Pater Familias Law and Legal Definition

“Pater familias” is the Latin term for "father of the family" or the "owner of the family estate". It is a term originated in Roman law. The pater familias held legal privilege over the property of the familia and varying levels of authority over his dependents including wife and children and certain other relatives through blood or adoption, clients, freedmen and slaves. He had a duty to father and raise healthy children as future citizens, to maintain the moral propriety and well-being of his household, to honor his clan and ancestral gods and to dutifully participate and if possible, serve in Rome's political, religious and social life.