I’ve added a new sub-page to the World-Building section called Society.
The purpose of the World-Building section is to give tidbits of information which will get the writerly juices flowing in the future. Do you have anything you can contribute?
From Ancient Rome: The Republic:
In or out. Patricians were the son of somebody important, and they, and their peers, were the true sons of Rome. The plebian was an outsider, with few rights or privileges. Before the time of Servius, the whole weight of public duty – military service and war tax – fell to the Patricians, under the principle “that the duty of defending the State ought to fall heaviest on those who had the most to defend.” (page 43)
“In the vigorous youth of their nation the Romans knew how to combine the advantages of city and country life. The mere farmer, who spends all his days in tilling the soil, is generally a dull and half-savage creature, cut off from the higher wants and the higher instincts of a civilized man. The mere citizen, whose life is a perpetual violation of all natural laws, inevitably stunted and deformed alike in body and in mind. The primitive Romans avoided both of these extremes … He looked to the land for his support, and spent most of his time in the free air and wholesome activities of the fields. But he was also a citizen, who from the earliest times had some voice at least in the national affairs; and after the establishment of the Republic he might rise to the command of armies and the highest offices of State.” (page 53)
Government. Two rulers known as Consuls took turns governing the nation, one day each, for a period of a year.
Help! A Dictator could be appointed in times of national crisis by decree of the Senate, who would rule with absolute power for six months. The right of appeal was suspended while he was in office. Originally used to confront an invader, the Dictatorship later became a tool of the Patricians to clamp down on commoner dissension.
Land rights. Technically most land was owned by the State, and rented to tenants. But tradition, passed the land from father to son, or could be sold.
“But with the Romans home was a sacred name … Nor was the tie broken by death, for the spirits of the beloved dead still hovered round the familiar hearth, watching with affectionate care over those who remained, shielding them from every evil influence … And thus the name of home received a spiritual significance…” (page 54)
It’s good to be King. The father was the head of the home, the bread-winner. All members of the family looked to the father. The king is the father of his people, and the father is a kind in his own household. The father was almost a despot, being able to punish or kill his son. The son was effectively worse off than a slave. A slave, once given freedom, was a free man conversely the son had to be “freed” three times before he was a free man.
Power Restrained. The unlimited power of the Father over his household was restrained by social tradition.
“The feeling that every man owes a duty to society and that no important step ought to be taken without consulting the opinion of others was a deeply rooted conviction in the Roman mind, which no one could defy with impunity. Before inflicting any severe punishment on an erring member of his household the Roman was under the obligation of summoning a family council, and though the ultimate decision lay with him the opinion of the assembled relatives could not lightly be disregarded.” (page 58)
“The man who beats his wife or children, is guilty of sacrilege against the holiest of things.” Cato (page 59).
Wed ’til dead. Marriage was a sacrament and indissoluble. The husband had full control over the wife, for the rest of her life. The breach of the marriage vow was heinous and unpardonable – punished by death.
“So stern were the laws by which these old Romans sought to guard the sanctity of marriage, regarding this as the source of all public and private good, which must at any cost be secured against contamination. And so effectual were the safeguards thus provided that for more than five centuries divorce was unknown among them. … As the mode of life became softer and more luxurious the standard of domestic purity sank lower and lower, and a general licence ensued, which defied all efforts of legislators and all the declamations of moralists.” (page 57).