Women and the Law in Rome (A Document Study)

Essay by shaunniceUniversity, Bachelor'sA, August 2004

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Women and the Law in Rome

This document written by Augustus, gives insight to where women stood under Roman law. Rome was clearly a patriarchal society in that men had advantages when it came to law. For example, divorce. If a man sends a notice of divorce to his wife, it must be based on three different criminal charges: adultery, sorcery, and pander. If a woman was falsely accused, the penalty for a man would be that he couldn't marry, and that he had to restore dowry to his former wife. If that man was married, then his former wife had the option of seizing his current wife's dowry. For woman who wanted to divorce it was a similar process but with more consequences. If a woman sent a letter of divorce to her husband it had to be based on three criminal charges as well (homicide, sorcerer, and destroyer of tombs).

In contrast to men, women were disadvantaged. Woman couldn't send a notice of divorce to her husband on anything outside of those three charges. The Romans saw this as "supreme confidence". Woman faced the penalty of being cast off to an island, and being stripped of all assets. So if a woman wanted to divorce her husband on grounds of abuse, being a drunkard or anything outside of the three stated charges she would be cast off and stripped of her dowry. Judging from the text, men and women were treated differently in cases of adultery as well. Aside from the husband, kinsman such as fathers and cousins were allowed to accuse wives of adultery. In the text Augustus states that men above all ought to be the avenger of the marriage bed. His neglect to acknowledge the wife in that claim clearly shows male dominance. Also...