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Ancient Roman Jobs Posted by on Feb 18, 2011 in Uncategorized

In every age there will always be professions that are more desirable than any other profession. Ancient Rome was not an exception. The professions that we value today weren’t necessarily valued in the same way it would have been in Ancient Rome.

For instance, being a famous actor is a coveted desire for today’s society, it wasn’t quite so in Ancient Rome. In Ancient Rome, actors had bad reputations. Some male actors dressed in women’s clothes to play female roles. This was seen as an effeminate and disgraceful act for a man to do. Also, some actors engaged in semi-prostitution, so the profession of acting was sometimes associated with having loose morals.

If a young man wasn’t successful in attaining the prized office of consul, the next best job was being a lawyer. Talented lawyers could ask for high fees, and there some historical records of famous lawyers who could command these high fees. In early Ancient Rome, there were laws against lawyers from accepting fees. This meant that only the wealthy, or those who already had a means of income, could become lawyers. However, Emperor Claudius abolished this law. By Emperor Hadrian’s time, being a lawyer was a professional class. Before Hadrian, any man who proclaimed knowledge of the law could become a lawyer, but by late Ancient Roman times, the law profession was regulated so that certain prerequisites had to be fulfilled before a man could be recognized as a lawyer.

Since being a lawyer required that one have oratorical skill, some well educated young men were unable to become lawyers. For instance, Vergil suffered from catatonic shyness and would stumble over his words. After a brief career in law, he decided to become an author. Lucky for Vergil, his change in career served him well. However, being an author was not as highly esteemed as being a lawyer. An ideal Roman citizen pursued a public career, preferably as a Senator or lawyer. Being a writer was considered a hobby, and only a very few writers like Horace could attempt to live a comfortable life as a professional author.

In today’s society, many doctors are highly trained and skilled professionals in their specialized field. However in Ancient Rome, any charlatan could claim to be a doctor and practice their form of “medicine”. Today, we have certified boards and the awarding of licenses to regulate the field of medicine, but in Ancient Rome, becoming a doctor was quite easy. As long as you could convince the patient of your skills, you were paid to be a doctor. There are some recorded instances of fake doctors who used superstition to acquire their patients. These doctors would prey upon the fears of the patient, even if the patient wasn’t ill, and pretend to cure the patient of his/her affliction.

For many lower class men, the option of being a soldier was much better than working as a tenant farmer or a slave. Although there was a danger in dying in battle, the booty acquired through warfare lured young men into joining the military. If man was at least thirty years old, literate, and had served several years in the military, he could rise in rank to be a centurion, even if he wasn’t from a patrician class.

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