13. Childhood on the Roman frontiers

13. Childhood on the Roman frontiers

Maureen Caroll

Affiliation: University of York, United Kingdom

Session Abstract: Recent studies on aspects of childhood in the Roman world have been reshaping the study of children in antiquity, especially in advocating interdisciplinarity to counterbalance the dominance of literary and documentary approaches towards illuminating children’s lives in ancient society. Children’s experiences differed according to their location, time, gender, and social context, and great strides have been made in considering these factors in scholarly enquiry. Yet, one important context in which there are serious gaps in study is that of military communities and families on the frontiers in any part of the empire. Growing up in a potentially dangerous location dominated by soldiers and combative professionals, who were accompanied by women and families to varying degrees, depending on time and place, may have influenced and impacted the life of a child in very different ways than in a purely civilian milieu in Rome, Italy or other places distant from the frontier zones. Non-Roman children on the fringes of and outside the empire may have had their lives irreversibly altered as well. There is a clear need for an interdisciplinary approach to the study of childhood in this environment. This session will explore the physical environments in which children lived, including the forts, the vici, and canabae, and nearby settlements; the objects and material culture given to children; their place in the household and their social connectivity in military and civilian sectors; their role in the families of serving and veteran soldiers; the experiences children might have had, both negative and positive; the depiction of children as Romans and non-Romans; and the evidence for socialisation and gendered behaviour in life and death. It will utilise funerary commemoration and epigraphy, texts, artefactual evidence, visual imagery, skeletal data, and demographic studies.

Time Presenter (s) Presentation
 

COFFEE BREAK

15.20 Maureen Carroll Introduction
15.40 Alexander Meyer Onomastics, Children, and Identity on Roman Military Diplomas
16.10 April Pudsey The Sons of Auxiliary Veterans in Roman Egypt: Family, Status, and Experience
16.30 Isabel Annal Babes in Armies: A Study of Infant and Child Burials in Roman Forts
16.50 Maureen Carroll Gendered Futures? Children’s Lives Cut Short and Commemorated on the Roman Frontiers
17.10 Kelsey Madden Vulnerable Victims: Barbarian Children in Roman Conflict Iconography
17.30

Onomastics, Children, and Identity on Roman Military Diplomas 
Alexander Meyer, Western University

Roman military diplomas are a treasure trove of information. From the lists of units we can reconstruct the movements of cohorts and alae, and sometimes locate their garrisons. From the names of the soldiers we can learn about recruitment practices and the administration of the army. Their texts in general also inform us about Roman law. However, the diplomas also provide opportunities for more theoretical and nuanced investigations. This paper discusses the implications of names on the Roman military diplomas. Specifically, it examines the names of the soldiers who received these diplomas, of their wives and, especially, of their children. It is particularly concerned with onomastic practices regarding the dynamics of ‘Roman’ and ‘native’. A survey of the military diplomas that name children, of which there are over one hundred, will demonstrate that naming practices among families within the communities of the Roman auxilia did not follow a predictable pattern from ‘native’ to ‘Roman’, but rather that soldiers with ‘native’ names and with ‘Roman’ names gave their children both ‘Roman’ and natives names. Furthermore, their choice of name-types was influenced by gender. This paper discusses the implications of these practices within Roman military communities and in the broader environment of Roman imperialism and compares it to other epigraphic and literary evidence.

The Sons of Auxiliary Veterans in Roman Egypt: Family, Status, and Experience
April Pudsey, Manchester Metropolitan University

In the small communities of the Fayyum villages of Roman Egypt, we can observe traces of the lives and concerns of veterans of the Roman auxilia. While previous scholarship on Roman veterans has largely focused on their number (Scheidel, 1996) and their social and legal status (Alston, 1995), this paper will examine life from the perspective of their families: in particular the young sons who were expected to continue in their fathers’ military footsteps. Scrutiny of papyrological and epigraphic material has uncovered the extent to which veteran communities were forged and operated alongside local communities and studies of the military diplomas awarding citizenship to veterans has uncovered various geographic and social implications of recruitment and veteran settlement (Alston, 1995; Roxan and Holder, 2003). But a wealth of textual, inscribed, and artefactual material relating to boys in these villages allows us to ask other questions: how were boys expected to be socialised into military cultures? How did these expectations manifest in play, learning, religious, and family life? How did their physical environment, and familial and peer relationships, differ from those of civilian children? This paper will bring together a range of inscriptions, toys and other material culture to address these questions. Evidence for children’s experience in Roman Egypt uncovers varied concerns according to status, gender, age and location (Pudsey, 2017; Pudsey and Vuolanto, 2016), and a closer examination of the agency and experience of veterans’ sons will contribute to a more nuanced picture of children’s lives on the frontiers of the Roman empire.

Babes in Armies: A Study of Infant and Child Burials in Roman Forts
Isabel Annal, University College London (UCL)

Archaeologists have uncovered burials of infants and young children inside forts across the Roman Empire. Far from ‘surreptitious disposals’ of unwanted children, these findings reveal widely accepted funerary rites for the youngest members of military communities. This paper seeks to understand the cultural attitude towards the very young in Roman military societies, through the lens of those infant burials found in forts across the Western Roman Empire. The decision to bury a deceased infant within the walls of the fort might have been taken for several different reasons. Many concerns of the mourners must have been similar to those in civilian settlements across the Empire. There is evidence that grieving parents may have wished to keep their babies close to them even in death, in order to offer them protection, to allow their ‘souls’ to be ‘reborn’ into future children, or simply to include them in daily family life. The deposition of infants in wells and pits, often accompanied by animals, is also a practice observed throughout the Roman Empire, and may reveal prescribed rituals intended to communicate with the gods. Perhaps unique to child and baby burials within forts are those rituals that appear to be related to protection, either of the infant by the fort, or of the fort by the infant. Did Roman military parents take advantage of the defensive nature of the forts they lived in to offer their babies enhanced protection in death? Infants buried as foundation deposits within the key defensive structures of the fort may equally have aimed to provide heightened defence to the fort and its inhabitants. These observable patterns of burial practices reveal the simultaneous perceptions of infants as vulnerable creatures, eternally reliant on their parents for protection, and as powerful spirits, closely linked to the gods. Gendered Futures? Children’s Lives Cut Short and Commemorated on the Roman Frontiers

Gendered Futures? Children’s Lives Cut Short and Commemorated on the Roman Frontiers
Maureen Carroll, University of York

Recent studies of the archaeological, epigraphic, material, and skeletal evidence for the lives of children in civilian contexts show that a child’s prospects were important to family and society and that people were mindful of them. In particular, the deposition of grave goods in child burials and the diversity in the funerary commemoration of the youngest members of Roman society suggest that children, from a very tender age, were invested with identities and a persona of various kinds. In many cases, it is as if the attention paid to the dead child and the way it was remembered was some compensation for a life cut short. An impressive corpus of funerary monuments with texts and images from the militarised zones and frontiers of the Empire is available for study in this vein, however the potential of this material has not been adequately realised. This paper addresses funerary commemoration in the frontier regions as a compensatory devise for ‘unfinished lives’ and premature death. Stone memorials afforded parents the means to project some future qualities of children that could have been developed had they lived longer and fulfilled their family’s hopes. A particular focus of the paper is an examination of the significance of dress and gesture in funerary portraits as a reflection of gendered roles and aspired futures of the children of military families and associated groups on the frontiers.

Vulnerable Victims: Barbarian Children in Roman Conflict Iconography
Kelsey Madden, The University of Sheffield

From the early first century A.D., Roman military victories over barbarian peoples were celebrated visually in reliefs decorating monuments in a variety of spaces. Archaeological and art historical assessments of these images have primarily focused on the representation of the male barbarians, often engaged in battle with Roman soldiers. Yet the reliefs on a wide range of monuments also depict defeated families, the fundamental unit of society, with a particular focus on children non-Roman children. To fully understand the role these non-Roman children played in Rome’s conflicts and the message Rome wanted to send by depicting such vulnerable victims of war, we must assess the medium and the genre with which they have been placed. Whilst the presence of non-Roman children has been noted in earlier studies on monuments in Rome, such as the Ara Pacis, there has been little attempt to locate or study depictions elsewhere. As such, there is a serious gap in research pertaining to the representation of non-Roman children in Roman conquest iconography. This paper suggests ways in which gesture, genre, age, and gender play key roles in these depictions. What kind of emotions were trying to be evoked by such imagery? What kind of medium do non-Roman children appear or do not appear on and why? And, are the images of children more politically effective than those featuring only adults? By assessing these images and depictions, we can progress one step further in trying to understand the real-life experiences held by these children and how and why they were so important to Roman propaganda.