Girls in ancient Rome were eligible for marriage from as young as 12, so their fleeting childhoods tended to focus on learning how to be a wife and mother. That didn’t mean they went completely without an education, which would have been the case in plenty of other civilisations. Roman girls from the upper and middle classes would be taught to read and write, but this would be done at home – and, if the family was wealthy enough, with the help of a private tutor.
Missing out on school did have its advantages, for girls avoided the beatings with canes or whips that befell boys misbehaving or giving wrong answers. It was believed a degree of learning for girls would make them better at running the household as an adult, and a better wife as they could engage in conversation. Too much learning, however, was deemed unattractive in a Roman woman.
This article was first published in the September 2019 issue of BBC History Revealed