Chapter

Remembering one's Ancestors, Following in their Footsteps, being like them

Catherine Baroin

in Children, Memory, and Family Identity in Roman Culture

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199582570
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595271 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199582570.003.0002
Remembering one's Ancestors, Following in their Footsteps, being like them

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A Roman citizen of high birth must remember his ascendants' names and political career. This family memory is composed not only of knowledge, but of acts, because remembering one's forefathers involves imitating them and taking them as one's model (exemplum) in war, in politics, and in one's moral life. This is expressed by a metaphor: ‘following in one's ancestors' footsteps’ (vestigia sequi). On the other hand, if to remember is to imitate, to imitate is to be like (similis), not only regarding moral behaviour and acts, but also physically; in fact, a son has to be the image (imago) of his father. Gentilician identity is thus constructed doubly: on the one hand, the identity of a young noble stems from his name and the story of his family; on the other, this identity depends on his ‘being like’ and ‘acting like’.

Keywords: ancestors; footsteps; imitation; memory; model; resemblance; similis; similitudo; vestigia

Chapter.  12611 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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