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Children, Memory, and Family Identity in Roman Culture$
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Véronique Dasen and Thomas Späth

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199582570

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: January 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199582570.001.0001

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Modestia vs. licentia

Modestia vs. licentia

Seneca on Childhood and Status in the Roman Family

(p.223) 9 Modestia vs. licentia
Children, Memory, and Family Identity in Roman Culture

Francesca Mencacci

Oxford University Press

In the Roman family the relationship between slave children and free adults could be quite ambiguous, mixing affection and exploitive attitudes. One of the reasons why the domini of the imperial era were so fond of their slave children was their special skills in the field of verbal impudence and scurrilous jesting. Free speech and a certain kind of humour seem to have been encouraged in these children for the personal entertainment of the dominus and of his guests. Verbal licentia was not permitted to the free children of the domus; elite children had to achieve complete mastery over language as a mark of social distinction. By exploring the different shaping of speech habits of freeborn and slave children and its social consequences, the chapter aims to focus on the different ways the upper-class Romans understood childhood and at the same time to define more precisely the nature of the relationship between the domini and their pet slaves.

Keywords:   attitudes, children, freeborn, jokes, licentia, modestia, register (linguistic), Seneca, slaves, social distinction, speech

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