Education in Ancient Rome Posted by on Jan 25, 2012 in Latin Language, Roman culture, Uncategorized

OLD PERIOD (until the second century BC):

At this time in the history of Ancient Rome, the education of children was limited to the preparation that their father could give. It was an education of farmers, based fundamentally on respect for the customs of the ancestors (mos maiorum). From early childhood they were taught that the family they belonged to was a genuine social and religious unit, whose powers were all concentrated in the head, the paterfamilias, who was the owner of everything, with the right of life and death on all family members.

Up to seven years old the mother was responsible for the education of children. The mother was a teacher at home. She had therefore a very important role, not limited only to give birth to the child, but then she continued her work taking care of children physically and morally. Hence its influence on the child was important throughout his or her life.

From the seventh year it was the father who took responsibility for the education of children. A father taught his son (puer) to read, write, use arms and cultivate lands, while he taught also the basics of good manners, religion, morality and knowledge of the law. The boy accompanied his father everywhere: to the field, treats, forum, etc.

For its part, the girl (puella) continued under the direction and care of her mother, who teaches at the loom and housework.

The final refinement to his education was given by military training, which was entered at the age of 16 or 17 years old. The Roman army’s strength laid in their discipline: the coward was beaten to death, a General could decapitate anyone for the slightest disobedience, the deserters were cut off their right hand, and the food consisted of bread and vegetables.


From the third and second centuries BC Rome came into contact with Greek culture after conquering the Magna Graecia (southern Italy). Since then, the Greek cultural superiority marked the Roman culture and education. Teachers and rhetoricians arrived to Rome as slaves and they taught in the homes of their owners and even open schools after obtaining freedom.
Soon the implementation of the Greek educational system happened. Thus, the rustic Rome became a transmitter of the Greek humanistic flow. From that moment on a large numbers of teachers, grammarians, rhetoricians and philosophers invaded the streets of Rome and the Romans accepted their teachings (though not without some reluctance).
Schematically, the organization of the educational system was as follows:
Level of education Age of pupils Teacher’s name Curricula Places Methodology
Elementary education  7-11(In the Empire they had free schools for poor children) Ludi magister or Litterator
Reading, writing, calculations and simple memorization. The Law of Twelve Tables.Objective: basic culture and civic attitude.
Pergulae= roofsTabernae = shops Memorization and corporal punishment (splint)
Middle education 12-16(rich or privileged) Grammaticus Explanations of Greek and Roman poets.The aim is the perfect mastery of language. Tabernae throughout the forum, open to the public Full text analysis: grammar, metrics.History, mythology and geography by memorization
Higher education 17-20(students who aspire to political career / cursus honorum). Rhetor Speaking: rules, formulas, speeches, declamations.Aim: eloquence. Porches on the forum. From the Empire on, the state provided them with beautiful classrooms. Practical exercises: suasoriae, controversiae.
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