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Grant number like: FB-50357-04

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Judith A. Evans-Grubbs
Sweet Briar College (Sweet Briar, VA 24595-5001)

Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars
Research Programs

$40,000 (approved)
$40,000 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2004 – 6/30/2005

Duty and Power: A Study of Parent-Child Relationships in the Roman Empire

This is a study of parent-child relationships in the Roman Empire of the second and third centuries A.D., focusing on the evidence of the almost 2500 imperial rescripts found in the Codex Justinianus. These rescripts are replies by the emperor to petitions from individuals (mostly private subjects rather than imperial officials) who have written to the imperial bureau for petitions for a legal ruling or advice. These imperial responses (unfortunately, the petitions themselves have not been preserved) can tell us much about social relations in the Empire and sources of conflict within the household. The great majority of the rescripts date from the third century, especially the latter half of the century, a period for which very little other documentation survives. Whereas great progress has been made in the study of the family in the late Republic and earlier Empire (the "classical" period of Roman law and culture) and of the family in late antiquity (the "post-classical" period), the third century is an "in-between" period that has attracted less attention. My study will culminate in a seven-chapter book covering issues in parent-child relations, including conflicts over custody and child support, the position of children after divorce, conflicts between parents and children over choice of marriage partner and over parental attempts to force adult children to divorce, conflicts over the obligation of adult children to support needy or infirm parents, and the situation of children who have been ejected from the family, either through having been abandoned as infants or through having been sold or pledged to pay parents' debts. I will also use contemporary information from literary, epigraphic, and papyrological sources. The final study will make a contribution to our knowledge of the family in the Roman Empire and to our understanding of Roman law and society.