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Lucretia81

Liberalia for a fatherless boy?

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Hi everyone! Well, this is my first "real" topic here...so I'm excited to get some help on a topic that's been stumping me! In the novel I'm working on, I have a character who is in his mid-teens, who is living at a village that grew up around a permanent Legion fortress in modern-day Turkey. (Time period is during Diocletian's reign, near the end of the third century). This boy's father died several years ago, before the boy was old enough to be recognized as a man.

 

I was just curious how a boy's coming of age would be handled if he had no father to give him the toga virilis and no paternal uncle living in the area either? Would someone in the community take the father's place? I assume the boy couldn't just...pick up the white toga himself without it being some kind of public offense. Would the boy have any standing in society, if his now-dead father had held a prominent position (say, Legate) before his death?

 

Also, does anyone know what might have been done for a Legate's widow and family? Would they be given a pension, perhaps? Or left on their own?

 

And one final point of curiosity...did Christian boys celebrate the Liberalia like their pagan peers? I know part of the ceremony involves dedicating the bulla to the lares, correct?  But I doubt a Christian would want to take part in that.

 

Thanks in advance for any help! I'm having a blast already, browsing through the topics here. So much amazing information collected here. :)

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I'm not an expert on this topic, but wouldn't the location of Anatolia (where Turkey is now) mean that Greek customs would prevail, not Roman? Unless, of course, your boy's family were descended from Italian colonists.

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I was just curious how a boy's coming of age would be handled if he had no father to give him the toga virilis and no paternal uncle living in the area either? Would someone in the community take the father's place?

It depends. If the boy is well connected and popular, perhaps somebody in the settlement would honour him as such. There might be local native customs to consider. However, it's just as likely that the young man would be considered so by necessity and that no coming-of-age ceremony would take place, bearing in mind that such ceremonies are usually (and were so to the Romans), family orientated.

 

I assume the boy couldn't just...pick up the white toga himself without it being some kind of public offense. Would the boy have any standing in society, if his now-dead father had held a prominent position (say, Legate) before his death?

He would have to be freeborn for the ceremony to pass with common approval. However, the toga virilis merely celebrates the entitlement of a male to be considered an adult and is honourary - it confers no actual status, and for older men a plain toga is exactly the same.

 

 

Also, does anyone know what might have been done for a Legate's widow and family? Would they be given a pension, perhaps? Or left on their own?

It depends. Her family would be obliged to ensure she was taken care of, and she might well re-marry after a brief period of mourning, as would be expected. She would of course be entitled to the inheritance from her dead husbands will, circumstances allowing. Please note...

Lex Iulia de Maritandis Ordinibus (18 BC) – marrying-age celibates and young widows that would not marry were barred from receiving inheritances and from attending public games
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Roman_laws

 

And one final point of curiosity...did Christian boys celebrate the Liberalia like their pagan peers? I know part of the ceremony involves dedicating the bulla to the lares, correct?  But I doubt a Christian would want to take part in that.

Interesting point. I suspect that we cannot simply divide Roman practises into pagan and christian so neatly. Christianity was never a unified movement in Roman times, not even after the Council of Nicaea in 325 designed to achieve solidarity, and the observance of ritual was partially then down to which sect the worshipper belonged. There would be certain practises, like burial, that were either one or the other. Traditional customs may well have persisted - after all, many of the christian rituals concerning weddings we practise today - An exchange of rings, cutting the cake, carrying a bride across the threshold, and confetti - are actually pagan Roman customs inherited from their republican era.

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Sorry to take so long to reply...got really busy there for a few days! :) But thank you all so much for the help! Caldrail, that was some great information...I really appreciate it! 

 

What rank did the boy's father have?

 

I have him as the Legatus Legionis of this particular permanent Legion castra. But he was reputed to have died dishonorably in battle.

 

I'm not an expert on this topic, but wouldn't the location of Anatolia (where Turkey is now) mean that Greek customs would prevail, not Roman? Unless, of course, your boy's family were descended from Italian colonists.

 

There seems to have been a lot of cross-over, as far as I can tell. As part of the Legion, I imagined this family would be pretty well in tune with Roman customs, but as cultural Greeks they may have followed those customs too. I admit, I'm not overly familiar with Greek coming-of-age ceremonies...does anyone know if they had particular rites/customs like the Liberalia?

 

 

It depends. If the boy is well connected and popular, perhaps somebody in the settlement would honour him as such. There might be local native customs to consider. However, it's just as likely that the young man would be considered so by necessity and that no coming-of-age ceremony would take place, bearing in mind that such ceremonies are usually (and were so to the Romans), family orientated.

 

That is interesting. That could actually work as well for this situation. I was thinking of having the Tribune, who had thought highly of the boy's father, offer to stand in his father's place (but never actually has a chance to, as the boy has to leave the village before it happens).

 


He would have to be freeborn for the ceremony to pass with common approval. However, the toga virilis merely celebrates the entitlement of a male to be considered an adult and is honourary - it confers no actual status, and for older men a plain toga is exactly the same.

 


Okay. At this time, because of the universal grant of citizenship, I assume there wasn't anything special that had to be done, like enrolling the boy's name or anything. I can't imagine how difficult that would have been, logistically speaking, if Caracalla hadn't passed that Edict.
 

 

It depends. Her family would be obliged to ensure she was taken care of, and she might well re-marry after a brief period of mourning, as would be expected. She would of course be entitled to the inheritance from her dead husbands will, circumstances allowing. Please note...


Lex Iulia de Maritandis Ordinibus (18 BC) – marrying-age celibates and young widows that would not marry were barred from receiving inheritances and from attending public games
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Roman_laws

 


Thank you for that link and information! All interesting things to mull over... :)

Interesting point. I suspect that we cannot simply divide Roman practises into pagan and christian so neatly. Christianity was never a unified movement in Roman times, not even after the Council of Nicaea in 325 designed to achieve solidarity, and the observance of ritual was partially then down to which sect the worshipper belonged. There would be certain practises, like burial, that were either one or the other. Traditional customs may well have persisted - after all, many of the christian rituals concerning weddings we practise today - An exchange of rings, cutting the cake, carrying a bride across the threshold, and confetti - are actually pagan Roman customs inherited from their republican era.

 

 

Ah, fascinating! And yes, that would make sense.

 

Technical issue here...is there a way to edit where it says "Quote" in those passages? I tried using the MultiQuote thing, but as soon as I tried to break up the quote from Caldrail, the whole thing got broken down into little quotes with no indication of authorship. Kind of annoying.

At any rate, you have given me some great material to think over...I appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions! This is so, so helpful! 

Edited by Lucretia81

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I was thinking of having the Tribune, who had thought highly of the boy's father, offer to stand in his father's place (but never actually has a chance to, as the boy has to leave the village before it happens).

Such an offer in Roman terms would result in an official adoption, a common practicce among Romans where people took on favourite protoeges among their own family. In fact, if there were no senior males in the boys family, then he becomes the official head of the family as soon as he's considered 'of age'. This is of course why the Romans had a ceremony to mark such an occaision, although the eldest male retained authority and in fact even adult males were obliged to observe their 'child' status until the old man passed away, a constant source of frustration in Roman society, even after receiving their toga virilis. A Roman could be an adult, but not a patron until his patron was no more.

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