Women and the Law in the Roman Empire: A Sourcebook on Marriage, Divorce and Widowhood

Women and the Law in the Roman Empire: A Sourcebook on Marriage, Divorce and Widowhood

Women and the Law in the Roman Empire: A Sourcebook on Marriage, Divorce and Widowhood

Women and the Law in the Roman Empire: A Sourcebook on Marriage, Divorce and Widowhood

Synopsis

It is widely recognized that Roman law is an important source of information about women in the Roman world, and can present a more rounded and accurate picture than literary sources. This sourcebook fully exploits the rich legal material of the imperial period - from Augustus (31 BCE - 14 CE) to the end of the western Roman Empire (476 CE), incorporating both pagan and Christian eras, and explaining the rights women held under Roman law, the restrictions to which they were subject, and legal regulations on marriage, divorce and widowhood.

Excerpt

”In many parts of our law the condition of women is below that of men,” stated the third-century legal writer Papinian (D.1.5.9). Examination of the sources for Roman law under the Empire bears out the basic truth of his statement, while also revealing that women in the Roman classical period enjoyed greater property rights and freedom to divorce than did their American and European counterparts before the twentieth century.

This book presents, in English translation, sources from the Roman imperial period which illustrate the rights women held under Roman law, the restrictions to which they were subject, and legal regulations on marriage, divorce, and widowhood. It is intended as an aid for the study of women in antiquity, Roman imperial law, and Roman social history in general. It is what is known as a “sourcebook,” a collection of ancient sources translated from the original languages with introductory material and commentary. Women and the Law in the Roman Empire covers the Roman imperial period, from the reign of the first emperor Augustus (31 B.C.E.-14 C.E.) to the end of the Roman Empire in the west (476 C.E.). It draws heavily on the major legal texts (the Digest, the Institutes of Gaius, the Code of Justinian, and the Theodosian Code, all written in Latin, the language of Roman jurists), and also on non-legal documentary sources in Greek and Latin that illustrate women’s interaction with Roman imperial law.

Today it is widely recognized that Roman legal and documentary sources are an important source of information about women in the Roman world, and can present a more well-rounded and accurate picture of women’s lives than classical literature, which is often tendentious and bound by the conventions of genre. Much of this rich source material is still unexploited, however; sometimes it is not even available in a reliable or accessible English translation. Many books on “women in antiquity” either ignore the legal sources or present them sketchily and inaccurately, providing little in the way of context. On the other hand, the work now being done on the Roman family makes extensive use of classical Roman law, but in general focuses on the city of Rome, or at most, the elite classes of Italy and the Latin-speaking western Empire. Moreover, the law of the later Roman Empire (284-476

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