ceremony known as confarreatio involving the sacrifice to Jupiter of a special cake made from a variety of wheat called far. Except when it was required for certain priests, confarreatio was largely replaced over time by a simpler form of marriage with manus called coemptio. That involved the nominal sale of the bride by her paterfamilias or guardian to her husband. In the third form of marriage, which was like a common-law marriage, manus was established through usus (use). If a man and woman consented to live together as man and wife without interruption for a full year, the woman and her dowry automatically came under her husband’s control. To avoid ma1111s in this type of marriage and remain in the power of her father or guardian, a woman had to be absent from her husband’s home for at least three consecutive nights every year.
If a wife remained in her father’s power, whatever property she brought with her to her husband reverted to her father or father’s male heirs upon her husband’s death or the dissolution of the marriage. She could also inherit a share of her birth family’s property upon her father’s death. After that, however, she would need the approval of a guardian to dispose of her property by gift, sale, or will. If a woman passed into her husband’s control through marriage with manus, her dowry became her husband’s property. At first, her dowry had to be returned if her husband divorced her. Later, there had to be a premarital agreement for that to happen, if the husband died during the marriage, a wife could inherit a share of his property. Nevertheless, she would subsequently need the approval of a guardian to dispose of her property. A groom who was not independent needed the consent of his father or guardian for marriage, just as the bride always did. In early Rome, the couple’s consent may not have been needed, but later it was required. Since girls could marry at twelve and many were fourteen to eighteen years old at first marriage, such consent would have been mostly nominal anyway.
Frequently, girls in their teens were married to men twice their age. Having reached the point where he could support a family, a husband was anxious to have children while he had enough time to raise them. Childbirth was dangerous enough before the medical advances of the last 150 years. It was even more dangerous for young mothers whose bodies were not fully matured. Infant mortality was high for the same reasons.  Therefore, if the population was to grow at all, women had to average five or six life-threatening births in their relatively short lives.
Although a wife in a marriage with manus was never legally free of some man’s complete control, there were some compensations if she belonged to the propertied classes. Her position as materfamilias within a thriving household brought her honor in society and a significant role in the household economy. While her husband conducted business and public affairs outside the home, she was mistress within. She held the keys to the family storerooms and kept track of all that was brought in or disbursed. She supervised the slaves and dependents who processed food and fiber for the household. As the ideal good wife, she was expected to spin wool herself. She also looked after the raising of the children and served as a trusted advisor on matters affecting the family.
A wife’s primary name was always the name of her birth family (p. 61): when she married, her name did not usually change. Marriages were arranged primarily to benefit both partners’ families in terms of finances., social standing, and the production of children. A wife would have been keenly aware of the role that she played in promoting her family’s interests. Through her children, relatives, social connections, and inherited property, she could help to advance her family’s fortunes.
Although fairly common in later centuries, divorce in early Rome seems to have been rare and difficult because of the prevalence of marriage with manus. In marriage with manus, only the husband or his paterfamilias could initiate a divorce, and then only on very limited grounds. Such grounds seem co have been a wife’s attempt co poison her husband or his children, adultery, and drunkenness. Even if premarital provisions had been made to send a divorced wife back with her dowry to her father, the husband kept any children. If a husband divorced a wife on other than permissible grounds, he was liable to loss of his property. In marriage without manus, a wife who was sui iuris, or her paterfamilias if she was not, could also initiate divorce, but any children still stayed with the husband.
Children and the family
Tombstones, mostly from the period of the Late Republic and later, attest to deep affection between parents and children, and archaeology has revealed that Roman children played witb many of the same toys children pby with today: rattles for babies, dolls, spinning tops, games, and balls. But Roman childhood was not all fun and games. In the hierarchical world of Rome, the needs and emotions of children were often sacrificed to the greater needs of the parents and the larger welfare of the family. Children, particularly males, were essential to provide labor and to perpetuate the agnatic family. One could not, however, risk raising too many children. The family property would be dangerously diminished if there were too many children to provide with dowries and inheritances. If there were no sons, then adopting one, usually from one’s agnates, was favored. One of the hallmarks of Roman society is the ease with which they accepted adoption.
Given the fairly short life expectancy in ancient Rome, many children were deprived of one or both parents early in life. Widowed and divorced parents often remarried.  That meant many children had a stepparent, stepsiblings, and half-siblings. Orphans would be raised by their agnatic kin. Those relatives might resent their new wards, abuse them, or take advantage of them financially. Poor orphans and children of poor parents might end up simply abandoned or sold as slaves to be raised as thieves and prostitutes.
Right after birth, a newborn was placed before the feet of the father. He acknowledged its legitimacy and his desire to rear it by picking it up. Conversely, he had the right to kill or expose (abandon outside) any child that he did not want. Girls were likely to be rejected before boys. Still, the need for all families to have suitable wives for sons must have moderated the pressure against girls somewhat.
As noted above, unless a paterfamilias was insane or mentally incompetent, he could punish his children as he wished. He could sell them into slavery or even kill them. Like slaves, children could have a peculium, an amount of money for personal use, but their paterfamilias still had legal control over it. On the other hand, suits for actions committed by children still subject to patria potestas had to be brought against the paterfamilias. The authority of a paterfamilias over his children did not take precedence over their rights and duties as citizens or as soldiers. A paterfamilias, however, could use his power to punish adult children who did not live up to their civic obligations.
The family and the state
The hierarchical, authoritarian nature of the patriarchal Roman family shaped the early Roman State. Family life fostered obedience to authority and the willingness to do one’s duty. On the civic level, the king and, later, the Republic’s magistrates stood in a position of authority similar to that of the paterfamilias. They could expect the same kind of obedience from subordinates. As commanders in war, they had the right to execute anyone who refused to obey. Under normal circumstances, the obedience to authority fostered by the Roman family helped to hold in check the centrifugal forces that also existed within the state because of each family’s pursuit of its own interests.
What concerned the families as a group, particularly the most powerful among them, was the state, the res publica (literally the “common wealth” or “common thing,” “the community”). Its close connection with the fathers of the leading families is confirmed by the Latin word for country, patria. It comes from the adjective patrius, “belonging to the father.” Roman religion and law are thought to be extensions of the religious and ethical practices of the families and fathers who made up and controlled the community.
The predominance of the family over the state never completely disappeared in Roman history. That can be seen in the dynastic ambitions of Roman emperors right up to the end of the Empire. The family was a living thing; the state was not. Citizens could be motivated to benefit the state not so much for the state’s sake as for the honor, prestige, and glory gained for themselves and their families. Ancestral death masks and busts adorned the upper-class Roman home to remind the living of the standards to be met. The ancestors’ approval and the chance to perpetuate oneself in the memory of future generations were powerful incentives to civic action. Yet in periods of crisis where the interests of the family seemed to be at variance with those of the state, there was always a great temptation to sacrifice the state’s interests. Therefore, the state could become a battleground of competing interests among the powerful families that controlled it. 
PATRONS AND CLIENTS
In early Rome, a man not protected by a powerful paterfamilias was at the mercy of those above him in the social hierarchy. He could make up for this deficiency by attaching himself as a client (cliens) to a more powerful man, a patron (patronus). The patron would protect him in many of the same ways that a father would. The etymological connection between the words patronus and pater (father) is obvious. The relationship between patron and client was strengthened by the religiously sanctioned concept of fides, faithfulness in performing one’s obligations (p. 71). It was an offense against the gods for either a patron or a client, once having accepted their mutual relationship, to shirk their duties.
The attitudes behind the patron-client relationship also affected dealings between Rome and other states. It was always Roman policy to grant a treaty to others only from a position of strength and not accept one forced on Rome. Therefore, Rome assumed the superior position of a patron, not the inferior one of a client, nor even one of an equal partner. Fides obligated the Romans to abide by any treaty and look out for the interests of the other party. Conversely, the other party was expected to he a faithful client to its Roman patron in ways that often were not spelled out. Allies failing to understand this Roman attitude and thinking themselves not obligated beyond the letter of a treaty could quickly find themselves the object of unexpected Roman anger.
SLAVES AND FREEDMEN
The existence of slavery was never questioned in antiquity, least of all by the Romans. It seemed to be a logical part of a hierarchical order. Today, any slave system is intolerable. At least the early Roman system avoided some of the worst features of slavery. It was not based on anything like the modern misguided notion of race. The evils of chattel slavery did not arise until later, with the exploitation of masses of slaves in large agricultural or industrial operations. In early Rome, slaves probably were not numerous. Failure to pay off debts was often a cause for enslavement. Women and children captured in war were usually enslaved and put to work.
Slaves in early Rome were valuable, and they constituted an integral part of the family as they worked beside other members of the family at home or in the fields. They could reasonably look forward to at least informal manumission, a grant of freedom, after some years of faithful service. At that time, they became freedmen (liberti, sing. libertus) or freedwomen (libertae, sing. liberta). They could be required by the terms of their manumission to fulfill various obligations to their former masters. Slaves who were freed in formal legal procedures even became Roman citizens.
ROMAN NAMES AND THE GENS
All Roman citizens belonged to a larger, ostensibly genealogical group called a gens (pl. gentes), often translated as “clan.” The name of one’s gens, the nomen gentilicium,  was a person’s most important name. It was the second of the three names often borne by a male citizen. The first name (praenomen), was the personal name: oldest sons were named after their fathers. The last, or surname (cognomen), if there was one, indicated the branch of the gens to which one’s male lineage belonged. In some cases a cognomen attached to a family for generations because of a particular physical trait of one individual. For example, Cicero, the famous orator and statesman, was named Marcus Tullius Cicero. Therefore, he belonged to the Ciceronian line of the Tullian gens. A cicer is Latin for “chickpea”: the story is that a distant relative had a cleft on the end of his nose that looked like the legume. To take another example, although we often refer to Julius Caesar, Julius was not his first name. Caesar’s praenomen was Gains; Julius is his clan-name (nomen). His cognomen, Caesar, means “hairy”; given the Roman penchant for mocking the physical appearance of others and given the fact that the family had been called Caesar for generations, we are left to wonder if the men of the family were all, like the most famous Caesar, bald. In other instances, a cognomen only attached to an individual and not to the family as a whole. Originally, Caesar’s eventual rival, Pompey, was named only Gnaeus Pompeius. He later acquired the cognomen Magnus (“the Great”) because of his early military exploits. When a non-Roman or former slave received Roman citizenship, he adopted the gentilicium of the man who sponsored or freed him. Since the nomen gentilicium provided the crucial identification for a Roman, scholarly books or reference works in ancient history will usually list a Roman under his or her gentilicium. In this book, for example, the three aforementioned men are found in the index under “Tullius,” “Julius,” and “Pompeius,” respectively.
Because the male family line was more important than the individual, fathers and sons often bore the same praenomen for generations, or two names might alternate between fathers and sons. If there were more than one son each generation, other sons would be named for other male agnates, such as a father’s brothers. As a result, during the Republic, there were only about sixteen commonly used male first names, which were usually indicated by such easily recognized abbreviations as “L.” for Lucius, “M.” for Marcus, “P.” for Publius, “Q.” for Quintus, and “T.” for Titus. Gaius and Gnaeus are abbreviated “C.” and “Cn.” because “g” and “c” were not distinguished in the earliest Roman alphabet.
Since women in early Rome counted even less as individuals than men, they usually had only one official name throughout the republican period-the female form of the father’s gentilicium. Therefore, Cicero’s daughter was named Tullia and Caesar’s, Julia. If a father raised more than one daughter, their formal names were all the same. Hence, the three infamous sisters of P. Clodius, the even more infamous enemy of Cicero (pp. 270-1), were all named Clodia. They may have been distinguished informally at home as Prima, Secunda, and Tertia (Clodia the First, the Second, and the Third). Although women did not, as a rule, change their names after they married, they were sometimes referred to with a possessive form of their husbands’ name, often the cognomen if he had one, after her own. Thus, the Clodia who married Q. Caecilius Metellus Celer is known in modem scholarship as Clodia Metelli (Metellus’ Clodia) and her sister who married L. Licinius Lucullus is known as Clodia Luculli. 
The origin of the gens
The origin of the gens as a genealogical group is hard to discover. among patterns in the rest of central Italy indicate the existence of similar groups among surrounding peoples. They may have had their roots in warrior bands where loyal followers adopted the name of their leader to promote solidarity. The existence of such bands is indicated -in seventh-century B.C.E. burials where lower status graves a.re grouped a.round the princely graves of some wealthy warriors. The story of Attus Clausus (Atta Claudius, Appius Claudius) and his 4000 dependents receiving citizenship en bloc in the early Republic lends support to this theory. So does the Lapis Satricamus, an inscription from Satricum, south of Rome. It mentions a Publius Valerius, who may have been the leader of a hand of warriors;
During the Monarchy, such warrior bands may have been incorporated into the Roman. arm.y as Rome expanded its territory under the kings. Those men who did not belong to such a band would have been assigned to one or had one created for them. Before the creation of separate rural tribes Rome was divided into four urban, tribes and twenty-six rural districts (pagi) or regions (regiones). The total of tribes and rural territories combined corresponds to the thirty curiae of the early Roman army (p. 50). Probably, each rural district was identified by the name of its biggest gens. Significantly, when the rural districts were initially grouped into fewer, larger tribes, each tribe seems to have taken its name from that of a gens.
Patrician and nonpatrician gentes
In keeping with the Roman passion for hierarchical distinction, at some point before the end of the Monarchy and the beginning of the Republic (ca. 500 B.C.E.), certain gentes seem to have become distinguished as patrician. The members of those gentes, the patricians, had more prestige and privileges than the members of the other gentes. The word patrician (patricius) is derived from the word for father, pater (pl. patres). In archaic Rome, the word patres, “fathers,” also applied to the men who monopolized the important priesthoods, held the office of interrex, and elected kings. Eventually, as a special group within the senate, they claimed the sole right to approve or reject legislation during the early Republic.
Perhaps the original patres were the fathers of the families whose clans headed the early tribes and rural districts that constituted the territory of the. early Roman State. The family cults that they maintained might then have been incorporated into the public cults of the early state and secured for their gentes the privilege of supplying ·public priests. Patricians became further divided into greater and lesser gentes (patres maiorum gentium and patrcs minorum gentium). Perhaps, some patrician gentes were designated as “greater” after giving their names to tribes later consolidated out of the original twenty-six rural districts. Unfortunately, much has to remain in the realm of learned conjecture and speculation.
As a result of later developments, the nonpatrician gentes came to be identified as plebian. For the late Monarchy and the beginning of the Republic, it is best to refer to patricians and nonpatricians. What did not automatically distinguish patricians and  nonpatricians was wealth. Many nonpatricians were as wealthy as patricians. The great majority was not. Neither did the distinction have any particular ethnic basis. Both patricians and nonpatricians were a mixture of Latin, Sabine, and Etruscan elements. Nor were all nonpatricians clients of patricians, although many probably were.
As Roman citizens, nonpatricians had the right to make commercial contracts, own real property, contract valid marriages, sue or be sued in court, and vote in the popular assemblies of the early state. They could not hold public priesthoods. A few outstanding non- patricians probably did obtain high office and membership in the senate. Patricians trying to build up networks of useful supporters may have helped them, even to the point of establishing ties of marriage. Over time, however, the patricians tried to assert exclusive rights to political leadership as a privileged noble class in the face of aspiring nonpatricians. Eventually, the citizens as a whole rejected their claims (p. 83ff.)
CLASSES IN ROMAN SOCIETY
There were many other hierarchical distinctions in Roman society. They are very complex. Modern English terms like class, status, and rank often do not have the same meanings as their Latin cognates or analogs. The English word class, for example, comes from the Latin classis, which came to indicate a classification based on wealth. in the Roman census. A male citizen’s classis, or lack of one, in the census, determined the type of military service for which he was liable and the century to which he was assigned in the Centuriate Assembly. The Latin word status was used primarily in Roman law to indicate a person’s legal standing within both the family and the civil community: whether he was free or unfree; a citizen or a noncitizen; an independent head of household (sui iuris) or still under the power of the head of a household (alieni iuris). In modern English usage, “status” is closely linked to the concept of classes horizontally conceived socioeconomic groups ranging from lower to higher, who each have some sense of common life experience and shared political interest.
Some would say that such a concept is problematical in dealing with Roman society. It tended to be vertically organized in the hereditary hierarchical relationships of the family, gens, tribe, and community. Vertical, hierarchical relationships cue across all horizontal generational and economic divisions in the performance of common cultic and civic duties. Nevertheless, the Romans did have a word indicating a citizen socia1 and political rank. It is the word ordo, order (as in the English expression “the lower orders of society”). It can also be translated as rank or class in the sense of a broad horizontally conceived social group within which members have a certain self-conscious identity. Hence, in the field of Roman history, the. English phrase Struggle (Conflict) of the Orders signifies a conflict that the ancient sources depict between two simplistically conceived classes in the early Republic — the rich patricians and the poor plebeians.
The problem is that the sources were projecting back onto the early Republic the kind of more clearly defined orders that existed in the later Republic. At least at the beginning of the Republic, the patrician gentes probably had not yet claimed to be an exclusive governing elite. The plebeians, the plebs, consisted of many nonpatricians of various socioeconomic levels from the general mass of citizens (probably the original  meaning of plebs), who came to feel politically, socially, and/ or economically disadvantaged and banded together to develop their own “plebeian” institutions and officials and press for the redress of their grievances.
THE OPENNESS OF EARLY ROMAN
SOCIETY TO OUTSIDERS
Despite their penchant for creating hierarchical distinctions, the early Romans, unlike their Greek contemporaries, were remarkably willing to incorporate outsiders as citizens of their community. As Rome’s power expanded throughout its history, the Romans came into contact with increasingly different peoples and their diverse cultures. Since the Romans did not subscribe to modern ideas of race, they tended to treat individuals of different national and ethnic origins, even people of color, as they would anyone else of the same social status.
That is not to say Romans were not prejudiced against people they perceived as different. They were just as guilty as anyone else of xenophobia, negative ethnic stereotyping, and cultural intolerance. On the other hand, when non-Romans acquired Roman culture in terms of language, dress, manners, and education, often through years of faithful service as allies, subjects, soldiers, or slaves, they could become fully integrated into Roman society as Roman citizens.
Rome’s origin as a community created from several neighboring villages and as a cosmopolitan center of trade among Etruscans, Greeks, Phoenicians, Latins, and other Italic peoples is significant. It probably explains why the Romans, unlike the citizens of Greek poleis, did not look upon themselves as a community of kin and were able to be more inclusive than their Greek counterparts. As Rome expanded by treaty and conquest during the Monarchy and early Republic, it incorporated people from added territories into the citizen community. At the same time, the new citizens’ gods were incorporated into the divine community, whose public cults constituted the state religion. By the end of the Monarchy, Rome had grown from a few square miles of territory within the radius of the Forum to about 300 square miles embracing the northwestern third of Latium. The constant incorporation of new citizens enabled the Roman army to keep pace with and fuel even more expansion. Taking over the cults and deities of newly incorporated citizens gave Romans the self-assured feeling of divine favor toward their actions. It also lessened the alienation of those who had been forced to join them.
EARLY ROMAN RELIGION
Rome could easily assimilate other people’s gods because Roman religion was not based on any creed or dogma. We are familiar with religions that have a set of beliefs that lie at their core; this is termed orthodoxy. For the Romans, however, it was not belief that pleased the gods, but the proper forms of worship (called “orthopraxy”) that ensured success in daily life. Religion played a central role in private and public life. A multiplicity of gods occupied a hierarchical position of superiority above both human beings :ind the state. It was the duty of the individual, the family, and the state  to perform the sacrifices and rituals that the gods required. Thus everyone would prosper. Anybody’s gods could be enlisted in the effort: Roman religion was· a polytheistic system that allowed for the admission of new gods who. had proven themselves to be powerful. One result of this openness is that it is nearly impossible to recover an orI. original Roman religion that is free from the influences of outside peoples, including not only the Greeks and the Etruscans but also Rome’s Latin neighbors.
What we can recover of Roman religion in the earliest period suggests it reflected a life centered on home, farm, and pasture. Household rituals centered around the family hearth, where the goddess Vesta was worshiped and which was festooned with garlands on certain festival days. Rituals were observed to ensure the health of the family, their flocks, and their crops. Other observances that seem to date to a very early time in Roman history appear to address more communal concerns, such as the festival of the Lupercalia in February during which semi-naked men ran a circuit through the city that might reflect an early boundary line. The focus of most religious activity was the maintenance of the Romans’ relationship with the gods, to which they gave the name of pax deorum (literally, the peace of the gods).
Communicating with the gods
The Romans believed that they could communicate with the gods and that their gods could communicate with them. There is no reason to think that the ancient Romans had anything like a modern prayer book, but it is clear from their literature that they often prayed to the gods. Numerous dedications written on stone record the presentation of gifts at temples as thanks-offerings for help received or as requests for help in the future. The Romans could also communicate with their gods through sacrifice, the offering of vegetable produce or animal victims at an altar. The gods received a portion of the offering as a sign of honor intended to make them well-disposed to hearing their worshipers’ request. Humans ate the rest at a meal after the ritual was over.
The gods communicated with the Romans in a number of ways. On rare occasions, sometimes commemorated in inscriptions carved in stone, gods appeared to individuals through dreams or waking visions. Sometimes the gods spoke through oracles, temples where a priest would reveal the god’s answer to questions put to him. More commonly however the gods made their opinions know through divine signs called ally took the form of events that violated the regular, natural order of things, such as a statue that sweated blood, a newborn baby shouting “Victory!”, or two suns appearing the sky at once. Some normal celestial phenomena like lightning strikes, peals of thunder, and comets were thought to be divine signs as well (see the inset on p. 29). The gods also spoke to their worshipers through the flight and cry of certain types of birds and through the entrails of sacrificed animals, which would be inspected by trained officials before the meat was roasted. If, for example, the animal’s liver was misshapen, dire events were about to unfold (see p. 69). When any of these signs were observed, the Romans quickly enacted whatever they determined was needed to restore balance in the pax deorum. 
Gods and festivals of the house and fields
The spirits of the house were few. There was Janus, who was associated with the household’s front door. He faced both in and out, letting in friends and shutting out enemies. At weddings, it was the custom for the bride to smear Janus’ doorposts with wolf’s fat and to be lifted over his threshold. At the birth of a child, the threshold was struck with an ax, a pestle, and a broom to repulse wild spirits from the outside. When someone died in the house, the corpse was carried out feet first, perhaps for fear that the ghost might find its way back in.
Inside the house was Vesta, linked to the family hearth whose fire gave warmth and cooked the daily meals. It is said that no image or statue of her was made in early times. Yet, she was the center of family life and worship. To her, the head of the house presented his bride or newborn child. Before her hearth stood the dining table, also a sacred object. On it was the salt dish and the sacred cake of salted grain baked by the women of the house. At dinner, the head of the family ceremoniously threw part of the cake into the fire. As Janus began the roll of deities invoked in family prayer, so Vesta ended it.
Not far from the fireplace was the pantry. Here dwelt a vague group of nameless deities collectively known as the Penates. With Vesta, they shared the offerings made at the fireplace because they guarded the food that Vesta cooked. In Latin literature, they were a synonym for home. So were the Lares, a group of deities whose origin is obscure. They were associated with both the home and the compitum a place where roads cross. Each home and crossroads had a shrine for its Lares. The crossroads Lares were celebrated each autumn at the festival of the Compitalia. In honor of this holiday, plows were hung up as a sign that the season’s work was done. Everybody, even slaves, joined in the feasting and fun.
The festival of the Ambarvalia was held toward the end of May. It secured divine favor for the growing and ripening crops. The farmer and his family, dressed in white with olive wreaths around their heads, solemnly drove a pig, a sheep, and a bull three times around the farm. The three animals were then killed in a sacrifice called the suovetauralia, a name that included the words for the three animals. The victims were opened, examined for omens, and burned upon the altar fire. Then followed a long prayer asking for good weather and good crops from Mars, originally a god of agriculture.
Other spring festivals were the Liberalia, for Liber (god of wine); the Cerialia, for Ceres (goddess of grain); and the Robigalia. At the Robigalia, a red dog was sacrificed to avert Robigus, the red mildew, or “rust,” that attacked wheat. Shepherds had their spring festivals, too. The Parilia was the feast of Pales, spirit of flocks and herds. It took place on April 21, just before the annual trek to summer pastures. At dawn, the herdsmen sprinkled the animals with water, swept out the stalls, and decorated the barns with green branches. Then they lit a bonfire of straw, brush, and other items, through which the flocks were driven and the shepherds leaped. After an offering of milk and cakes to Pales and a prayer for the health, safety, and increase of the flocks, the shepherds spent the rest of the day in sports, eating, and drinking. Later, the day of this festival was accepted as the anniversary of Rome’s founding, because the young Romulus,  the legendary founder, had been depicted as a shepherd.
Two noteworthy festivals held in late summer or early fall are coupled with the names of Jupiter and Mars. The first was a wine festival, the Vinalia Rustica. It was held on August 19 in honor of Jupiter. After the sacrifice of a ewe lamb, Jupiter’s high priest solemnly inaugurated the grape-picking season by cutting the first bunch of grapes. The other was the festival of the October Horse, when a chariot race was held to honor Mars. The right-hand horse of the winning team and a spear were sacrificed to Mars. The horse’s tail, a phallic symbol, was rushed over to the King’s House (Regia). There, its still-warm blood dribbled upon the hearth. That was the seat of vitality in the house. The strength and virility of the horse were thus transferred to it. The horse’s head, cut off and decked with cakes, was fought over by the men of two adjacent wards in Rome. The winners were allowed to display it as a trophy.
Early outside influence
Rome’s early interaction with other peoples in the Italian peninsula extended to religious matters as well as political and commercial concerns. The Etruscan goddesses Uni and Menrva and the Italic Juno and Menerva (the Roman Minerva) came to be identified with the Greek goddesses Hera and Athena. The Etruscan Tinia andItalic Jupiter took on some of the features of Zeus. A great temple to the triad of Jupiter, Juno, and Minerva was built on the Capitoline Hill at the end of the Monarchy and the beginning of the Republic. It was designed and decorated in a style that incorporated many elements from contemporary Greek temples. Similar temples were appearing in contemporary Etruscan and Latin cities.
Jupiter and Mars
Jupiter (Iuppiter, Deus Pater) was Rome’s supreme civic god. The first part of his name is etymologically the same as Zeus, his Greek counterpart. Each is associated with the sky, thunder, lightning, and rain. With the growth of political and urban life among the Latins and the Romans, Jupiter became the symbol of the Roman State, the giver of victory, and the spirit of law and justice. Rome similarly exalted Mars (Mavors, Mamars), who gave his name to the first month, Martius (March), of the early Roman calendar. Once an Italic protector of the farmer’s fields and herds or the community’s boundaries, Mars became the defender of the Roman State against its enemies .
Juno and Minerva
One of the most prominent cults in early Italy, not just in Rome, was that of Juno. She was worshiped particularly in Latium and southern Etruria. At Rome, there were many different temples for Juno in her various guises: Juno Regina, Juno Sospita, Juno Lucina, to name a few. On a few occasions in the historical period, the Romans managed to defeat their enemies in part by persuading an opponent’s Juno to abandon her people and come to Rome. The Roman goddess Minerva is closely linked with the  cult of Menerva in Falerii, a semi-Etruscan Faliscan town north of Rome, west of the Tiber. She may have been introduced by immigrant Faliscans skilled in the pottery and met:il trades. Her early presence in Rome is clearly in line with the archaeological evidence of close commercial and industrial ties between Rome and south Etruria.
The expansion of early Roman commercial contacts is likewise emphasized by the erection in the Cattle Market (Forum Boarium) of an altar to Hercules (the Phoenician Melqart; the Greek Herakles), the patron god of traders and merchants. The worship of Diana (identified with the Greek Artemis) was transferred from Aricia, where she was worshiped by the Romans and many other Latin towns, to the Aventine Hill-a sign of Roman dominance over their neighbors. Other goddesses also migrated to Rome. Fortuna was imported from Antium (Anzio). Venus was formerly worshiped as a goddess of gardens and orchards at Ardea. She became identified later with Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty.
Of the deities just named, all, except Hercules, were indigenous to Italy, yet all of them were subject to the influence of the religious traditions of other people. Even Ceres, an ancient Italic goddess associated with agricultural fertility, did not escape the effects of this transforming influence. When a famine struck ca. 496 B.C.E., the Romans sought divine help. They vowed to build a temple on the Aventine, overlooking the grain market of the Forum Boarium. Three years later it was dedicated to Ceres, Libera, and Liber. They represented a triad of agricultural deities associated with grain and wine. They were identical in almost everything but name with the Greek triad of Demeter, Persephone, and Iacchus. Moreover, Greek artists decorated the temple with paintings.
In 492 B.C.E., Mercury also received a temple on the Aventine. Like both Hermes, to whom he was assimilated, and Herakles (the Greek name for Hercules), he was a god of traders and seems particularly connected with grain merchants from both Etruria and Greek cities in southern Italy. Seaborne imports from southern Italy seem to account for an early connection between Poseidon, the Greek god of the great open sea, and ltalic Neptune. Neptune quickly received the trident and sea horses of Poseidon and all of the mythology associated with him.
Not long after 500 B.C.E., the worship of Apollo, the god of healing and prophecy, came from Cumae, the nearest and oldest Greek settlement on the Italian mainland. Despite his unlatinized name, Apollo became in later times one of the greatest gods of the Roman pantheon. Cumae was also the home of the Sibyl, Apollo’s inspired priestess. Her oracle must have been known in early Rome. The earliest oracles in the Sibylline Books seem to have been made around 500 B.C.E., at the beginning of the Republic. These books were kept in the temple of Jupiter during the Republic and could be consulted only by a special college of two priests. They played a decisive role throughout the Republic in deciding which foreign gods could come to Rome. They also introduced new forms of worship, such as lectisternia (sing. lectisternium), ritual banquets for the gods. Statues of the gods in male/female pairs were publicly displayed reclining on couches before tables of food and drink. 
Like other ancient peoples, the Romans believed in divination, that is, reading signs in order to predict the future and determine the will of the gods. That consists of interpreting sacred signs, such as thunder, lightning, the flights of birds, and the entrails of sacrificial animals to discern the will and intentions of the gods. In particular, hepatoscopy — inspecting the size, shape, texture, and color of a sacrificed animal’s liver — was highly regarded. The neighboring Etruscans were so devoted to the practice of divination that the Romans called it the Disciplina Etrusca, the Etruscan Learning (p. 29). Roman aristocrats, whose families provided the public priests, often sent their sons to Etruscan cities to learn this valuable lore. The Etruscan priests who interpreted these signs were called haruspices. On critical occasions, the Romans would summon haruspices from Etruria for extra assurance that they understood the divine will.
Two important branches of divination were the taking of auspices (auspicia) and the conducting of auguries (auguria). Taking auspices involved ceremonies of divination or for the purpose of determining if the time was right for a particular private or public action. The person taking the auspices looked for special signs in the flight and behavior of birds, the unusual behavior of animals, and heavenly phenomena like thunder and lightning. The same signs were sought in conducting auguries. The auguries determined if the gods were favorable to an action, to a place where an action was to occur, or to the person about to undertake it. Any man could take auspices, but only special priests called augurs could perform auguries (p. 83). Although, as was mentioned above (p. 65), the Romans sometimes received messages directly from their gods through dreams waking visions, and oracles, they were less enamored of this type of divination (called natural divination) than were the Greeks and some other peoples of the ancient Mediterranean.
THE STATE, RELIGION, AND WAR
The emerging Roman State embraced and incorporated all the older and smaller social and religious communities such as the family, the gens, and the tribe. According to legend, Romulus had inaugurated the Roman State with religious ceremonies when he established the original pomerium. As the city grew and expanded, it was the responsibility of the state to extend the pomerium and provide for the common religious life of the community. Much of that came to be related to war.
Janus became the guardian of Rome’s Sacred Gateway at the northeast corner of the Forum. Its doors were shut only in peacetime, probably because the early armies marched through this gate on their way to war. The sacred fire in the Temple of Vesta guaranteed the secure existence of the state. After her hearth was cleaned, it was relit on March 1. That was early Rome’s New Year, the first day of the month named for Mars, the god of war. His altar in the Campus Martius was the symbol of the city’s military power. When Roman armies returned in triumph, victorious generals Jed their triumphal processions up to the Temple of Jupiter on the Capitoline Hill. 
The king and early priesthoods
The priestly role of the king first as head of state and then as rex sacrorum has been described in the previous chapter (pp. 48-9). The Vestal Virgins may have originated as the king’s wife and daughters tending his sacred household hearth. Significantly, the later Temple of Vesta and its sacred public hearth were built over part of the Regia, the old royal palace.
Eventually, the number of Vestal Virgins became fixed at six. They were usually chosen between the ages of six and ten from senatorial families. They were required to serve a minimum of thirty years. After that, they could retire and even marry, although our sources tell us that few did. Their chief duties were to keep the sacred fire ofVesta’s hearth burning to ensure the permanence of Rome and to prepare many items necessary for ritual observances throughout the year. They prepared the mix of salt and grain used in all public sacrifices. Any hint of a Vestal’s sexual impurity caused great public concern for the welfare of the state. Those convicted of sexual impropriety were sentenced to death by being entombed alive.
Other important early priests and priestesses were the flamen Dialis or chief priest of Jupiter and his wife (the flaminica Dialis). There were two other major flamens (flamines), one for Mars and one for Quirinus, a very obscure deity associated with the origins of Rome who came to be known as the deified Romulus. Not much is known about these two flamens except that they and the flamen Dialis always had to be patricians even after others did not. The flamen of Mars obviously was associated with the rituals of war, and he officiated at the festival of the October Horse (p. 67). Twelve minor flamens each served a deity characteristic of a largely agrarian people-Ceres, Flora, and Pomona, for example, who respectively represented grain, flowering plants, and fruit trees.
Some other early priests were the three augurs, official diviners who interpreted signs from the gods, and three pontiffs, who seem to have acquired a general function as keepers of civil and religious records. Two priesthoods that also seem to have originated in the early Monarchy were related to war: the fetial priests (fetiales) were responsible for declaring war; the Salii performed war dances associated with Mars (p. 83).
THE VALUES OF EARLY ROMAN SOCIETY
The early Romans developed a deeply held set of values that explain much of their behavior. These values resonate in the moral vocabulary of modern Western nations. For example, the English words virtue, prudence, temperance, fortitude, justice, piety, fidelity, chastity, constancy, and perseverance stem from Latin roots. Many of the corresponding Latin concepts are important to the public and family life of the early Roman community. They became enshrined in what came to be called the mos maiorum, custom of the ancestors. Later Classical Roman writers are now the major sources for these concepts. In attempting to reform the behavior of their contemporaries, Roman writers frequently pointed out how much the heroes and deeds of the past exemplified the values they idealized. They could do so, however, only because those values were already part of the cultural heritage that their contemporaries shared with the past. 
The Latin word virtus had a meaning somewhat different from that of its English derivative, virtue. The Latin root of virtus is vir, a man. Virtus signified the particular qualities associated with manliness. A man needed a strong body to support and protect his family and fight for the community. The need for every able-bodied armed man to fight in the army produced a warrior ethos that made military valor particularly salient in the Roman concept of virtue. The upper-class magistrates of the early Republic were primarily military officers who had to show bravery and leadership in battle. The welfare of the community depended upon ordinary citizens in the army. Every soldier had to execute commands obediently in coordination with his comrades to ensure the protection of all. He had to exercise great self-discipline in the heat of battle so as not to break ranks and deny the man on his left the protection of his shield. The idea that a good man subordinated his own narrow interest to those of his family, his comrades, and the state underlies four qualities that became particularly associated with Roman virtue in general: piety, faith, gravity, and constancy.
Dutifulness (pietas) implied in the first place devotion to duty within the family group. It encompassed both a willing acceptance of parental authority and a concern for children. It further meant reverence for and devotion to the gods through action in the exact performance of all required religious rites and ceremonies. Piety toward the state connoted obedience to the laws; dutiful performance of civic duties in a manner consistent with justice, law, and established custom; and patriotic military service.
Fides meant “faith” in the sense of “trust.” It was faithfulness in the performance of one’s duties and obligations. It meant being true to one’s word, paying one’s debts, keeping sworn oaths, and performing obligations assumed.by agreement with both gods :ind men. Based on religion and law, it was the foundation of religious, public, and private life. Violation of fides was an offense against both the gods and the community. A patron who broke faith with his client by abuse of his power was placed under a curse. A magistrate who broke faith by acts of injustice and oppression against the people gave the latter the right to rebel. Faith rooted in the social conscience was stronger than written law or statute as a force for holding all parts of the society together in a common relationship. Failure to uphold religious obligations would incur divine wrath.
Gravity (gravitas) and constancy (constantia)
Faith had to be supplemented by two other Roman virtues: gravity and constancy. The first meant absolute self-control-a dignified, serious, and unperturbed attitude toward both good and bad fortune. To cite some early extreme examples, no Roman  was supposed to dance in public, nor were husbands and wives supposed to kiss each other outside of their own homes. The second virtue was constancy or perseverance, even under the most trying circumstances, in doing what seemed necessary and right until success was won.
Dignitas, auctoritas, and gloria
Those who exhibited the four qualities discussed above, especially in public life, acquired what ca.me to be called dignitas, (reputation for worth, honor, esteem) and auctoritas (prestige, respect). Particularly outstanding public or military achievements also earned glory (gloria) –praise and public adulation. Roman aristocrats highly valued dignitas, auctoritas, and gloria. They confirmed the leading role of their families in society. Individual leaders demonstrated virtue by successfully defending the community or increasing its resources through warfare and by duly performing their duties as patrons, priests, magistrates, and senators. Thus they acquired the honor, prestige and glory that set them apart from others and gave them the power to continue to lead. That power further enhanced their status and that of their families in competition with their aristocratic peers.
Modesty (pudicitia) and chastity (castitas)
The virtues expected of Roman women were less public than those expected of their husbands, fathers, brothers, and sons. Wives and daughters were expected to exhibit pudicitia (modesty) by dressing appropriately and tending the home. Ancient writers sometimes criticize women who dressed too stylishly or who danced too well. Young women were expected to maintain their virginal chastity (castitas) until they were married. Matronal chastity was highly prized, as is exemplified by the fact that certain religious honors were only available to women who had married once. The quintessential matronal virtues are summed up by an epitaph from the period of the Republic, now lost, for a woman named Claudia: she is praised for her beauty, her modest manner and pleasant conversation, her love for bet husband, and the fact that she bore two children. The epitaph concludes with the statement, “She kept her house. She spun wool.”
Shame (pudor) and disgrace (infamia, ignominia)
Failure to live up to the Roman moral code brought public disgrace (infamia, ignominia) and a feeling of shame (pudor) to both men and women. To avoid such shame was as important to a Roman :is it was to display the virtues Roman society prized. For the Romans as a whole, with their warrior ethos, to conquer was the greatest glory for men; to be conquered, the greatest disgrace. For worn.en, the greatest glory was to be recognized by the community for outstanding pudicitia; it was disgraceful for a woman’s castitas to be questioned. It is worth noting that some of the virtues we extol today (generosity, kindness, fair-mindedness, religious piety and so on), while still valued by the Romans, were not so highly prized by them. 
OVERVIEW AND SIGNIFICANCE
Rome’s characteristic hierarchical social structure, centered on the authoritarian, patriarchal family and dominated by an aristocratic elite, had already taken shape. It also appears that the complex religious amalgam of reverence for ancestors and worship of multiple gods who could communicate with mortals — and the various rituals associated with this worship — had assumed the basic form it would continue to have well into the future. Along with these developments and growing out of them evolved the system of values that defined the Romans’ view of themselves as individuals and as a people and made the winning of military glory a paramount ambition of public life..
Ultimately, Roman family life, religion, and morality fostered a conservative type of human being. The authoritarian , patriarchal family and the attitude of dependency inherent in clientage produced an obedience to authority that greatly benefited the aristocratic gentes who controlled the state. The reverence for ancestors and their customs, as enshrined in the words mos maiorum, worked against attempts at radical innovation among all classes, as did the sobriety and piety of the Roman ethical tradition. The resultant abhorrence of innovation is signified by the Roman term for revolution, res novae (new things). So concerned were the Romans to maintain their traditions that many archaic and obsolete practices, institutions, festivals, and offices continued to exist long after they had lost their original function. When innovations were made, the Romans were careful to cast them as preserving ancient custom, no matter how dubious the claim. For example, in religion, the ancient Sibylline Books, with their convenient ambiguities and even opportune forgeries, could justify the introduction of new deities and rituals from time to time. Even in politics, in a society where the vagaries of oral tradition often predominated over written records, “ancestral precedents” might be of as recent origin as an orator’s latest speech. Therefore, Roman conservatism was saved from being stultifying. Change could occur while a deep sense of continuity — one of Rome’s greatest strengths — prevailed.
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