Family matters. A comparative and interconnected analysis of the social importance of family relations and descent in republican Etruria and Latium (ca. 500-31 BC)



This project investigates the extent to which family relations, and more specifically ties of descent, formed a constitutive part of personal and social identity. Traditionally, Roman society has been seen as highly patriarchal, while scholars have stressed the more effeminate character of Etruscan culture. Both images are the result of the analysis of biased and very limited evidence, however, necessitating a coherent revaluation of this potentially crucial social institute. How prominent were ties of descent in the representation and description of people and what ties were dominant and in what context? How were these ties, and by extent patrilineal and matrilineal kin, conceptualised in various media and how did this influence people’s attitude towards these ties? Did one have much flexibility to display and perhaps use descent to gain social capital, or was this choice limited by socialisation and cultural practice? Did the gradual integration of ancient Italy under the hegemony of Rome cause changes in the display and social relevance of descent – both in allied communities and in Rome – and what does this tell us about the social consequences of the Roman conquest? This interdisciplinary project is therefore concerned with local developments, but explicitly places these in an interconnected perspective and carefully considers the impact of external influences and wider structural changes as well.