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FAMI´LIA in Old Latin famelia, in Oscan famelo, in Umbrian famedia, is probably in its original sense a body of persons belonging to a house, a household (Osc. faa-ma =house, Sanskr. dhâ = to settle, dhâman = settlement). The etymology of Festus (s. v. famuli), deriving familia from the Oscan famel, meaning “a slave,” is now commonly rejected; and the view of Corssen (Kuhn, Zeitsch. f. verg. Sprach. 2.292), that the fundamental conception of the word is “inheritance,” “property,” has met with little favour. (Voigt, XII. Tafeln, 2.72, n. 3; Rossbach, Röm. Ehe, A. 42; Curt. Gr. Etym. p. 228.) The adjective familiares and the substantive famuli signify generally the members belonging to a house (Festus, s. v. familiaris; Paul. Diac. 86, 16), though the latter word came to denote the slaves of a familia or household. The Latin word for the house or homestead, which was the principal family possession, is domus; and the combination domus familiaque, for which familia pecuniaque was substituted, designates the family in respect of its familiares or members, and in respect of its dwelling-place with the property attached to it (Voigt, l.c.). The meaning of the word familia, which appears to have originally included only the group of familiares, was extended so as to comprehend all that is subject to the manus or control of a paterfamilias, both free persons, slaves and other objects of property, in this sense corresponding to the Greek οἶκος. But the word has generally narrower significations ( “familiae--appellatio et in res et in personas diducitur,” Dig. 50, 16, 195.1). Thus it sometimes means “property;” that is to say, property “as an adjunct or appendage of a household,” as e. g. in the phrase familiae erciscundae judicium and in the connexion of words ex Cassia familia datum (Liv. 2.8, 15.41).

The Greek οἶκος has a similar sense, and we may perhaps also compare the use of familia in the writings of Bede as equivalent to the Anglo-Saxon word hŷd, which probably means the quantity of land appropriated to a family (Earle, Land Charters, p. 457). In the description of the mancipative will given by Gaius (2.102) the word familia is explained by the equivalent patrimonium, and the person who received the succession from the testator by mancipation ( “qui a testatore familiam accipiebat mancipio” ) was called familiae emptor. It is to be noticed that in the formula adopted by the familiae emptor, when he took the testator's estate by a fictitious sale, the word pecunia is coupled with familia, “Familia pecuniaque tua endo mandatelam custodelamque” (Gaius, 2.104: cf. Cic. de Inv. 2.5. 0, 148; de Leg. 3.3, 7; Sueton. Nero, 4), familia probably meaning the family and pecunia the property. Various interpretations, however, of the words familia pecuniaque in this passage have been proposed. Kuntze (Excurs. 107) maintains, though without sufficient ground, that familia comprises res mancipi of the testator, and pecunia res nec mancipi. Rudorff (Recht der Vormundsch. 1.168, A. 3) suggests that familia signifies the slaves and pecunia cattle (pecus). Another conjecture is that familia is the property that was originally inalienable, and pecunia alienable chattels.

In the passage of the Twelve Tables which declares that in default of any suus heres the succession of the deceased shall go to the next agnatus, the word familia signifies the succession “agnatus proximus familiam habeto.”

Familia sometimes signifies only persons; that is, all those who are in the power of a head of a family, such as descendants, and slaves who were not only objects of dominion, but also in a sense objects of potestas. In another sense familia denotes only the free persons who are in the power of a paterfamilias, including natural and adoptive descendants and the wife in her husband's manus. In a more extended sense familia includes all those who are connected by agnation; that is, all who are sprung or who are supposed to be sprung from an ascertained common ancestor, and would be in his power if he were living. With this sense of familia is connected the status familiae, by virtue of which a person belonged to a particular familia, and thereby had a capacity for certain rights which only the members of a familia could claim. A person who changed this status ceased to belong to the familia, and sustained a capitis deminutio minima. [ADOPTIO; CAPUT.] Members of the same familia were familiares, and hence familiaris came to signify an intimate friend.

Familia was properly the civil family connected by subjection to patria potestas or by agnation, not the natural family connected only by cognation; but familia is sometimes used to signify a natural family. The extent of the terms agnati and cognati and their legal import are explained under COGNATI

The word familia may be equivalent to gens, which comprehended a group of agnatic familiae. The relation of the agnatic familia and gens is explained under GENS

Familia is frequently used to signify only the slaves belonging to a head of a family (Cic. Fam. 14.4; ad Quint. Fr. 2.6). Slaves who belonged to the same familia were called, with respect to this relation, familiares. Generally familiaris might signify anything relating to a familia, e.g. familiaria sacra.

The head of a familia or household, known originally as esus or erus (Voigt, XII. Tafeln, 2.79, n. 9), was a Roman citizen who was sui juris. As master of his house (domus) and its [p. 1.825]belongings he was dominus; as governor of the familiares or members of the household, he was paterfamilias. His wife, subject to his manus, was materfamilias or house-mother. [MATRIMONIUM] A filius- or filia-familias was a male or female descendant in the power of a paterfamilias. The legal incapacities of filius-and filia-familias and a wife in manu may be most appropriately considered under PATRIA POTESTAS

Familia has also the meaning of a body of persons united in a society for a particular purpose: thus it is applied to a school of philosophers, e. g. familia Peripateticorum (Cic. Div. 2.1, 3), to a school of gladiators, and to a corps of recruits. In a sense still more remote from the original, it is sometimes applied to signify a man's living, a man's means of subsistence (Ter. Heauton. 5.36). (Savigny, System des heutigen röm. Rechts, i. pp. 345, 356; Voigt, Das Civil-und Criminalrecht der XII. Tafeln, 2.72; Rollet, De la Famille et la Propriété sous la loi des XII. Tabl.; Schupfer, La Famiglia secondo il Diritto Romano; Muirhead, Introduction to Law of Rome, ch. iii.; Maine, Ancient Law, chaps. v. and vi.; Roby, Introduction to the Digest, p. 48.)


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