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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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Remembering one's Ancestors, Following in their Footsteps, being like them

Remembering one's Ancestors, Following in their Footsteps, being like them

The Role and Forms of Family Memory in the Building of Identity*

(p.19) 1 Remembering one's Ancestors, Following in their Footsteps, being like them
Children, Memory, and Family Identity in Roman Culture

Catherine Baroin

Oxford University Press

A Roman citizen of high birth must remember his ascendants' names and political career. This family memory is composed not only of knowledge, but of acts, because remembering one's forefathers involves imitating them and taking them as one's model (exemplum) in war, in politics, and in one's moral life. This is expressed by a metaphor: ‘following in one's ancestors' footsteps’ (vestigia sequi). On the other hand, if to remember is to imitate, to imitate is to be like (similis), not only regarding moral behaviour and acts, but also physically; in fact, a son has to be the image (imago) of his father. Gentilician identity is thus constructed doubly: on the one hand, the identity of a young noble stems from his name and the story of his family; on the other, this identity depends on his ‘being like’ and ‘acting like’.

Keywords:   ancestors, footsteps, imitation, memory, model, resemblance, similis, similitudo, vestigia

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