Forgan Smith (building 1), The University of Queensland, St Lucia
Venue: Forgan Smith (building 1), The University of Queensland, St Lucia.

Children and Parental Ambitions in the Roman World

In Australian society today, all parents hope that their children will grow up to be successful adults. In some cases children are also pushed to fulfil specific parental ambitions, for example, academically or on the sporting field. Roman parents also had hopes and dreams for their children. This paper, by examining literary, epigraphic and visual evidence, will explore the expectations and ambitions parents had for their children in the Roman World of the Late Republican and Early Imperial periods (1st century BCE to approximately the 3rd century CE). Some children were expected to emulate the moral values of their ancestors and to succeed in the world of elite politics, and/or to fulfil their military duties to the Roman state. However, some children, especially those of ex-slaves, were often encouraged to succeed where their parents legally and socially could not. The paper will conclude by briefly examining evidence recording the premature deaths of children. Children at all social levels of Roman society were an important part of familial memory even when they died prematurely, and this valuable body of evidence also reflects an interesting range of parental expectations and ambitions.

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