Looking over Wikipedia's article on adoption in Ancient Rome, I notice that it mentions that adoption of females "was much less common" than adoption of males. I don't see any sources for that statement, though one female adoptee is mentioned: Clodia.

As best as scholars can tell, what was the approximate rate of adoption of females in comparison to males in Ancient Rome? I'm particularly interested in the late republic/early empire years (perhaps 200 BC to 200 AD), if that helps narrow the question.

  • Much less frequently than men, but the scarcity of records makes it impossible to say how much less. But I don't think think Clodia Metelli was adopted - the wiki claim isn't sourced, either.
    – Semaphore
    Oct 14, 2015 at 11:46
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    What would be the point of adopting a girl? Men were adopted for political advantage (given the limited role of women, they are unlikely to provide political advantage), or to carry on a family line (much more efficient to adopt the advantageous son, than to adopt a woman who might bear a child, who might survive to possibly acquire honor).
    – MCW
    Oct 14, 2015 at 12:39
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    @MarkC.Wallace - add to that, that her children had to be sons to be of any use!
    – TheHonRose
    Oct 14, 2015 at 22:57
  • If Clodia was adopted, the delicious rumors of incest between her and Clodius would make no sense.
    – Oldcat
    Oct 15, 2015 at 23:57
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    @MarkC.Wallace - and if you did adopt a girl for some reason (you or your wife want one about) there's no reason to put it in history. Women in general are left out of most history since the fellows talk about politics and war, not the things women do.
    – Oldcat
    Oct 15, 2015 at 23:59

1 Answer 1


Normally, there was no sense in adopting girls. There are only two known examples, and both took place under very specific circumstances.

  1. Livia Drusilla was formally adopted by Augustus' testament, so she got the name of Augusta in AD 14.

On the first day of the Senate he allowed nothing to be discussed but the funeral of Augustus, whose will, which was brought in by the Vestal Virgins, named as his heirs Tiberius and Livia. The latter was to be admitted into the Julian family with the name of Augusta.

Tacitus, Annals I, 8

  1. Claudia Octavia was formally adopted in unknown family before her marriage to Nero, so Nero was not considered as her step-brother anymore (Cassius Dio, Roman History, LX, 33)
  • I do agree that adopting girls was less interesting than adopting boys, but it still might have been useful for financial reasons. For example, you might want to adopt your niece and sole heiress to avoid paying the inheritances fee. You could also adopt rich oprhan girls to control their fortune.
    – Laveran
    Oct 14, 2015 at 13:45
  • @Laveran Normal practice was a custody, not an adoption.
    – Matt
    Oct 14, 2015 at 14:03
  • Still, it should have been done at least for inheriting. Besides, Serena (niece and adoptive daughter of Theodosius) was given to Stilicho, so I guess there was a political advantage in adopting girls in some cases.
    – Laveran
    Oct 14, 2015 at 14:28
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    @Laveran Women couldn't have real estate, so inheriting wasn't of much significance.
    – Matt
    Oct 14, 2015 at 14:38
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    History of the Roman Empire by Thomas Keightley p 410 first paragraph (books.google.fr/…)
    – Laveran
    Oct 14, 2015 at 14:44

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