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XV

[15arg] To what extent in ancient days it was to old age in particular that high honours were paid; and why it was that later those same honours were extended to husbands and fathers; and in that connection some provisions of the seventh section of the Julian law.


AMONG the earliest Romans, as a rule, neither birth nor wealth was more highly honoured than age, but older men were reverenced by their juniors almost like gods and like their own parents, and everywhere and in every kind of honour they were regarded as first and of prior right. From a dinner-party, too, older men were escorted home by younger men, as we read in the records of the past, a custom which, as tradition has it, the Romans took over from the Lacedaemonians, by whom, in accordance with the laws of Lycurgus, greater honour on all occasions was paid to greater age.

But after it came to be realised that progeny were a necessity for the State, and there was occasion to add to the productivity of the people by premiums and other inducements, then in certain respects greater deference was shown to men who had a wife, and to those who had children, than to older [p. 163] men who had neither wives nor children. Thus in chapter seven of the Julian law 1 priority in assuming the emblems of power is given, not to the elder of the consuls, but to him who either has more children tinder his control than his colleague, or has lost them in war. But if both have an equal number of children, the one who has a wife, or is eligible for marriage, is preferred. If, however, both are married and are fathers of the same number of children, then the standard of honour of early times is restored, and the elder is first to assume the rods. But when both consuls are without wives and have the same number of sons, or are husbands but have no children, there is no provision in that law as to age. However, I hear that it was usual for those who had legal priority to yield the rods for the first month to colleagues who were either considerably older than they, or of much higher rank, or who were entering upon a second consulship.

1 In 18 B.C. Augustus proposed a law de maritandis ordinibus,imposing liabilities on the unmarried and offering rewards to those who married and reared children. It was violently opposed, but was finally passed in a modified form. See Suet. Aug. xxxiv. In A.D. 9 the lex Papia Poppaea, called from the consules suffecti of the year, was added. The combined Lex Iulia et Papia Poppaea contained at least 35 chapters (Dig. 23. 2. 19).

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  • Cross-references to this page (2):
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), ADOP´TIO
    • A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (1890), CONSUL
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