1. The Family
  2. Roman Names
  3. Marriage and Women
  4. Children and Education
  5. Slaves and Dependents
  6. The House and Furniture
  7. Dress and Ornaments
  8. Food and Meals
  9. Amusements
  10. Travel and Correspondence
  11. Sources of Income
  12. Farming and Country Life
  13. Town Life
  14. Funeral Customs
  15. The Roman Religion
  16. The Water Supply of Rome

The Private Life of the Romans
by Harold Whetstone Johnston, Revised by Mary Johnston
Scott, Foresman and Company (1903, 1932)


Table of contents



REFERENCES: Marquardt, 80-134; Blümner, 299-340; Becker-Göll, II, 65-114; Friedländer, I, 156-161, III, Chapter III, 216-281, “Philosophy as a Moral Educator”; Smith, under lūdus litterārius; Harper’s, under education, 571-573; Baumeister, 237, 1588-1591; Schreiber, Plates LXXX, LXXXII, LXXXIX, XC; Sandys, Companion, 228-236; Daremberg-Saglio, under educatio; Walters, under education, lūdus; Pauly-Wissowa, under Schulen; Fowler, Social Life, 168-203; McDaniel, 60-80; Showerman, 89-111, 194-202; Gwynn; Arthur M. Gates, “Greek and Roman Pets,” in The South Atlantic Quarterly, 30, 405-419 (October, 1931).

Legal Status (§94)

Susceptiō (§95)

Birthdays (§96)

Diēs Lūstricus (§97)

The Bulla (§99)

Nurses (§100-101)

Playthings (§102)

Pets and Games (§103)

Home Training (§104-107)

Schools (§108-109)

Subjects Taught in Elementary Schools (§110-111)

Grammar Schools (§112-114)

Schools of Rhetoric (§115)

Travel (§116)

Professional Training (§117-118)

Remarks on the Schools (§119-120)

The Teacher (§121)

Schooldays and Holidays (§122)

The Paedagōgus (§123)

Discipline (§124)

End of Childhood (§125-126)

The Līberālia (§127)

   94. Legal Status. The legal position of the children in the familia has been already explained (§§ 20-21). It has been shown that in the eyes of the law they were little better than the chattels of the Head of the House. It rested with him to grant them the right to live; all that they earned was his; they married at his bidding, and either remained under his potestās or passed under another no less severe. It has also been suggested that custom and pietās had made this condition less rigorous than it seems to us.

   95. Susceptiō. The power of the pater familiās was displayed immediately after the birth of the child. By invariable custom it was laid upon the ground at his feet. If he raised (tollere, suscipere) it in his arms, he acknowledged it as his own by the act (susceptiō) and admitted it to all the rights and privileges that membership in a Roman family implied. If he should refuse to do so, the child would become an outcast, without family, without the protection of the spirits of the dead (
§ 34), utterly friendless and forsaken. The disposal of the child did not call for any act of downright murder, such as was contemplated in the case of Romulus and Remus and was afterwards forbidden by Romulus the King (§ 21). The child was simply “exposed” (expōnere), that is, taken by a slave from the house and left on the highway to live or to die. It is improbable, however, that the Roman father was inclined to make actual use of this, his theoretical right. While exposure and “recognition” appear frequently in Roman comedies, they are doubtless made use of there as convenient dramatic devices taken over from the Greek originals rather than as a reproduction of actual cases in everyday life. No such actual cases are known during the Republic, at any rate.

   96. Birthdays. It was believed that a Genius, or guardian spirit, came into the world with the child at birth. In the case of a girl this spirit was called her Iūnō. Closely connected with this idea was the celebration of the birthday, as the proper festival of the Genius. On that day bloodless offerings, such as flowers, wine, incense, and cakes, were made to the Genius. Fresh white garments were worn, friends made visits or sent letters of congratulation, presents were received from friends and members of the household, and there was usually a feast.

   97. Diēs Lūstricus. The first eight days of the life of the acknowledged child were called prīmōrdia, and were the occasion of various religious ceremonies.
FIG. 36: GIRL'S NECKLACEDuring this time the child was called pūpus (pūpa), although to weak and tiny children the praenōmen might be given soon after birth. Usually, on the ninth day in the case of a boy, on the eighth in the case of a girl, the praenōmen (§ 43) was given with due solemnity. A sacrifice was offered and the ceremony of purification was performed, which gave the day its name, diēs lūstricus, although it was also called the diēs nōminum and nōminālia. These ceremonies seem to have been private, that is, it cannot be shown that there was at this time any taking of the child to a templum, as there was among the Jews, or any enrollment of the name upon an official list. Birth registration, which many of our own states have been slow to enforce, was first required under Marcus Aurelius, when it was ordained that the father must register the date of birth and the name of his child within thirty days, at Rome before the praefectus aerāriī, in the provinces before the tabulāriī pūblicī. In the case of the boy the registering of the name on the list of citizens may have occurred at the time he put on the toga virīlis (§§ 125-127).

   98. The diēs lūstricus was, however, a time of rejoicing and congratulation among the relatives and friends, and these, together with the household slaves, presented the child with little metal toys or ornaments in the form of flowers, miniature axes and swords, various tools, and especially figures shaped like a half-moon (lūnulae), etc. These, called collectively crepundia, were strung together and worn around the neck and over the breast. Such strings of these crepundia are shown in Figures 36 and 37. They served in the first place as playthings to keep the child amused; hence the name “rattles,” from crepō. Besides, they were a protection against witchcraft or the evil eye (fascinātiō); this was true especially of the lūnulae. They could serve also as a means of identification in the case of lost or stolen children, and for this reason Terence calls them monumenta. Such were the trinkets sometimes left with an “exposed” child (
§ 95); their value depended, of course, upon the material of which they were made.

FIG. 37
The original was found in the Crimea.

   99. The Bulla. But of more significance than these was the bulla, which the father hung around the child’s neck on this day, if he had not done so at the time of the susceptiō (§ 95). FIG. 39: A ROMAN BOY, WITH TOGA AND BULLA. A statue in the Louvre, ParisIt consisted frequently of two concave pieces of gold, like a watch case (Fig. 38), fastened together by a wide spring of the same metal, and contained an amulet as protectionn against the fascinātiō (§ 98). It was hung around the neck by a chain or cord and was worn upon the breast. The bulla came originally from Etruria.1 For a long time only the children of patricians were allowed to wear bullae of gold; the plebeians contented themselves with imitations made of leather, hung on a leather thong. In the course of time the distinction ceased to be observed, as we have seen such distinctions die out in the use of names and in the marriage ceremonies, and by Cicero’s time the bulla aurea might be worn by the child of any freeborn citizen. The choice of material depended upon the wealth and generosity of the father rather than upon his social position. The girl wore her bulla (Figs. 35 and 38) until the eve of her wedding day; then she laid it aside with other childish things, as we have seen (§ 76). The boy wore his until he assumed the toga virīlis (§ 127), when it was dedicated to the Larēs of the house and carefully preserved. If the boy became a successful general and won the coveted honor of a triumph, he always wore his bulla in the triumphal procession as a protection against envy.

   100. Nurses. The mother was the child’s nurse (
§ 90), not only in the days of the Republic but even under the Empire; the Romans heeded the teachings of nature in this respect longer than any other civilized nation of the ancient world. FIG. 40: A CRADLEOf course it was not always possible then, as it is not always possible now, for the mother to nurse her children, and then her place was taken by a slave (nūtrīx), to whom the name māter seems to have been given out of affection. In the ordinary care of the children, too, the mother was assisted, but only assisted, by slaves. Under the eye of the mother, a slave washed and dressed the child, told it stories, sang it lullabies, and rocked it to sleep on her arm or in a cradle (Fig. 40). The place of the modern baby carriage was taken by a litter (lectīca); a terra cotta figure has come down to us (Fig. 41) representing a child carried in such a litter by two men.

   101. After the Punic Wars (
§ 6) it became customary for the well-to-do to select for the child’s nurse a Greek slave, that the child might acquire the Greek language as naturally as its own. FIG. 41: A CHILD IN A LITTERIn Latin literature are many passages that testify to the affection felt for each other by nurse and child, an affection that lasted on into manhood and womanhood. It was a common thing for the young wife to take with her into her new home as her adviser and confidant, the nurse who had watched over her in her infancy. Faithfulness on the part of such slaves was also frequently repaid by manumission.

   102. Playthings. Comparatively little is known of the playthings, pets, and games of Roman children, because, as has been said (
§ 93), FIG. 42: NURSING BOTTLEdomestic life was not a theme of Roman writers and no books were then written especially for the young. Still, there are scattered references in literature from which we can learn something, and more is known from monumental sources (§ 12). This evidence shows that playthings were numerous and of very many kinds. The crepundia have been mentioned already (§ 98); these miniature tools and implements seem to have been very common. Dolls there were, too, and some of these have come down to us, though we cannot always distinguish between statuettes and genuine playthings. Some dolls were made of clay, others of wax, and even jointed arms and legs were not unknown (Figs. 43 and 44). Quintilian speaks of ivory letters, to be used by children as letter blocks are now. Little wagons and carts were also common. Horace speaks of hitching mice to toys of this sort, of building houses, and riding on “stick-horses.” FIG. 44: JOINTED DOLLThere are numerous pictures and descriptions of children spinning tops, making them revolve by blows of a whip-lash, as in Europe nowadays. Hoops also were a favorite plaything; they were driven with a stick and had pieces of metal fastened to them to warn people of their approach. Boys walked on stilts. They played with balls, too, but as men enjoyed this sport as well, the account of it may be deferred until we reach the subject of amusements (§ 318).

   103. Pets and Games. Pets were even more common then than now (Fig. 45), and then as now the dog was easily first in the affections of children. The house cat began to be known at Rome in the first century A.D. Birds were very commonly made pets. Thus besides the doves and pigeons which are familiar to us, ducks, crows, and quail, we are told, were pets of children. So also were geese, odd as this seems to us, and there is a statue of a child struggling with a goose as large as himself. Monkeys were known, but could not have been common. Mice have been mentioned already. Games of many kinds were played by children, but we can only guess at, the nature of most of them, as we have hardly any formal descriptions. There were games corresponding to our Odd or Even, Blindman’s Buff, Hide and Seek, Jackstones (
§ 320), and Seesaw. Pebbles and nuts were used in games something like our marbles, and there were board-games also. To these may be added, for boys, riding, swimming, and wrestling, although these were taken too seriously, perhaps, to be called games and belonged rather to the training of boys for the duties of citizenship.

   104. Home Training. The training of the children was conducted by the father and mother in person. More stress was laid upon moral than upon intellectual development: reverence for the gods, respect for the law, unquestioning and instant obedience to authority, truthfulness, and self-reliance were the most important lessons for the child to learn. Much of the training came from the constant association of the children with their parents, which was the characteristic feature of the home training of the Romans as compared with that of other peoples of early days. The children sat at table with their elders; in early times they helped to serve the meals. Until the age of seven both boys and girls had their mother for their teacher. From her they learned to speak correctly their native tongue. The mother taught them the elements of reading and writing and as much of the simpler operations of arithmetic as children so young could learn.

   105. From about the age of seven the boy passed under the care of regular teachers, but the girl remained her mother’s constant companion. Her schooling was necessarily cut short, because the Roman girl became a wife so young [
§ 68 (2)], and there were things to learn in the meantime that books do not teach. From her mother she learned to spin and weave and sew; even Augustus wore garments woven by his wife. By her mother she was initiated into all the mysteries of household economy and fitted to take her place as the mistress of a household of her own, to be a Roman mātrona, the most dignified position to which a woman could aspire in the ancient world (§§ 90-91).

   106. The boy, except during the hours of school, was equally his father’s companion. If the father was a farmer, as all Romans were in earlier times, the boy helped in the fields and learned to plow and plant and reap. If the father was a man of high position and lived in the capital, the boy stood by him in his atrium as he received his guests, learned to know their faces, names, and rank, and acquired a practical knowledge of politics and affairs of state. If the father was a senator, the boy (in the earlier days only, it is true) accompanied him to the senate house to hear the debates and listen to the great orators of the time; the son could always go with his father to the Forum when the latter was an advocate or was concerned in a public trial.

   107. Then, since every male Roman was bred a soldier, the father trained the son in the use of arms and in the various military exercises, as well as in the manly sports of riding, swimming, wrestling, and boxing. In these exercises strength and agility were kept in view, rather than the grace of movement and symmetrical development of form on which the Greeks laid so much stress. On great occasions, too, when the cabinets in the atrium were opened and the wax busts of the ancestors displayed (
§ 200), the boy and girl of noble family were always present and learned the history of the great family of which they were a part, and with it the history of Rome.

   108. Schools. The actual instruction given to the children by the father would vary with his own education and would at best be subject to all sorts of interruptions due to his private business or his public duties. We find that this embarrassment was appreciated in very early times, and that it was customary for a pater familiās who happened to have among his slaves one competent to give the needed instruction to turn over to him the actual teaching of the children. It must be remembered that slaves taken in war were often much better educated than their Roman masters. Not all households, however, would include a competent teacher, and it would seem only natural for the fortunate owner of such a slave to receive into his house at fixed hours of the day the children of his friends and neighbors to be taught together with his own.

   109. For this privilege he might charge a fee for his own benefit, as we are told that Cato actually did, or he might allow the slave to retain as his pecūlium (§§
22, 162-163) the little presents given him by his pupils in lieu of direct payment. The next step, one taken in times too early to be accurately fixed, was to select for the school a more convenient place than a private house, one that was central and easily accessible, and to receive as pupils all who could pay the modest fee that was demanded. To these schools girls as well as boys were admitted, but for the reason given in § 105 the girls had little time for studying more than their mothers could teach them; those who did carry their studies further came usually of families that preferred to educate their daughters in the privacy of their own homes and could afford to do so. The exceptions to this rule were so few that from this point we may consider the education of boys alone.

   110. Subjects Taught in Elementary Schools. In the elementary schools the only subjects taught were reading, writing, and arithmetic.
FIG. 49: WAXED TABLETS AND A STILUSIn the first, great stress was laid upon the pronunciation; the sounds were easy enough, but quantity was hard to master. The teacher pronounced first, syllable by syllable, then the separate words, and finally the whole sentence; the pupils pronounced after him at the tops of their voices. In the teaching of writing, wax tablets (Fig. 49) were employed, much as slates were a generation ago. The teacher first traced with a stilus (Fig. 49) the letters that served as a copy, then he guided the pupil’s hand with his own until the child learned to form the letters independently. When some dexterity had been acquired, the pupil was taught to use the reed pen and write with ink upon papyrus. For practice, the blank sides of sheets that had already been employed for more important purposes were used. If there were any books at all in these schools, the pupils must have made them for themselves by writing from the teacher’s dictation.

   111. In arithmetic mental calculation was emphasized, but the pupil was taught to use his fingers in a very elaborate manner that is not now thoroughly understood.
FIG. 50: AN ABACUSHarder sums were worked out with the help of the reckoning board (abacus, Fig. 50). In addition to all this, much attention was paid to training the memory, and every pupil was made to learn by heart all sorts of wise and pithy sayings, especially the Twelve Tables of the Law. These last became a regular fetich in the schools, and, even when the language in which they were written had become obsolete, pupils continued to learn and recite them. Cicero learned them in his boyhood, but within his lifetime they were dropped from the schools.

   112. Grammar Schools. Among the results of contact with other peoples that followed the Punic Wars (
§6) was the extension of education at Rome beyond elementary and strictly utilitarian subjects. The Greek language came to be generally learned (§ 101), and Greek ideas of education were in some degree adopted. Schools were established in which the central task was the study of the Greek poets; these schools we may call Grammar Schools because the chief study pursued in them was called grammatica (a term which included not merely grammar proper but also literature and literary criticism, the latter in simple form). The teacher of such a school was called grammaticus. Homer was long the universal textbook, and students were not only taught the language, but were also instructed in the matters of geography, mythology, antiquities, history, and ethics suggested by the portions of the text which they read. The range of instruction and its value depended largely upon the teacher, as does such instruction today, but it was at best fragmentary and disconnected. There was no systematic study of any of these subjects, not even of history, despite its interest and practical value to a world-ranging people like the Romans.

FIG. 52
From an ancient relief in Trier.

   113. The Latin language was soon made the subject of similar study, at first in separate schools. The lack of Latin poetry to work upon (prose writings were not yet used as textbooks) led to the translation by a Greek slave, Livius Andronicus (third century B.C.), of the Odyssey of Homer into Latin Saturnian verses. From this translation, rude as the surviving fragments show it to have been, dates the beginning of Latin literature. It was not until this literature was graced by poets like Terence, Vergil, and Horace that the rough Saturnians of Livius Andronicus disappeared from the schools.

   114. In the Grammar Schools, both Greek and Latin, great stress seems to have been laid upon elocution, a fact not surprising when we consider the importance of oratory under the Republic. The teacher had the pupils pronounce after him first the words, then the clauses, and finally the complete sentences. The elements of rhetoric were taught in some of these schools, but technical instruction in the subject was not given until the establishment, early in the first century B.C, of special Schools of Rhetoric. In the Grammar Schools were also taught music and geometry, and these made complete the ordinary education of boyhood.

   115. Schools of Rhetoric. The Schools of Rhetoric were formed on Greek lines and conducted by Greek teachers. They were not a part of the regular system of education, but corresponded more nearly to our colleges, since they were frequented by persons beyond the age of boyhood and, usually, of the higher classes only. In these schools the study of prose authors was begun, and philosophy might be studied, but the main work was the practice of composition. This was begun in its simplest form, the narrative (nārrātiō), and continued step by step until the end in view was reached, the practice of public speaking (dēclāmātiō). One of the intermediate forms was the suāsōria, in which a student assumed the character of some famous historical personage at the point of making a decision, and discussed the possible courses of action. A favorite exercise also was the writing of a speech to be put in the mouth of some person famous in legend or history. How effective these could be made is seen in the speeches inserted in their histories by Sallust, Livy, and Tacitus.

   116. Travel. In the case of persons of the noblest and most wealthy families, or of those whose talents in early manhood promised a brilliant future, the training of the schools was sure to be supplemented by a period of travel and residence abroad. Greece, Rhodes, and Asia Minor were the places most frequently visited, whether the young Roman cared for the scenes of great historical events and for rich collections of works of literature and art, or merely enjoyed the natural charms and social splendors of the gay and luxurious capitals of the East. For purposes of serious study, Athens offered the greatest attractions and might almost have been called the University for Romans. It must be remembered, however, that the Roman who studied in Athens was thoroughly familiar with Greek, and for this reason was much better prepared to profit by the lectures he heard than is the average American who now studies in Europe.

   117. Professional Training. For training in certain matters, a knowledge of which was essential to a successful public life, no provision was made by the Roman system of education. Such matters were jurisprudence, administration and diplomacy, and war. It was customary, therefore, for the young citizen to attach himself for a time to some older man, eminent in these lines or in some one of them, in order to gain an opportunity for observation and practical experience in the performance of duties that would sooner or later devolve upon him. So Cicero learned Roman law under Quintus Mucius Scaevola, the most eminent jurist of the time, an in later years the young Marcus Caelius Rufus in turn served the same voluntary “apprenticeship” (tīrōcinium forī) under Cicero. This arrangement was not only highly advantageous to the young men, but was also considered very honorable for those under whom they studied.

   118. In the same way the governors of provinces and generals in the field were attended by a voluntary staff (cohors) of young men, whom they had invited to accompany them at state expense for personal or political reasons. These tīrōnēs became familiar in this way (tīrōcinium mīlitiae) with the practical side of administration and war, while at the same time they were relieved of many of the hardships and dangers suffered by those, less fortunate who had to rise from the ranks. It was this staff of inexperienced young men who hid in their tents or asked for leave of absence when Caesar determined to meet Ariovistus in battle (Caesar,
Dē Bellō Gallicō, I, 39), although some of them, no doubt, made gallant soldiers and wise commanders afterwards.

   119. Remarks on the Schools. Having considered the possibilities in the way of education and training within the reach of the more favored few, we may now go back to the Elementary and Grammar Schools to get an idea of the actual school life of the ordinary Roman boy in Rome and elsewhere (
§ 462). Though these were not “public” schools in our sense of the word, that is, though they were not supported or supervised by the State, and, though attendance was not compulsory, it is nevertheless true that the elements at least of education, a knowledge of the three R’s, were more generally diffused among the Romans than among any other people of the ancient world. The schools were distinctly democratic in this, that they were open to all classes, that the fees were little more than nominal, that, so far as concerned discipline and the treatment of the pupils, no distinction was made between the children of the humblest and those of the most lordly families.

   120. The school was often in a pergula, a gallery attached to a public building, or open room like a shop, roofed against the sun and rain, but open at the sides and furnished merely with rough benches without backs. The children were exposed, therefore, to all the distractions of the busy town life around them, and the people living near were in turn annoyed by the noisy recitations (
§ 110) and even noisier punishments. A picture of a schoolroom, derived from an ancient relief, is shown in Figure 52.

   121. The Teacher. The teacher was originally a slave, perhaps he was usually a freedman. The position in itself was not honorable, but it might become so through the character of the teacher. Though the pupils feared the master, they seem to have had little respect for him. The pay he received was a mere pittance, varying from three dollars a year from each pupil for the elementary teacher (litterātor, magister litterārum) to five or six times that sum for a grammaticus (
§ 112). In addition to the fee, the pupils were expected to bring the master from time to time little presents, a custom persisting probably from the time when these presents were his only reward (§ 109). The fees varied, however, with the qualifications of the master. Some whose reputations were established and whose schools were “fashionable” charged no fees at all, but left the amount to be paid (honōrārium) to the generosity of their patrons. There were no teachers’ licenses, and no “Requirements in Education” to be met. Anyone who chose might set up his schoolroom and look for pupils, even as Stephen Douglas walked into Winchester, Illinois, in 1833, and opened a school for three months at three dollars a pupil.

   122. Schooldays and Holidays. The schoolday began before sunrise, as did all work at Rome, on account of the heat in the middle of the day (cf.
§ 302). The pupils brought candles by which to study until it became light, and the roof was soon black with the grime and smoke. The session lasted until time for the noonday luncheon and siesta (§ 302). School was resumed in the afternoon. We do not know definitely that there was any fixed length for the school year. We know that it regularly began on the twenty-fourth of March and that there were numerous holidays, notably the Saturnalia in December and the Quinquatria (from the nineteenth to the twenty-third of March). The great religious festivals, too, especially those celebrated with games, would naturally be observed by the schools, and apparently the market days (nūndinae) were also holidays. It was formerly supposed that there was no school from the last of June until the first of November, but this view rested upon an incorrect interpretation of certain passages of Horace and Martial. It is certain, however, that the children of wealthy parents would be absent from Rome during the hot season, and this would at least cut down the attendance in some of the schools and might perhaps close them altogether.

   123. The Paedagōgus. The boy of good family was always attended by a trustworthy slave (paedagōgus), who accompanied him to school, remained with him during the sessions, and saw him safely home again when school was out. If the boy had wealthy parents, he might have, besides, one or more slaves (pedisequī) to carry his satchel and tablets. The paedagōgus was usually an elderly man, selected for his good character; he was expected to keep the boy out of all harm, moral as well as physical. He was not a teacher, despite the meaning of the English word “pedagogue,” except that, after the learning of Greek became general, a Greek slave was usually selected for the position in order that the boy might not forget what Greek he had learned from his nurse (
§ 101). The scope of the duties of the paedagōgus is clearly shown by the Latin words used sometimes instead of paedagōgus: comes, custōs, monitor, and rēctor. He was addressed by the boy as dominus, and seems to have had the right to compel obedience by mild punishments (Fig. 54). His duties ceased when the boy assumed the toga of manhood, but the same warm affection often continued between the young man and the paedagōgus as between a woman and her nurse (§ 101).

   124. Discipline. The discipline was thoroughly Roman in its severity, if we may judge by the grim references in Juvenal and Martial to the rod and ferule as used in schools. Horace has given to his teacher, Orbilius, a deathless fame by the adjective plāgōsus.

FIG. 55
From a sarcophagus now in the Louvre, Paris.

From Nepos we learn that then, as now, teachers appealed, at times, to the natural emulation between well-bred boys, and we know that prizes, too, were offered. Perhaps we may think the ferule well deserved when we read of the schoolboy’s trick immortalized by Persius. The passage (III, 44-46) is worth quoting in full:

          Saepe oculōs, meminī, tangēbam parvus olīvō,
          grandia sī nōllem moritūrī verba Catōnis
          discere et īnsānō multum laudanda magistrō . . .

   125. End of Childhood. There was no special ceremony to mark the passing of girlhood into womanhood, but for the boy the attainment of his majority was marked by the laying aside of the crimson-bordered toga praetexta and the putting on of the pure white toga virīlis. There was no fixed year, corresponding to the twenty-first with us, in which the puer became adulēscēns; something depended upon the physical and intellectual development of the boy himself, something upon the will or caprice of his pater familiās, more perhaps upon the time in which he lived. We may say generally, however, that the toga virīlis was assumed between the fourteenth and seventeenth years, the later age belonging to the earlier time when citizenship carried with it more responsibility than under the Empire and consequently demanded a greater maturity.

   126. For the classical period we may put the age required at sixteen, and, if we add to this the tīrōcinium (
§ 117), which followed the donning of the garb of manhood, we shall have the seventeen years after the expiration of which the citizen had been liable in ancient times to military duty. The day was even less precisely fixed. We should expect it to be the birthday at the beginning of the seventeenth year, but it seems to have been the more usual, but by no means invariable, custom to select for the ceremony the feast of Liber which happened to come nearest to the seventeenth birthday. This feast was celebrated on the seventeenth of March and was called the Līberālia. No more appropriate time could have been selected to suggest the freer life of manhood upon which the boy was now about to enter.

   127. The Līberālia. The festivities of the great day began in the early morning, when the boy laid before the Larēs of his house the bulla (
§ 99) and the toga praetexta (§ 125), called together the īnsignia pueritiae. A sacrifice was then offered, and the bulla was hung up, not to be taken down and worn again except on some occasion when the man who had worn it as a boy should be in danger of the envy: of men and gods (§ 99). The boy then dressed himself in the tunica rēcta (§ 76), which had one or two crimson stripes if he was the son of a senator or a knight (§ 238); over this was carefully draped the toga virīlis. This was also called, in contrast to the gayer garb of boyhood, the toga pūra, and, with reference to the freedom of manhood, the toga lībera.

   128. Then began the procession to the Forum. The father had gathered his slaves and freedmen and clients (
§§ 177-180), had notified his relatives and friends, and had used all his personal and political influence to make the escort of his son as numerous and imposing as possible. If the ceremony rook place on the Līberālia, the Forum was sure to be crowded with similar processions of rejoicing friends. Here were extended the formal congratulations, and the name of one more citizen was added to the official list. An offering was then made in the temple of Liber on the Capitoline Hill, and the day ended with a feast at the father’s house.

1 The Influence of Etruria upon Rome faded before that of Greece (
§ 6), but from Etruria the Romans got the art of divination, certain forms of architecture, the insignia of royalty, and the games of the circus and the amphitheater.

2 See Abbott, Society and Politics in Ancient Rome, 191-214, “The Career of a Roman Student.”

3 “Often, I remember, as a small boy I used to give my eyes a touch with oil, if I did not want to learn Cato’s grand dying speech, sure to be vehemently applauded by my wrong-headed master . . .”—CONINGTON’s TRANSLATION.


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