Q. 1. Discuss the main features of family life in the Roman society.
Ans. The main features of family life in the Roman society are given below:
(i) Nuclear Family System. Nuclear family system widely prevailed in the Roman society. Adult sons did not live with the families of their father. Adult brothers also did not share a common household. On the other hand, slaves were considered as a part of the family because this was the conception of family for Romans.
(ii) Marriage System. Till the first century BCE, the wife did not transfer her property to her husband. She retained the complete rights in the natal family’s property. During the duration of marriage, woman’s dowry definitely went over to her husband. The woman, even after her marriage, remained a primary heir of her father. She even became the owner of property after her father’s death. In this way Roman women had enough legal rights in managing and owing property. Divorce was quite easy in those days. It required only a notion of intent to break the marriage either by husband or wife. Males used to marry in their late twenties or in early thirties. Women used to marry in the late teens or early twenties. That is why there was a gap between age of the both. Generally arranged marriages were there.
(iii) Male-dominated Families. Families were male-dominated. Generally, women were dominated by their husbands. They used to beat their wives. Except this, there was a substantial legal control of fathers over their children–sometimes to a shocking degree. For example, they had legal power of disposing off their unwanted children. They even sometimes left them in the cold to die.
Q. 2. Throw some light on economic expansion of the Roman Empire.
Ans. Various economic activities prevailed in Rome. As a result, Rome saw a great economic expansion. Following are some of the characteristics of this expansion:
(i) Very good economic infrastructure of mines, harbours, brickyards, quarries, olive oil factories, etc., was there in the empire. Wine, wheat and olive oil were consumed in huge quantities and were traded as well. These things mainly came from the Gallic provinces, Spain, Egypt, North Africa and most importantly Italy where very good conditions were there for these crops. Wine and olive oil were transported in containers. These containers were known as ‘amphorae’.
(ii) During the years 140–160 C.E., trading of Spanish olive oil reached at its peak. The Spanish olive oil was mainly transported in a container which was known as ‘Dressel-20’. Italian market of olive oil was captured by the Spanish producers. It happened only because Spanish producers supplied a better quality oil at lower prices. In other words, we can say that the big landowners of different regions used to compete with each other to take control of the markets for the goods which they produced.
(iii) Many regions were there in the empire with a reputation for exceptional fertility rate. Most densely populated and wealthiest parts of the empire were Campania and Sicily in Italy, the Fayum and Galilee in Egypt, Byzacium (Tunisia), Southern Gual (called Gallia Narbonensis) and Baetica (Southern Spain).
(iv) Campania was the main producer of best kinds of wine. Large quantities of wheat were exported to Rome by Sicily and Byzacium.
(v) Large expanses of Roman territory were in a much less advanced state. For example, transhumance was widespread in the countryside of Numidia (modern Algeria). These pastoral and seminomadic communities were generally on the move. They carried their oven-shaped huts (called mapalia) with them. As Roman estates expanded in North Africa, the pastures of those communities were drastically reduced and their movements more tightly regulated.
(vi) Even in Spain, the north was much less developed, and inhabited largely by a Celtic-speaking peasantry that lived in hilltop villages called castella. The fact is that the Rome was economically a very rich state. A very large number of gold coins were prevalent in the country.
Q. 3. What was the role of slaves and hired labour in the Roman economy?
Ans. Slavery was deeply rooted both in the Mediterranean and in West Asia. There were 3 million slaves under the reign of Augustus out of total population of 7.5 million. Even after when Christianity became the state religion in the fourth century, the institution of slavery remained intact. Slaves were considered an investment.
Role of Hired Labour and Slaves. In the first century, peace was established and a warfare became less widespread. It declined the supply of slaves. So the users of slave labour thus had to find other ways.
One of the method was slave breeding and other was cheaper substitute and that was wage labour which was more easily available. Actually, free labour was widely used in Rome on public works because use of slave labour was very expensive. Slaves had to be fed and maintained throughout the year but not to hired labour. It increased the cost of holding this type of labour. That is why in the later period, slaves were not widely used in agriculture. Now these freed men and slaves were widely used as business managers.
They were given capital by their masters to run business on their behalf or even business of their own. With the passage of time, number of hired labour increased. The eastern frontier city of Dara was built in less than three weeks by the late fifth century emperor Anastasius. He attracted labour on high wages from all over the east. By the sixth century, wage labour had become widespread in many parts of Mediterranean.
Q. 4. Describe the methods of the management of labour in the Roman Empire.
Ans. The Roman agricultural writers paid a great deal of attention to the management of labour:
(i) One of the Roman agricultural writer Columella recommended that land owners must keep a reserve stock of tools and implements, double than required, so that the production must go on.
(ii) Employers generally assumed that no work would ever get done without supervision. Therefore supervision was necessary for both slaves and free workers. Sometimes workers were grouped into gangs or smaller teams to make supervision easier. Columella also recommended to make squads of ten. He claimed that in small groups, it would be easier to tell who is working and who is not. Pliny criticised the use of slave gangs because it was the worst method of organising production. It was so because those worked in gangs were usually chained together by their feet.
(iii) Few industrial establishments in the empire kept even tighter controls. In the Frankincense factories, a seal was put upon the aprons of the workmen. They were required to wear a mask or a net with a close mesh on their heads. They were required to take off all their clothes before leaving the premises. This process was followed in most of the workshops and factories.
(iv) In a Law of 398, it was said that workers must be branded so that they could be recognised if they try to run away.
(v) A number of private employers used to make their agreements with workers as the debt contracts so that they could claim that their employees were in debt to them.
Q. 5. What is meant by ‘late antiquity’? Which religious and administrative changes were made during this period?
Ans. The term ‘late antiquity’ is used to describe the final, fascinating period in the evolution and break-up of the Roman Empire and refers broadly to fourth to seventh centuries. This period was full of many cultural and economic fermentations. Following religious and administrative changes were made in the Roman Empire during this period.
(a) Religious Changes :
(i) In the fourth century, Emperor Constantine made Christianity the official religion. Now, Christianity began to flourish in the state.
(ii) In the seventh century, Islam rose. This religion also began to become popular rapidly.
(b) Administrative Changes : Administrative set up of the state also saw several significant changes. These changes occurred in the time of Diocletian (248–305) and continued till the time of Constantine and after him. These changes were the following : (a) Changes in the time of Diocletian :
(i) The empire had expanded to a great extent. Many of its territories had no strategic or economic value. Therefore Diocletian cut back by abandoning territories with little strategic or economic value.
(ii) He fortified frontiers of the empire.
(iii) He reorganised provincial boundaries.
(iv) He separated civilian from military functions and granted greater autonomy to the military commanders. It made military officials more powerful.
(b) Changes in the time of Constantine :
(i) Constantine created Constantinople and made it the second capital. It was surrounded on three sides by the sea.
(ii) As the new capital required a new senate, there was a rapid expansion of the governing classes in the fourth century.