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Augustan Morality

Augustan Morality

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Published by vademecumdevally

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Published by: vademecumdevally on Mar 11, 2012
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10/07/2013

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................MORALITY IN THE AGE OF AUGUSTUSThere
 
 was an intensive package of legislation by Augustusdealing with morality in 18 BC. All sorts of areas of life wereinvolved 
 
and were new although they tried to enforce atraditional morality. Especially new were the ones which tried to enforce marital and sexual relationships with a view to promoting marriage and the production of children. It wascarefully graded according to your status in society. Soadultery was defined as a sexual relationship only between aRoman male citizen and a married Roman citizen woman. Alsoillegal were relationships between an unmarried Roman citizen woman and any man or homosexual contact between two Romancitizen men.This legislation is very revealing for what is left out. Roman male can have an affair with a slave and professional prostitutes and freed women were not included. What isforbidden is an affair with a "matrona", a respectable married  woman of Roman citizenship. A "liberta" was fair game. This led to an exaggerated double standard. The main concern seems tohave been to preserve the purity of the citizen body from "pollution" from the outside. This meant the encouragement of marriage and the production of legitimate heirs by citizens.Citizens who were married with children were given precedencein public life (most importantly they had greater inheritancerights). This makes it clear that marriage and child-bearing were matters which concerned the state.Part of the reason for this was the simple desire to increasethe numbers of Roman citizens but there was more to it thanthat. It was a common perception that there had been a declinein morality over the previous period and now there was a strongdesire to return to what they saw as a more stable and ordered  way of life. They seemed to see the family as an analogy forsociety as a whole, as the basic building block of society. TheRoman ideal was of "pietas", a bond of devotion to family,gods, comrades, and fatherland. Augustus liked to be seen asthe avenger of his "father's" death and the saviour of Rome.Even before Virgil the connection had been made between theJulian family and the great founder of the Roman people, Aeneas. Three civil wars had seemed to split the Roman "family"and now familial relations had to be repaired. Trying torestore the family unit was part of a bigger process of tryingto repair the morale of the city.The staging of the Secular Games in 17 BC celebrated thisreturn to a golden age of goodness and purity, the passing ofthe old era of immorality, hatred and debasement to a new orderemphasising Apollo, god of purity (and of Actium), the prayers

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