Ancient Roman families were very diverse, of course, but the basis of Roman civil law was the familia, a strictly defined group consisting of a head, called a paterfamilias, and his descendants in the male line. Recent work on the Roman family mainly ignores the familia, examining instead such matters as emotional relationships within families, the practical effects of control by a paterfamilias, and demographic factors producing families which did not fit the familia pattern. Gardner investigates the complex relationship that existed between family and familia, illustrating in particular how families exploited the legal rules for their own ends--and disrupted the familia--by use of emancipation (release from patria potestas) and adoption. She also traces legal responses to the effects of verious demographic factors, which gave increased importance to maternal connections, and to social effects, such as the troubles ex-slaves faced in conforming to the familia pattern.
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