If a name like that of Semo Sancus (which moreover occurs in connection with the Tiber-island) is especially associated with the sacred places of the Quirinal which afterwards diminished in its importance (comp. the Porta Sanqualis deriving its name therefrom), every unbiassed inquirer will recognize in such a circumstance only a proof of the high antiquity of that worship, not a proof of its derivation from a neighbouring land. In so speaking we do not mean to deny that it is possible that old distinctions of race may have co-operated in producing this state of things; but if such was the case, they have, so far as we are concerned, totally disappeared, and the views current among our contemporaries as to the Sabine element in the constitution of Rome are only fitted seriously to warn us against such baseless speculations leading to no result.
The Original Constitution Of Rome
The Roman House
Father and mother, sons and daughters, home and homestead, servants and chattels--such are the natural elements constituting the household in all cases, where polygamy has not obliterated the distinctive position of the mother. But the nations that have been most susceptible of culture have diverged widely from each other in their conception and treatment of the natural distinctions which the household thus presents. By some they have been apprehended and wrought out more profoundly, by others more superficially; by some more under their moral, by others more under their legal aspects. None has equalled the Roman in the simple but inexorable embodiment in law of the principles pointed out by nature herself.
The House-father And His Household
The family formed an unity. It consisted of the free man who upon his father's death had become his own master, and the spouse whom the priests by the ceremony of the sacred salted cake (-confarreatio-) had solemnly wedded to share with him water and fire, with their son and sons' sons and the lawful wives of these, and their unmarried daughters and sons' daughters, along with all goods and substance pertaining to any of its members. The children of daughters on the other hand were excluded, because, if born in wedlock, they belonged to the family of the husband; and if begotten out of wedlock, they had no place in a family at all. To the Roman citizen a house of his own and the blessing of children appeared the end and essence of life. The death of the individual was not an evil, for it was a matter of necessity; but the extinction of a household or of a clan was injurious to the community itself, which in the earliest times therefore opened up to the childless the means of avoiding such a fatality by their adopting the children of others as their own.
The Roman family from the first contained within it the conditions of a higher culture in the moral adjustment of the mutual relations of its members. Man alone could be head of a family. Woman did not indeed occupy a position inferior to man in the acquiring of property and money; on the contrary the daughter inherited an equal share with her brother, and the mother an equal share with her children. But woman always and necessarily belonged to the household, not to the community; and in the household itself she necessarily held a position of domestic subjection--the daughter to her father, the wife to her husband,(1) the fatherless unmarried woman to her nearest male relatives; it was by these, and not by the king, that in case of need woman was called to account. Within the house, however, woman was not servant but mistress. Exempted from the tasks of corn-grinding and cooking which according to Roman ideas belonged to the menials, the Roman housewife devoted herself in the main to the superintendence of her maid-servants, and to the accompanying labours of the distaff, which was to woman what the plough was to man.(2) In like manner, the moral obligations of parents towards their children were fully and deeply felt by the Roman nation; and it was reckoned a heinous offence if a father neglected or corrupted his child, or if he even squandered his property to his child's disadvantage.
In a legal point of view, however, the family was absolutely guided and governed by the single all-powerful will of the "father of the household" (-pater familias-). In relation to him all in the household were destitute of legal rights--the wife and the child no less than the bullock or the slave. As the virgin became by the free choice of her husband his wedded wife, so it rested with his own free will to rear or not to rear the child which she bore to him. This maxim was not suggested by indifference to the possession of a family; on the contrary, the conviction that the founding of a house and the begetting of children were a moral necessity and a public duty had a deep and earnest hold of the Roman mind. Perhaps the only instance of support accorded on the part of the community in Rome is the enactment that aid should be given to the father who had three children presented to him at a birth; while their ideas regarding exposure are indicated by the prohibition of it so far as concerned all the sons--deformed births excepted--and at least the first daughter. Injurious, however, to the public weal as exposure might appear, the prohibition of it soon changed its form from that of legal punishment into that of religious curse; for the father was, above all, thoroughly and absolutely master in his household. The father of the household not only maintained the strictest discipline over its members, but he had the right and duty of exercising judicial authority over them and of punishing them as he deemed fit in life and limb. The grown-up son might establish a separate household or, as the Romans expressed it, maintain his "own cattle" (-peculium-) assigned to him by his father; but in law all that the son acquired, whether by his own labour or by gift from a stranger, whether in his father's household or in his own, remained the father's property.