Roman women, although they were never given legal independence, still had a high status. They were all their lives under the control of their husbands, but the Roman mother was the head of her family. “We Romans,” said Cato, “rule the world, but our wives rule us.” The Romans were the first to celebrate Mother’s Day, and their religion reflected the importance of the family in their culture. Each family conducted its own religious rites, the father acting as the family’s priest. Romans believed in the gods, tradition, the family and the state.
The father’s power over the children did not end when they became adults, and was absolute, including life and death. The system was inflexible and didn’t allow any change, and lasted more than a thousand years. The oppression of children by their fathers was nothing, however, compared with the position of the plebeians, who had practically no rights. A plebeian could be arrested and executed by a patrician without a trial, and, if their masters died, they were sold into slavery.
In time, the plebeians gained the right to own land, to marry with higher classes and to pass their own laws. The Twelve Tables (450BC) marked the beginning of a period of “uniform law for all”. No plebeian could be executed by the magistrates without an appeal to an assembly of all Roman citizens. Later, rich plebeians formed an alliance with some patricians and a new aristocracy emerged.
1. Write a summary of the text in English, including the most important points, using your own words whenever possible (maximum 50 words).
2. Explain in English the meaning of the following expressions as used in the text.
a) they were sold into slavery means people bought them and they became slaves.b) “uniform law for all” means that the law was the same for everybody.
3. Complete the second sentence of each pair so that it has the same meaning as the first one.
a) The father’s power over the children did not end when they became adults.
c) A plebeian could be arrested and executed by a patrician without a trial.
- The system, which lasted over a thousand years, allowed little opportunity for change. (OR The system, which allowed little opportunity for change, lasted over a thousand years.)
- The system was too inflexible to allow any change.
4. Answer the following questions in your own words.
a) In what way were women respected in Rome? Women were respected because they were the head of the family and had a high status in society. The Roman men said their wives ruled them; families celebrated their religious ceremonies together, and the Roman also celebrated “Mother’s Day” for the first time in history.
b) How did life get better for the plebeians? The plebeians’ life improved because later they became richer, they could have their own land, they could marry somebody from a better class, and they couldn’t be executed without a trial by an assembly of citizens. They later became part of a new aristocracy with the patricians.
5. Do you like learning history? Do you think it is useful? Give reasons. (Approximately 120 words)
I don’t enjoy learning lists of kings and queens and dates, but I enjoy reading about history more than fiction or poetry, because it tells you about the real world. We can see how the world has changed and improved so we live much better than people in the past, like the Romans and Greeks. They were not really very democratic, and now, for example, women can say and do whatever we want. I enjoy reading about the lives of inventors, scientists and heroes. We can learn from history, so it is useful. For example, I like stories of wars and revolutions, not only because they are exciting, but because we can learn how to avoid them in the future.