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The Latin name for a household community, consisting of the master of the house (pater familias), his wife (mater familias), his sons and unmarried daughters (filii and filiae familias), the wives, sons, and unmarried daughters of the sons, and the slaves. All the other members of the family were subject to the authority of the pater familias. (For the power of the husband over his wife, see Manus.) In virtue of his paternal authority (patria potestas), the pater familias had absolute authority over his children. He might, if he liked, expose them, sell them, or kill them. These rights, as manners were gradually softened, were more and more rarely enforced; but they legally came to an end only when the father died, lost his citizenship, or of his own will freed his son from his authority. (See Emancipatio.) They could, however, be transferred to another person if the son were adopted, or the daughter married. A son, if of full age, was not in any way interfered with by the patria potestas in the exercise of his civil rights. But in the exercise of his legal rights as an individual, he was dependent always on his father. He could, for instance, own no property; but all that he acquired was, in the eye of the law, at the exclusive disposal of his father. The pater familias alone had the right of making dispositions of the family property by mortgage, sale, or will. See McLennan, The Patriarchal Theory (1885).

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