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Education of Roman boys and girls

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Roman relief showing the education of Roman boys and girls
Roman relief showing the education of Roman boys and girls

Roman children (both boys and girls) were home-schooled Latin, elementary reading, writing and arithmetic. During this period of their lives, their most important teachers were their parents, who were to prepare them for life in the state.

Young Romans learned agriculture, domestic and military work, and the moral and civil responsibility that would then be required of them in the state. The person who took care of the proper development of the children was pater familias – the head of the family. For him, the most important thing was to teach children to read, write and arithmetic so that they could understand the basics of business transactions and be able to count, weigh and measure.

Some parents took their parental responsibilities very seriously. For example, Cato the Elder taught his children to work hard, be responsible, and fulfil their civic responsibilities well. Apparently, he personally taught his sons to throw javelins, armoured fighting, horseback riding, boxing, endure heat and cold, and swim.

Certainly, the most important goal of the parents’ teaching to their children was to impart tradition and respect, as well as piety and conscientiousness (pietas).

At the age of seven, the boys were sent to schools underpaid teachers (preferably Greek), under whose supervision they acquired further knowledge that would enable them in the future and facilitate their important positions on the Roman political scene. The girls, on the other hand, stayed with their mothers at home, where they learned the role of a housewife and carer, including spinning, weaving, and sewing.

Sources
  • Stanley Bonner, Education in Ancient Rome: From the Elder Cato to the Younger Pliny, 2012
  • William A. Smith, Ancient Education, 1955

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