A Roman "House"?: A New Model for Understanding the Origins of the Roman Gens

Author(s): Matthew Naglak; Parrish Wright

Year: 2017


Debate concerning the development and origins of the Roman kinship group known as the gens has a long and contentious history. Theses questions, however, necessarily move beyond the primary textual evidence, the standard resource for such studies. Different heuristic models must be utilized to take advantage of all available data, whether it be textual, archaeological, or via ethnographic comparison. I propose the concept of a "house society" as developed by Lévi-Strauss and taken up by numerous scholars since as one useful tool. Such a consideration allows for the expansion of the concept of Roman kinship beyond the traditional genealogical focus on patrilineal relationships to other types of relatedness within the system. It also reinforces the dynamic nature of the gens as it evolves within a larger socio-political framework. A further benefit is the spatialization of the gens, reconnecting kinship to the physical landscape and reintroducing available archaeological data. Evidence from the community of Gabii and nearby Osteria dell’Osa reveals a social organization present in Latium which may have led to the gentilic system. Finally, this model reconnects the Roman gens with the larger world of anthropological kinship studies, allowing for more sophisticated cross-cultural comparison and hypothesis formation than currently occurs.

Cite this Record

A Roman "House"?: A New Model for Understanding the Origins of the Roman Gens. Matthew Naglak, Parrish Wright. Presented at The 81st Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, Vancouver, British Columbia. 2017 ( tDAR id: 428817)

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Geographic Keywords

Spatial Coverage

min long: -11.074; min lat: 37.44 ; max long: 50.098; max lat: 70.845 ;

Record Identifiers

Abstract Id(s): 15019