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The Byzantine family

Byzantine Family life was based on Christianity, but on the steady formations of ancient Hellenistic culture and its family cell. Gradually, it went into several changes, but remained basically the same.

The family wa consisted of parents, children, free servants and slaves, slaves, who were under authority of the father of the family (πάτηρ - pater). The autonomy of each family was strengthened by using the family name, and thus representing the family tradition and pride.

An illustration depicting the marriage and the life in Byzantine family

Family names

At the very beginning, there were to different customs in the Constantinople: the Hellenic tradition, of naming the person by its personal name, followed by the father's name or the name of some predecessor form the father's side (like Δημόστενες Δημοστένους - Demostenes of Demostenes, Θεωφράστος Θεοδώρου - Theophrastos of Theodoros). The tradition was extended by adding some nicknames, and even replacing family names with them.

The Latin tradition, preserved by Latin immigrants to Constantinople at the time after the foundation: it had: praenomen (Petrus). nomen gentilicium (Marcelinus), cognomen (Felix Liberius). So, we have the name of a Patricius on the 6th century, Petrus Marcellinus Felix Liberius. The nomen genrilicium was referred to free slaves and servants, and gradually disappeared from the 7th century, and was usually replaced with the name of hometown or the place of origin.


social life of Romeans

Byzantine Family life Neobyzantine Movement -Νεορωμαϊκό Κίνημα ©, email:, updated: 31 March, 2004
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