Toys as a means of educating women

Roman Doll

In Roman society, education traditionally took place within the context of the family, the environment in which both boys and girls grew up and spent their early years of development. Children’s own mothers handled the education of their offspring. At the age of seven, boys were then educated directly by their fathers. However, public education soon became commonplace at schools, which both boys and girls attended as long as they were free and belonged to certain social classes. At the age of 16, only men continued to pursue their schooling with the help of some longtime family friend.

Although less is known about girls´ education, we are familiar with the toys they used and which reproduce the maternal role expected of them. Among these we find baby bottles, rattles, play kitchens or dolls. The latter were made out of all sorts of materials, and it was not uncommon to find articulated dolls like this one dated to be from the 3rd century. Such rudimentary automatons must have certainly delighted young girls. Some funerary steles display girls playing with them, and on certain occasions, dolls have appeared buried alongside their owners so that the latter would be accompanied by the things that had made them happy while they were still alive.