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The Family In Ancient Civilization
By Gresham Halladay
The Evolution Of The Family
By Gresham Halladay
By looking at the family and family life from the time of the Roman Empire to the Elizabethan era, we will see how family life from each era made an impact on the following era. We will see the evolution of the family.
The Roman father had absolute rule. He owned the property. If his children angered him, he could disown them or sell them into slavery or kill them. When a child was born, the father decided whether it was accepted into the family or left to die.
The mother managed the household. If a woman gave birth to three live babies, she would be rewarded and recognized as legally independent. Then she would not be under a
Deformed babies were left to the elements to die. If a father decided he could not afford another child, the baby would be left at a specific place so others could pick it up and keep it as a slave. Half of all children died before the age of ten. Sons were valued because they continued the family name. Girls were married at age 13 to a man in his mid twenties.
The Family in Anglo- Saxon England
After the fall of Rome, the Anglo-Saxon era prevailed. Because barbarians took over where the civilized Roman culture left, women had to evolve. They learned to fight. Hence, at the height of the Anglo-Saxon period, women had equal standing with men. This totally affected the evolution of family life.
Both parents had equal standing. They worked together to keep the family safe from barbarians and then from viking invasions. They worked together to survive. Like the husband, the wife could own property, run a business and she was entitled to the same wergild as men. Women could not be forced into a marriage.
Unlike Roman times, even disabled children were raised to adulthood. Boys and girls were equal in status. At age ten, they were considered adult enough to take charge of their own inherited property. If children were orphaned, it was common for them to be fostered by others. Unlike Romans, Anglo-Saxon children had some legal rights.
Family Life in Feudal England
With the Norman Invasion and the Anglo-Saxon Elite were defeated - there came a huge change for family life. Feudalism controlled the people. They were no longer free people. They were no longer able to live in free villages. Family life now centered on working tirelessly for the noble.
Parents in Feudal England
The farming parents would work from sunrise to sunset. Whether serf or freeholder, their profits went to the Noble. Gone were the days of running their own businesses and owning their own properties. The woman lost the rights she had in Anglo-Saxon times. This totally affected the freedom and choices for a family.
Children in Feudal England
Farming children worked alongside their parents. Childhood was not defined like today. A child did as much work as they possible could. They received no schooling. Girls were often married at 12 and boys at 17. Girls had no choice but the boy might have some say in whom he married.
Family in the Elizabethan Era
In the Elizabethan Era we see much evolution in the family since before the time of the Black Death. The Guilds made a middle-class and people became responsible for their own family path. Most people now married in their mid-twenties. This allowed more financial stability in the family.
Regular people now were able to marry for love. Family members were closer to each other than in eras before. The mother tended to stay home and look after children. The father would work in the fields or in merchant shops. He was expected to support his family.
Boys stayed at home with their mothers until they were 7. Then they went to school or to work. At 14, boys might get an apprenticeship. Older boys and girls would often work alongside their fathers to contribute to the family's funds. Girls did not get an education.
*We can see what each era passed on to have the family evolve. The Roman appreciation for education has prevailed.
*When Anglo-Saxon women had equality to men, the family flourished and children had rights and protection too.
*Family life suffered with Feudalism. When people had no choices they had no control.
*People regained their rights and the family flourished in the Elizabethan Era. They were able to choose their partner and how they made their living.
*We can see how this ongoing evolution of the family takes us to today.
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