Begotten or Made?
Adopted Sons in Roman Society and Imperial Ideology
Chapter 3 investigates father‐son relationships in the Roman family, emphasizing the practices of adoption and inheritance among elites. In the Roman worldview, sonship did not primarily point backward to begetting, but forward to inheritance, often through the medium of adoption. For emperors, this observation is especially crucial, since these “fathers” of the Empire had no small trouble propagating their family lines through natural begetting. These divine fathers usually had to adopt their divine sons. Therefore, the chapter analyzes the transmission of power from father to son in the imperial family and the competing family ideologies of natural (“begotten”) sons and adopted (“made”) sons. The analysis shows that scholarship on divine sonship has been hampered by mistaken assumptions about adopted sons. Far from being second‐class family members, they were pivotal and often favored. The adoption of adult males helped to stabilize ruling families and formed a key part of imperial ideology.
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