Ancient Roman FAQs

Claudia Sheehan

Writing

Romans used several different tools to write. One example is a dull quill dipped in ink. They also used a pointed stick called a stylus used for clay tablets. Sometimes to write they used a shallow wooden tablet with a thin layer of wax. They also painted on walls and carved stones.

Family

Family was the most basic and time-honored Roman social unit. A traditional Roman family consisted of a father, mother, children, and slaves. The head of the family was the oldest father, who had power over all legal matters and the household. The women had virtually no rights.

When the woman would have a baby,it would be placed at the fathers feet, and if he accepted it, he would raise it above his head, but if he chose not to keep it, it was left to die. Women who didn't want to be pregnant tried several methods to try to terminate it. They tried jumping up and down vigorously, riding horses, and injecting concoctions into themselves after intercourse.

Roman names are also very different from modern family names. The daughters took the female version of their fathers name, and if there was more than one daughter, they had the same name, just adding numbers at the end. Also women didn't change their names at marriage.

Clothing: Men and Boys

Clothing was a big part of Roman culture. Togas were the symbol of Roman citizenship and was required to wear for official activities. Only free male citizens in Rome who were at least 16 could wear togas. Males wore tunics under their togas. Individuals of some significant status wore special togas. Men and boys also wore jewelry. They wore a neck chain with a round pouch containing a protective amulet called a bulla. The upper class a had gold bullas. Sometimes they wore small gold rings carved with a phallus for good luck.

Clothing: Women and Girls'

Free born girls wore the same outfit as free-born boys, a toga over a tunic. The toga had a purple border made of wool that protected them against evil. They had combed hair that was braided and tied with a single band of wool cloth called a litta which was normally white and signified purity. The standard dress for married women was a dress held at the shoulders by straps and hung to her feet and resembled a modern slip, this was called a stola. Women also wore a cloak over their head called a palla.

Sources

Roger S. Bagnall, Reading Papyri, Writing Ancient History (London & New York: Routledge, 1995).

Raffaella Cribiore, Writing, Teachers, and Students in Graeco-Roman Egypt (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996).

William V. Harris, Ancient Literacy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989).

Roger S. Bagnall, Reading Papyri, Writing Ancient History (London & New York: Routledge, 1995).

Raffaella Cribiore, Writing, Teachers, and Students in Graeco-Roman Egypt (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1996).

William V. Harris, Ancient Literacy (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1989).

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Bonfante, Larissa. Etruscan Dress. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1975.

Cosgrave, Bronwyn. The Complete History of Costume and Fashion: From Ancient Egypt to the Present Day. New York: Checkmark Books, 2000.