Status, Ideology and the Duty of Care in the Roman World

Manley, Jennifer Megan (2007). Status, Ideology and the Duty of Care in the Roman World MPhil Thesis, School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics, University of Queensland.

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Author Manley, Jennifer Megan
Thesis Title Status, Ideology and the Duty of Care in the Roman World
School, Centre or Institute School of History, Philosophy, Religion, and Classics
Institution University of Queensland
Publication date 2007
Thesis type MPhil Thesis
Subjects 2103 Historical Studies
Abstract/Summary For a long period of its history, the Roman state did not provide its people with a social support system. Public doctors existed, and were at times exempted from taxation, but the medical ‘profession’ was by no means the main avenue of care for the ill. Instead, the community in which the individual lived would, ideally, rally around him or her in times of need. Kin, friends, patrons and clients formed a social network that largely carried the burden of care – providing nursing, bedside attendance, advice, and consolation. Even when doctors were employed, their behaviour was influenced by social mores and expectations. Duty and obligation provided guidelines for their conduct, just as they did for the conduct of other members of society. Roman social interactions were based upon the idea of mutual exchange and reciprocity. This reinforced the social network and provided an impetus towards the provision of care. Illness provided a great opportunity for repaying the “benefits” bestowed between friends and kin, patrons and clients. This thesis will examine the role of carers in the Roman world, and how ideology and status impacted upon them. Three major arguments will be advanced. The provision of care was influenced by status concerns within the familia and broader community – for example, slave status justified a low standard of care for many. Roman social ideology resulted in a ‘duty of care’ within amicitia and the construct of patronage, based on ideas of reciprocal exchange. Both status and ideology interacted to determine the ways in which individuals at different levels of the ‘status pyramid’ received and proffered care. The source material is varied, and each type carries with it its own bias. Careful use of this material will yield sound conclusions, even though much of the evidence concerns only the elite. Literary topoi can be revealing, however, because they demonstrate the expectations and high ideals of the social world inhabited by the authors. This thesis will examine both literary and epigraphic evidence to illustrate how care for the ill was proffered and procured in the Roman world of the late republic to the early imperial period, with a terminal date of A.D. 235.

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Created: Fri, 21 Nov 2008, 15:15:05 EST