Women in Roman law were never completely independent. J.F. Gardner, Women in Roman Law and Society, p. 5 (Indiana University Press 1991). The pater familias created an unbalanced power dynamic in at least a legal sense. R.P. Saller, Patriarchy, Property and Death in the Roman Family, p. 104 (Cambridge University Press 1994). Roman society was a patriarchy that was very concerned with morality, and women were either subservient or stigmatized.
Tag Archives: Law
“[The Proto-Indo-Europeans] occupied a part of the world — the steppes — where the sky is by far the most striking and magnificent part of the landscape, a fitting environment for people who believed that all their most important deities lived in the sky.” (Anthony 99)
Throughout the history of Rome, citizenship was a desirable status to have. Wars were fought over this issue. Even as late as the early part of the first century it seems like it was an uncommon and privileged status in the provinces.
In 212 C.E. citizenship was extended to every free person in the entire empire.
I’ve mentioned the Roman pater familias briefly in another post. This is a technical legal term of art that does not simply mean “father;” for example, to be a pater familias it was unnecessary to be a father in fact. Under Roman law a pater familias was endowed with patria potestas. The patria potestas is the legal power of the father — it was a bundle of rights generally concerning property and the lives of those who were in potestate (under the power of the pater).
In a family consisting of a 80 year old man, his 60 year old son, his 40 year old grandson, his 20 year old great-grandson, and a newborn great-great-grandson, the only pater familias is the 80 year old; he owns all property and has power of life or death over all those under his power.
One reader was asking about me doing a piece on Tiberius Gracchus and the land reform debates. I was taking a look at Plutarch’s Life of Tiberius Gracchus and wikipediaing when I saw an interesting line that segues nicely with our current trip through the Book of Matthew. I’ll come back to the Gracchi brothers sometime once we’re done with Matthew, but until then take a look at this line attributed to Tiberius Gracchus by Plutarch and my translation.
Today I’ve got something of a one-liner from Ulpian the Roman jurist for you:
Alteri stipulari nemo potest, praeterquam si servus domino, filius patri stipuletur: inventae sunt enim huiusmodi obligationes ad hoc, ut unusquisque sibi adquirat quod sua interest: ceterum ut alii detur, nihil interest mea.
Let’s break this down phrase by phrase.