I kinda neglected my blogging for the past week, due to my absence.
Anyway, I’ve started reading “Daily life in ancient Rome by Jérôme Carcopino (Penguin books), and I’ve noticed this interesting passage. I think we can draw quite a few similar lines. This is long but bare with me:
Pliny the Younger preached a tolerance or, if the word is preferred, a liberalism which appeals to us. But unhappily, the Romans failed to strike the happy mean. They were not content to lessen the old severity; they yielded to the impulse to become far too complaisant. Having given up the habit of controlling their children, they let the children govern them, and took pleasure in bleeding themselves white to gratify the expensive whims of their offspring. The result was that they were succeeded by a generation of idlers and wastrels like Philomusus, whose misadventure Martial recounts. This young man, having inherited his father’s entire fortune, suddenly found himself much worse off than when he had enjoyed his generous monthly allowance: “Your father, Philomusus, arranged to allow you 2,000 sesterce a month, and every day he handed you your allowance… Dying, he left you every penny. Your father has disinherited you, Philomusus.”
Unfortunately, it was not only the money matters that the price of over-individualism had to be paid. The fine edge of character had been blunted in the Rome if the second century. The stern face of the traditional pater familias had faded out; instead we see on every hand the flabby face of the son of the house, the eternal spoiled child of society, who has grown accustomed to luxury and lost all sense of discipline. Worse still, we see looming up the sinister face of the father who for love of gain does not hesitate to blight the hope of his race, and methodically to corrupt the adolescents whom it is his duty to bring up. Such was the case of the great advocate Regulus, the enemy of rival of Pliny the Younger. He had yielded to every caprice of his son. He installed for him an aviary where parrots chattered, blackbirds whistled, and nightingales sang. He bought him dogs of every breed. He sent to Gaul for ponies for him to ride and drive. And at the death of the boy’s mother, whose immense fortune had paid for these expensive gifts, the father hastened to emancipate his son, so that the young man might at once enjoy the full possession of his maternal inheritance. The youth abused it so indiscriminately that his foolish prodigality shortened his life. He died prematurely and what was left of his fortune reverted to his father. This is, no doubt, an extreme example, so singular and monstrous that Pliny is scandalized. That it should have been possible at all is enough. And it would not have been possible if the women had not been emancipated, as much or even worse than the children, from the family solidarity which the excercise of the patria potestas had imposed of old; the two perished together.
I feel like we’re in a similar era.