THE WORLD OF CHILDHOOD

bust of a young girl Portrait bust, 2nd century CE

Extant texts and images tell us how important children were in the ancient world. Among the elite, sons promised continuity of the family name while grown daughters could forge advantageous alliances for the family through marriage. As adults, both could tend the family tomb and honor the spirits of their ancestors at festivals for the dead. In poorer families all children worked at home to support the family, while daughters might be exposed or sold in infancy to avoid the dowry. The child's birth was not celebrated until its eighth day of life and parents were given thirty days to register the birth with the state. Puberty was the defining limit of childhood, when a girl could be married and a boy put aside his bulla and donned his adult toga. Tombstones testify to the dangers of childhood in the ancient world. Mortality was very high: about a third of newborns died within their first year while half of all children died by age ten. Sarcophagi give evidence of the love and grief felt by parents at all class levels. For further information, see Rawson (2003) and Uzzi (2005) in the Bibliography; see also Images of Childhood below.

Text-Commentaries Additional Readings
Marcus Valerius Martialis, Epigrammata V. 34: Erotion See the Latin reader The Worlds of Roman Women for the following texts:
C. Plinius Caecilius Secundus (minor), Epistulae 7.18: patronage of children CLE 1518, Funerary Inscription: a much-loved girl
Marcus Valerius Martialis, Epigrammata V. 37: Erotion 2 ILS 5213, Funerary Inscription: Eucharis, actress and singer

Funerary Inscriptions for:

Aulus Gellius, Noctes Atticae 1.12: choosing a Vestal
Aelia Sabina Gn. Naevius, Fragment from a comedy 74.9: a coquette (Game)
Caecinia Bassa C. Plinius Caecilius Secundus, Epistulae 5.16: Fundanus' daughter (Minicia; Letter 54)
Euodia Cipara See De Feminis Romanis at Diotima for the following on-line Latin text:
Helena Titus Livius, Ab Urbe Condita II.13: Cloelia
Maconiana Severiana  
Minucia Suavis  
Young Girl  
Julia Victorina  
Nymphe  
Geminia Agathe  

IMAGES of CHILDHOOD

GIRLS

PLAYTHINGS

MONUMENTS, COINS

All images are courtesy of the VRoma Project's Image Archive.