All posts tagged Women in Roman Law and Society

Women at Work

Women at Work The extent of women’s direct involvement in Roman economic life is hard to determine. Women sui iuris could own property and were free to administer it themselves, subject only to tutorial consent for certain transactions, and in fact women appear frequently in papyri and in the Herculaneum . . . Read more

Slaves and Freedwomen

Slaves and Freedwomen Although the Romans are attested as possessing slaves from an early period, slave-ownership on a large scale seems to have developed only with the expansion of Roman power, from about the latter half of the third century B.C.Slaves became an integral part of Roman society, and this . . . Read more

Inheritance and Bequest

Inheritance and Bequest The law of inheritance is one of the most elaborate and complicated areas of Roman law. This chapter will aim to do little more than set out the main principles on which the system operated, with the most important changes that occurred during the classical period of . . . Read more


Dowry The provision of dowry was basically a contribution, customary though not compulsory, from the wife’s family to the expenses of the household of the husband. It was also one of the mechanisms by which Roman families, like those in many other pre-industrial societies, maintained their social status relative to . . . Read more

Some Effects of Marriage

Some Effects of Marriage A woman married with manus was effectively in the position of an adopted daughter in relation to the pater of the familia. She had no legal independence and no independent property. A wife in a free marriage was legally independent of her husband (although possibly still . . . Read more


Divorce Divorce in the classical period was easy.1 As marriage was based on consent, so the will of either of the consenting parties in free marriage to renounce it sufficed. As we have seen, until Marcus Aurelius, ‘consenting party’ included the pater. From the point of view of the man, . . . Read more


Marriage In a society with an advanced level of agriculture, an economy capable of producing, at certain levels, a significant surplus, and a clearly defined hierarchical social order, one should expect to find that the arrangements for marriage, as for transmission of property by inheritance, show a concern to maintain . . . Read more


Children Roman family law was originally created for a society in which marriage was almost always accompanied by the entry of the wife into manus, divorce was very rare, and women had little or no control over the testamentary disposal of their property. In consequence, the law had little to . . . Read more

Sexual Offences

Sexual Offences Under the Republic, although some attempt was made to protect women against unwelcome sexual approaches, the law for the most part did not concern itself with the sexual activities of consenting individuals; most undesirable behaviour was dealt with, if at all, within the family. Things were very different . . . Read more