What Rights Did Men Have In Ancient Rome

Ancient Roman Men’s Rights in Political Participation and Citizenship

During the rise of the Roman Republic, fathers of the nuclear family (patres familiae) had a high level of influence and autonomy over their daughters and sons, their slaves, marriages and property rights. Ancient Roman men could divorce, sell the dowry and remarry. Fathers, not mothers, had the privilege of risking money on business ventures and had ways to dispose of their children if they deemed them to be unworthy of their lineage.
Roman men had several legal rights that allowed them to participate in political decision-making processes. As members of the gens, the extended family for patricians and nobles, men could hold political and religious offices. They had the right to vote in the assemblies. According to Polybius, the consul and censor conducted the census of citizens and excluded those who did not meet the requirement of the census’ assessment.
The Roman Republic introduced citizenship rights to male citizens who were in social and political life purposes. Men had the right to attend assembly meetings, vote at election and serve as magistrates. They were able to marry, bear children and practice private commerce. The Romans said that male citizens were ‘the corner stone of Rome’s democracy and its citizens were the heart and soul of the Republic. They were allowed to choose the next ruler and make decisions that affected the lives of all Roman citizens.

Roman Men’s Rights in the Arts and Entertainment

Ancient Roman men had the freedom to express their thoughts and feelings through the arts, literature and entertainment. Ancient Roman men were the first to write plays, compose music and compose poetry. They also had access to theaters, where they could see and appreciate the arts.
Ancient Roman men were able to take part in athletic games such as chariot racing and boxing. This allowed them to demonstrate their physical strength and prove themselves to be true warriors. Men also over-sized gladiator games, where they could participate in fights between animals and humans. In addition to these, Roman men had the freedom to participate in musical performances, musical instruments, singing and dancing.

Ancient Roman Men’s Rights in War

In Rome, men were eligible for military service from the age of 17, until their time of retirement. During military service, men had the right to be in command, lead campaigns and receive a payment for their participation in wars. Serving in the military also granted men an additional legal protection, making them inviolable for much of their lifespan.
The Roman Republic was known for its incessant military conflicts. Roman men were expected to be brave and courageous on the battlefield. It was a matter of great pride and honour to the Roman men to fight and win in a war and be remembered by their nation.

Ancient Roman Men’s Rights in Property and Inheritance

Ancient Roman men had the right to own and manage property and assets, which was one of the most important of all ancient Roman rights. Men had the right to manage or transfer their assets, including land and buildings. The law also favoured men when it came to the transfer of property and inheritance. This meant that the property and fortune belonged to the male line and not the female, even if the woman was the blood relative of the deceased male property-owner.
Since a father had the right to dispose of property to whomever he wished, multiple heirs could inherit the fortune. This law is called Testaments Dividis, which means inheritances divided amongst multiple heirs. Ancient Roman men could also manage and use their father’s estate as they saw fit.

Ancient Roman Men’s Rights in Education

Ancient Roman men had the privilege of access to the best education in all most all fields. They were able to attend the best schools and academies of law, rhetoric and philosophy. Men had the right to become skilled in professions that required professional qualifications. They were able to practice law, deliver justice and govern the state.
Roman men had the right to publish scholarly work, which led to the invention of printing and the spread of the Latin language across the Roman Empire. Scholarships for Roman men were provided by wealthy citizens, academies and the state. This enabled them to receive a high-level of education and gain a broad knowledge of the world.

Ancient Roman Men’s Rights in Legal Matters

As legal citizens of the Roman Republic, male citizens had access to the courts of law. They could seek justice against any wrong that had been done to them, in terms of financial and property matters. In addition, the legal system allowed Roman men access to the magistrates and allowed appeals after proceedings.
In legal terms, Roman men had certain privileges that women were not entitled to. Men had the right to own slaves, while women did not. Men had the right to drink wine without social stigma attached, while women were expected to abstain from drinking this beverage. Lastly, men had the privilege of being heard in court and serving as jurors, while women were excluded from jury duty.

Ancient Roman Men’s Rights in Religion

Men in ancient Rome had the right to practice the state religion, which was polytheism. This allowed them to take part in religious rituals and become important religious officials. Men were allowed to interpret sacred texts and write religious commentaries. They could interpret the meaning of the gods and goddesses of Roman pantheon.
In some cases, Roman men could also become priests and worship gods. The Vestal Virgins were a cult that worshipped gods and goddesses through rituals and sacrifices. Men could also initiate temples unlike women, they also had the right to carry out holy rites.

Ancient Roman Men’s Rights in Family Law

Roman men had the right to divorce their wives in the court regardless of what the wife’s family thought. If a man wanted a divorce, he could do so without any interference by the family of the woman.
Roman men also had the right to protect their daughters’ virginity before marriage. Although in Roman law, women had the right to initiate divorce, the husband still had the power to decide which properties his wife was to keep for herself. Roman men also had the sole rights to custody over children, this meant that if a man died his children were taken care of by him.

Ancient Roman Men’s Rights in Marriage

Marriage in ancient Rome was based on the concept of consent. Therefore, a man had the right to marry any woman he chose. In the early days of Rome, marriage was completely free and unconstrained by law. Men had the freedom to marry as many times as they wanted.
Source of dowry was very important in determining the social position of a Roman woman. Men had the right to terminate the marriage if the dowry was very low and had the right to take back the dowry if the marriage ended without any fault on his part. In addition to this, a man could choose to marry a divorced woman without any social repercussions, while a woman could not do the same without such consequences.

Moshe Rideout is a professional writer and historian whose work focuses on the history of Ancient Rome. Moshe is passionate about understanding the complexity of the Roman Empire, from its architecture to its literature, political systems to social structures. He has a Bachelor's degree in classic studies from Rutgers University and is currently pursuing a PhD in classical archaeology at UMass Amherst. When he isn't researching or writing, he enjoys exploring ruins around Europe, drawing inspiration from his travels.

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