A Short History of Women's Rights
Eugene A. Hecker
Part 1 out of 5
Produced by Ted Garvin, Wilelmina Malliere and PG Distributed
A Short History of Women's Rights
From the Days of Augustus to the Present Time. With Special Reference to
England and the United States
By Eugene A. Hecker
_SECOND EDITION REVISED, WITH ADDITIONS_
PREFACE TO THE SECOND EDITION
In this edition a chapter has been added, bringing down to date the
record of the contest for equal suffrage. The summary on pages 175-235
is now largely obsolete; but it has been retained as instructive
evidence of the rapid progress made during the last four years.
CAMBRIDGE, MASS. _August, 1914_.
While making some researches in the evolution of women's rights, I was
impressed by the fact that no one had ever, as far as I could discover,
attempted to give a succinct account of the matter for English-speaking
nations. Indeed, I do not believe that any writer in any country has
essayed such a task except Laboulaye; and his _Recherches sur la
Condition Civile et Politique des Femmes_, published in 1843, leaves
much to be desired to one who is interested in the subject to-day.
I have, therefore, made an effort to fill a lack. This purpose has been
strengthened as I have reflected on the great amount of confused
information which is absorbed by those who have no time to make
investigations for themselves. Accordingly, in order to present an
accurate historical review, I have cited my authorities for all
statements regarding which any question could be raised. This is
particularly so in the chapters which deal with the condition of women
under Roman Law, under the early Christian Church, and under Canon Law.
In all these instances I have gone directly to primary sources, have
investigated them myself, and have admitted no secondhand evidence. In
connection with Women's rights in England and in the United States I
have either consulted the statutes or studied the commentaries of
jurists, like Messrs. Pollock and Maitland, whose authority cannot be
doubted. To such I have given the exact references whenever they have
been used. In preparing the chapter on the progress of women's lights in
the United States I derived great assistance from the very exhaustive
_History of Woman Suffrage_, edited by Miss Susan B. Anthony, Mrs. Ida
H. Harper, and others to whose unselfish labours we are for ever
indebted. From their volumes I have drawn freely; but I have not given
each specific reference.
The tabulation of the laws of the several States which I have given
naturally cannot be entirely adequate, because the laws are being
changed constantly. It is often difficult to procure the latest revised
statutes. However, these laws are recent enough to illustrate the
evolution of women's rights.
Finally, this volume was written in no hope that all readers would agree
with the author, who is zealous in his cause. His purpose will be gained
if he induces the reader to reflect for himself on the problem in the
light of its historical development.
CAMBRIDGE, MASS., 1910.
WOMEN'S RIGHTS UNDER ROMAN LAW, 27 B.C.-527 A.D.
Originally women were always under guardianship--But under the Empire
the entire equality of the sexes was recognised--Women in
marriage--Their power over their property--Divorce--Women engaged in all
business pursuits--Instances of women suing and pleading in
law--Partiality of the law towards women--Rights of inheritance--Rights
to higher education fully allowed--Provision made for poor children to
be educated--The Vestals--Female slaves--Remarkable growth of
humanitarianism towards slaves under the Empire--Sources
WOMEN AND THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH
Christ laid down ethical principles but not minute regulations--The
Apostles affected by Jewish and Oriental or Greek conceptions of
women--Examples of these--St. Paul and St. Peter on the position of
women--The Church Fathers elaborated these teachings--Examples of their
contempt for women--Mingled with admiration for particular types of
women--Their views of marriage--Their strictures on unbecoming
dress--Summary of their views and how the status of women was affected
RIGHTS OF WOMEN AS MODIFIED BY THE CHRISTIAN EMPERORS
Old Roman Law not abrogated suddenly--Divorce--Adultery--Second
marriages--Engagements--Donations between husband and wife--Sundry
enactments on marriage--Inheritance--Guardianship--Bills of Attainder of
Christian Emperors merciless, in contrast to acts of pagan
WOMEN AMONG THE GERMANIC PEOPLES
A second world force to modify the status of women--Accounts of Caesar
and Tacitus on position of women among Germanic peoples--The written
laws of the barbarians--Guardianship--Marriage--Power of the
husband--Divorce--Adultery--The Church indulgent to
kings--Remarriage--Property rights--Peculiarities of the criminal
law--Minutely-graded fines--Compurgation and ordeals--Innocence tested
by the woman walking over red-hot ploughshares--Women in
slavery--Comparison of position of women under Roman and under Germanic
laws--Influence of theology--Sources
DIGRESSION ON THE LATER HISTORY OF ROMAN LAW
Explanation of the various social and political forces which affected
the position of women in the Middle Ages
THE CANON LAW AND THE ATTITUDE OF THE ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH
Canon law reaffirms the subjection of women--Women and
marriage--Protection to women--Divorce--Cardinal Gibbons on protection
of injured wives by Popes--Catholic Church has no divorce--But it allows
fourteen reasons for declaring marriage null and void and leaving a
husband or wife free to remarry--Some of these explained--Diriment
impediments and dispensations--Historical instances of the Roman
Church's inconsistency--Attitude towards women at present day--Opinions
of Cardinals Gibbon and Moran, and Rev. David Barry and Rev. William
WOMEN'S RIGHTS IN ENGLAND
Single women have always had private rights--But males preferred in
inheritance--Examples--Power of parents--Husband and wife--Wife
completely controlled by husband--He could beat her and own all her
property--Recent abrogation of the husband's power--Divorce--Jeremy
Taylor and others on duty of women to bear husband's sins with
meekness--Injustice of the present law of divorce--Rape and the age of
legal consent--Progress of the rights to an education--Women in the
WOMEN'S RIGHTS IN THE UNITED STATES
Examples of the early opposition to women's rights--Age of
consent--Single women--History of agitation for women's
rights--Convention of 1848--Progress after the Civil War--Beginnings of
higher education--First women in medicine--And in law, the ministry,
journalism, and industry--Status of women in all the States in
The five arguments commonly used against equal suffrage--The
theological--The physiological--The social or political--The
intellectual--The moral--Lecky on the nature of women--The old and the
new conception--Thomas on the power of custom--Taboo--All evolution
accompanied by some extravagance--Macaulay on liberty--The double
standard of morality--Co-operation--The proper sphere for a human
being--Discrepancies of wages--Legal evolution in the interpretation of
labour laws--The alarmist view of divorce
The rapid spread of suffrage throughout the world--Table of suffrage
gains from early times to present date--In national politics in the
United States--Attack on the suffrage parade and colloquy between Mr.
Hobson and Mr. Mann on the subject--Suffrage amendment defeated in the
Senate--Mr. Heflin's remarks in the House--Mr. Falconer
replies--President Wilson refuses to take a stand--Amendment lost--Mr.
Bryan on suffrage--Examples of legislation to protect women passed
recently--The tendency is to complete equality of the sexes--Suffrage in
England--A delayed reform in divorce--Women's rights on the
Continent--Especially in Germany--Schopenhauer's views of women--Further
remarks on the philosophy of suffrage--"Woman's sphere"--Ultimate
results of women entering all businesses and professions--Feminism--The
home is not necessarily every woman's sphere and neither is motherhood
nor is it her congenital duty to make herself attractive to
men--Unreasonableness of gratuitous advice to women and none to
men--What we don't know--Fallacy of the argument that the fall of the
Roman Empire was due to the liberty given to woman--Official organs of
various suffrage societies
A Short History of Women's Rights
WOMEN'S RIGHTS UNDER ROMAN LAW, FROM AUGUSTUS TO JUSTINIAN--27 B.C. TO
The age of legal capability for the Roman woman was after the twelfth
year, at which period she was permitted to make a will. However, she
was by no means allowed to do so entirely on her own account, but only
under supervision. This superintendence was vested in the father or,
if he was dead, in a guardian; if the woman was married, the power
belonged to the husband. The consent of such supervision, whether of
father, husband, or guardian, was essential, as Ulpian informs us,
under these circumstances: if the woman entered into any legal action,
obligation, or civil contract; if she wished her freedwoman to cohabit
with another's slave; if she desired to free a slave; if she sold any
things _mancipi_, that is, such as estates on Italian soil, houses,
rights of road or aqueduct, slaves, and beasts of burden. Throughout her
life a woman was supposed to remain absolutely under the power of
father, husband, or guardian, and to do nothing without their consent.
In ancient times, indeed, this authority was so great that the father
and husband could, after calling a family council, put the woman to
death without public trial. The reason that women were so subjected
to guardianship was "on account of their unsteadiness of character,"
"the weakness of the sex," and their "ignorance of legal matters."
Under certain circumstances, however, women became _sui iuris_ or
entirely independent: I. By the birth of three children (a freedwoman by
four); II. By becoming a Vestal Virgin, of whom there were but
six; III. By a formal emancipation, which took place rarely, and
then often only with a view of transferring the power from one guardian
to another. Even when _sui iuris_ a woman could not acquire power
over any one, not even over her own children; for these an agnate--a
male relative on the father's side--was appointed guardian, and the
mother was obliged to render him and her children an account of any
property which she had managed for them. On the other hand, her
children were bound to support her.
[Sidenote: Digression on the growth of respect for women]
So much for the laws on the subject. They seem rigorous enough, and in
early times were doubtless executed with strictness. A marked feature,
however, of the Roman character, a peculiarity which at once strikes the
student of their history as compared with that of the Greeks, was their
great respect for the home and the _materfamilias_. The stories of
Lucretia, Cloelia, Virginia, Cornelia, Arria, and the like, familiar to
every Roman schoolboy, must have raised greatly the esteem in which
women were held. As Rome became a world power, the Romans likewise grew
in breadth of view, in equity, and in tolerance. The political
influence wielded by women was as great during the first three
centuries after Christ as it has ever been at any period of the world's
history; and the powers of a Livia, an Agrippina, a Plotina, did not
fail to show pointedly what a woman could do. In the early days of the
Republic women who touched wine were severely punished and male
relatives were accustomed solemnly to kiss them, if haply they might
discover the odour of drink on their breath. Valerius Maximus tells
us that Egnatius Mecenas, a Roman knight, beat his wife to death for
drinking wine. Cato the Censor (234-149 B.C.) dilated with joy on
the fact that a woman could be condemned to death by her husband for
adultery without a public trial, whereas men were allowed any number of
infidelities without censure. The senator Metellus (131 B.C.)
lamented that Nature had made it necessary to have women.
The boorish cynicism of a Cato and a Metellus--though it never expressed
the real feelings of the majority of Romans--gave way, however, under
the Empire to a generous expression of the equality of the sexes in the
realms of morality and of intellect. "I know what you may say," writes
Seneca to Marcia, "'You have forgotten that you are consoling a
woman; you cite examples of fortitude on the part of men.' But who said
that Nature had acted scurvily with the characters of women and had
contracted their virtues into a narrow sphere? Equal force, believe me,
is possessed by them; equal capability for what is honorable, if they
so wish." The Emperor Marcus Aurelius gratefully recalls that from his
mother he learned piety and generosity, and to refrain not only from
doing ill, but even from thinking it, and simplicity of life, far
removed from the ostentatious display of wealth. The passionate
attachment of men like Quintilian and Pliny to their wives exhibits an
equality based on love that would do honour to the most Christian
households. All Roman historians speak with great admiration of the
many heroic deeds performed by women and are fond of citing conspicuous
examples of conjugal affection. The masterly and sympathetic
delineation of Dido in the _Aeneid_ shows how deeply a Roman could
appreciate the character of a noble woman. In the numerous provisions
for the public education at the state's expense girls were given the
same opportunities and privileges as boys; there were five thousand boys
and girls educated by Trajan alone.
[Sidenote: Decay of the power or the guardian.]
Such are a few examples of the growth of respect for women; and we
should naturally conclude that, as time progressed, the unjust laws of
guardianship would no longer be executed to the letter, even though the
hard statutes were not formally expunged. This was the case during the
first three centuries after Christ, as is patent from many sources. It
is to be borne in mind that because a law is on the books, does not mean
necessarily that it is enforced. A law is no stronger than public
opinion. Of this anomaly there are plenty of instances even to-day--the
Blue Laws of Massachusetts, for example. "That women of mature age
should be under guardianship," writes the great jurist Gaius in the
second century, "seems to have no valid reason as foundation. For what
is commonly believed, to the effect that on account of unsteadiness of
character they are generally hoodwinked, and that, therefore, it is
right for them to be governed by the authority of a guardian, seems
rather specious than true. As a matter of fact, women of mature age do
manage their own affairs, and in certain cases the guardian interposes
his authority as a mere formality; frequently, indeed, he is forced by
the supreme judge to lend his authority against his will." Ulpian, too,
hints at the really slight power of the guardian in his day, that is,
the first three decades of the third century. "In the case of male and
female wards under age, the guardians both manage their affairs and
interpose their authority; but in the case of mature women they merely
interpose their authority." The woman had, in practice, become free
to manage her property as she wished; the function of the legal guardian
was simply to see to it that no one should attempt a fraud against her.
Adequately to observe the decay of the vassalage of women, we must
investigate the story of their rights in all its forms; and the position
of women in marriage will next occupy our attention.
[Sidenote: Women and marriage.]
As in all Southern countries where women mature early, the Roman girl
usually married young; twelve years were required by custom for her to
reach the marriageable age. In the earlier period a woman was
acquired as wife in three different ways: I. By _coemptio_--a mock sale
to her husband; II. By _confarreatio_--a solemn marriage with
peculiar sacred rites to qualify men and women and their children for
certain priesthoods; III. By _usus_, or acquisition by prescription.
A woman became a man's legal wife by _usus_ if he had lived with her one
full year and if, during that time, she had not been absent from him for
more than three successive nights.
All these forms, however, had either been abolished by law or had fallen
into desuetude during the second century of our era, as is evident from
Gaius. A man could marry even if not present personally; a woman
could not. The woman's parents or guardians were accustomed to
arrange a match for her, as they still do in many parts of Europe.
Yet the power of the father to coerce his daughter was limited. Her
consent was important. "A marriage cannot exist," remarks Paulus,
"unless all parties consent." Julianus writes also that the daughter
must give her permission; yet the statement of Ulpian which
immediately follows in the Digest shows that she had not complete free
will in the matter: "It is understood that she who does not oppose the
wishes of her father gives consent. But a daughter is allowed to object
only in case her father chooses for her a man of unworthy or disgraceful
character." The son had an advantage here, because he could never be
forced into a marriage against his will. The consent of the father
was always necessary for a valid marriage. He could not by will
compel his daughter to marry a certain person. After she was
married, he still retained power over her, unless she became independent
by the birth of three children; but this was largely to protect her and
represent her in court against her husband if necessity should
arise. A father was not permitted to break up a harmonious
marriage; he could not get back his daughter's dowry without her
consent, nor force her to return to her husband after a divorce;
and he was punished with loss of citizenship if he made a match for a
widowed daughter before the legal time of mourning for her husband had
expired. A daughter passed completely out of the power of her father
only if she became _sui iuris_ by the birth of three children or if she
became a Vestal, or again if she married a special priest of Jupiter
(_Flamen Dialis_), in which case, however, she passed completely into
the power of her husband. Under all circumstances a daughter must not
only show respect for her father, but also furnish him with the
necessaries of life if he needed them.
[Sidenote: "Breach of Promise."]
Under the Empire no such thing as a "breach of promise" suit was
permitted, although in the days of the Republic the party who broke a
promise to marry had been liable to a suit for damages. But this had
now disappeared, and either party could break off the betrothal at
pleasure without prejudice. Whatever gifts had been given might be
demanded back. The engagement had to be formally broken off before
either party could enter into marriage or betrothal with another;
otherwise he or she lost civil status. While an engagement lasted,
the man could bring an action for damages against any one who insulted
or injured his fiancee.
[Sidenote: Husband and Wife.]
The Roman marriage was a purely civil contract based on consent. The
definition given by the law was a noble one. "Marriage is the union of a
man and a woman and a partnership of all life; a mutual sharing of laws
human and divine." The power of the husband over the wife was called
_manus_; and the wife stood in the same position as a daughter. No
husband was allowed to have a concubine. He was bound to support his
wife adequately, look out for her interests, and strictly to avenge
any insult or injury offered her; any abusive treatment of the wife
by the husband was punished by an action for damages. A wife was
compelled by law to go into solemn mourning for a space of ten months
upon the death of a husband. During the period of mourning she was
to abstain from social banquets, jewels, and crimson and white
garments. If she did not do so, she lost civil status. The emperor
Gordian, in the year 238, remitted these laws so far as solemn clothing
and other external signs of mourning above enumerated were
concerned. But a husband was not compelled to do any legal mourning
for the death of his wife.
The wife was, as I have said, in the power of her husband. Originally,
no doubt, this power was absolute; the husband could even put his wife
to death without a public trial. But the world was progressing, and that
during the first three centuries after Christ the power of the husband
was reduced in practice to absolute nullity I shall make clear in the
following pages. I shall, accordingly, first investigate the rights of
the wife over her dowry, that is, the right of managing her own
Even from earliest times it is clear that the wife had complete control
of her dowry. The henpecked husband who is afraid of offending his
wealthy wife is a not uncommon figure in the comedies of Plautus and
Terence; and Cato the Censor growled in his usual amiable manner at the
fact that wives even in his day controlled completely their own
property. The attitude of the Roman law on the subject is clearly
expressed. "It is for the good of the state that women have their
dowries inviolate." "The dowry is always and everywhere a chief
concern; for it is for the public good that dowries be retained for
women, since it is highly necessary that they be dowered in order to
bring forth offspring and replenish the state with children." "It is
just that the income of the dowry belong to the husband; for inasmuch as
it is he who stands the burdens of the married state, it is fair that he
also acquire the interest." "Nevertheless, the dowry belongs to the
woman, even though it is in the goods of the husband." "A husband is
not permitted to alienate his wife's estate against her will." A
wife could use her dowry during marriage to support herself, if
necessary, or her kindred, to buy a suitable estate, to help an exiled
parent, or to assist a needy husband, brother, or sister. The numerous
accounts in various authors of the first three centuries after Christ
confirm the statement that the woman's power over her dowry was
absolute. Then as now, a man might put his property in his wife's
name to escape his creditors,--a useless proceeding, if she had not
had complete control of her own property.
When the woman died, her dowry, if it had been given by the father (_dos
profecticia_) returned to the latter; but if any one else had given it
(_dos adventicia_), the dowry remained with the husband, unless the
donor had expressly stipulated that it was to be returned to himself at
the woman's death (_dos recepticia_), In the case of a dowry of the
first kind, the husband might retain what he had expended for his
wife's funeral. The dowry was confiscated to the state if the woman
was convicted of lese majeste, violence against the state, or
murder. If she suffered punishment involving loss of civil status
under any other law which did not assess the penalty of confiscation,
the husband acquired the dowry just as if she were dead. Banishment
operated as no impediment; if the woman wished to leave her husband
under these circumstances, her father could recover the dowry.
A further confirmation of the power of the wife over her property is the
law that prohibited gifts between husband and wife; obviously, a woman
could not be said to have the power of making a gift if she had no right
of property of her own. The object of the law mentioned was to prevent
the husband and wife from receiving any lasting damage to his or her
property by giving of it under the impulse of conjugal affection.
This statute acted powerfully to prevent a husband from wheedling a wife
out of her goods; and in case the latter happened to be of a grasping
disposition the law was a protection to the husband and hence to the
children, his heirs, for whose interests the Roman law constantly
Gifts between husband and wife were nevertheless valid under certain
conditions. It was permissible to make a present of clothing and to
bestow various tokens of affection, such as ornaments. The husband could
present his wife with enough money to rebuild a house of hers which had
burned. The Emperor Marcus Aurelius permitted a wife to give her
husband the sum necessary to obtain public office or to become a senator
or knight or to give public games. A gift was also legal if made by
the husband in apprehension that death might soon overtake him; if, for
instance, he was very sick or was setting out to war, or to exile, or on
a dangerous journey. The point in all gifts was, that neither party
should become richer by the donation.
Some further considerations of the relation of husband and wife will aid
in setting forth the high opinion which Roman law entertained of
marriage and its constant effort to protect the wife as much as
possible. A wife could not be held in a criminal action if she committed
theft against her husband. The various statements of the jurists make
the matter clear. Thus Paulus: "A special action for the recovery of
property removed [_rerum amotarum iudicium_] has been introduced
against her who was a wife, because it has been decided that it is not
possible to bring a criminal action for theft against her [_quid non
placuit cum ea furti agere posse_]. Some--as Nerva Cassius--think she
cannot even commit theft, on the ground that the partnership in life
made her mistress, as it were. Others--like Sabinus and Proculus--hold
that the wife can commit theft, just as a daughter may against her
father, but that there can be no criminal action by established law."
"As a mark of respect to the married state, an action involving disgrace
for the wife is refused." "Therefore she will be held for theft if
she touches the same things after being divorced. So, too, if her slave
commits theft, we can sue her on the charge. But it is possible to bring
an action for theft even against a wife, if she has stolen from him
whose heirs we are or before she married us; nevertheless, as a mark of
respect we say that in each case a formal claim for restitution alone is
admissible, but not an action for theft." "If any one lends help or
advice to a wife who is filching the property of her husband, he shall
be held for theft. If he commits theft with her, he shall be held for
theft, although the woman herself is not held."
A husband who did not avenge the murder of his wife lost all claims to
her dowry, which was then confiscated to the state; this by order of the
The laws on adultery are rather more lenient to the woman than to the
man. In the first place, the Roman law insisted that it was unfair for a
husband to demand chastity on the part of his wife if he himself was
guilty of infidelity or did not set her an example of good
conduct,--a maxim which present day lawyers may reflect upon with
profit. A father was permitted to put to death his daughter and her
paramour if she was still in his power and if he caught her in the act
at his own house or that of his son-in-law; otherwise he could not.
He must, however, put both man and woman to death at once, when caught
in the act; to reserve punishment to a later date was unlawful. The
husband was not permitted to kill his wife; he might kill her paramour
if the latter was a man of low estate, such as an actor, slave, or
freedman, or had been convicted on some criminal charge involving loss
of citizenship. The reason that the father was given the power which
was denied the husband was that the latter's resentment would be more
likely to blind his power of judging dispassionately the merits of the
case. If now the husband forgot himself and slew his wife, he was
banished for life if of noble birth, and condemned to perpetual hard
labour if of more humble rank. He must at once divorce a wife guilty
of adultery; otherwise he was punished as a pander, and that meant loss
of citizenship. Women convicted of adultery were, when not put to
death, punished by the loss of half their dowry, a third part of their
other goods, and relegation to an island; guilty men suffered the loss
of half of their possessions and similar relegation to an island; but
the guilty parties were never confined in the same place. We have
mention also in several writers of some curious and vicious punishments
that might be inflicted on men guilty of adultery.
Now, all this seems rigorous enough; but, as I have already remarked, we
must beware of imagining that a statute is enforced simply because it
stands in the code. As a matter of fact, public sentiment had grown so
humane in the first three centuries after Christ that it did not for a
moment tolerate that a father should kill his daughter, no matter how
guilty she was; and in all our records of that period no instance
occurs. As to husbands, we have repeated complaints in the literature of
the day that they had grown so complaisant towards erring wives that
they could not be induced to prosecute them. A typical instance is
related by Pliny. Pliny was summoned by the Emperor Trajan to attend
a council where, among other cases, that of a certain Gallitta was
discussed. She had married a military tribune and had committed adultery
with a common captain (_centurio_). Trajan sent the captain into exile.
The husband took no measures against his wife, but went on living with
her. Only by coercion was he finally induced to prosecute. Pliny informs
us that the guilty woman had to be condemned, even against the will of
A woman guilty of incest received no punishment, but the guilty man was
deported to an island. If the incest involved adultery, the woman
was of course held on that charge.
We come now to a matter where the growing freedom of women reached its
highest point--the matter of divorce. Here again we have to note the
progress of toleration and humanitarianism. In the early days of the
Republic the family tie was rarely severed. Valerius Maximus tells
us of a quaint custom of the olden days, to the effect that
"whenever any quarrel arose between husband and wife, they would proceed
to the chapel of the goddess Viriplaca ["Reconciler of Husbands"], which
is on the Palatine, and there they would mutually express their
feelings; then, laying aside their anger, they returned home
reconciled." During these days a woman could never herself take the
initiative in divorce; the husband was all-powerful. The first divorce
of which we have any record took place in the year 231 B.C., when
Spurius Carvilius Ruga put away his wife for sterility. Public opinion
censured him severely for it "because people thought that not even the
desire for children ought to have been preferred to conjugal fidelity
and affection." As the Empire extended and Rome became more worldly
and corrupt, the reasons for divorce became more trivial. Sempronius
Sophus divorced his wife because she had attended some public games
without his knowledge. Cicero, who was a lofty moralist--on
paper,--put away his wife Terentia in order to marry a rich young ward
and get her money if he could. Maecenas, the great prime-minister of
Augustus, sent away and took back his wife repeatedly at
caprice--perhaps he believed that variety is the spice of life. But
during all this time the husband alone could annul marriage.
Gradually, however, the status of women changed and they were given
greater and greater liberty. Inasmuch as Roman marriage was a civil
contract based on consent, strict justice had to allow that on this
basis either party to the contract might annul the marriage at his or
her pleasure. The result was that during the first three centuries after
Christ the wife had absolute freedom to take the initiative and send her
husband a divorce whenever and for whatever reason she wished. The
proof of this fact is positively established not only from the
statements of the jurists, but also from numberless accounts in the
other writers of the day. Divorce became, at least among the higher
strata of society, extraordinarily frequent. That a lady of the Upper
Four Hundred should have been content with only one husband was deemed
worthy of special mention on her tomb; the word _univira_ (a woman of
one husband) may still be read on certain inscriptions. The satirists
are fond of dwelling on the license allowed to women in the case of
divorce. Martial, for instance, says that one Theselina married ten
husbands in one month. Still, allowing for the natural exaggeration of
satirists, we are yet reasonably sure that divorce had reached great
heights in the upper classes. Whether it was as bad among the middle
classes is very improbable. There was one kind of marriage which,
originally at least, did not admit of dissolution. This was the
solemn marriage by _confarreatio_, already described, which qualified
the husband and wife for the special priesthood of Jupiter. Women soon
grew to value their freedom too highly to enter it; as early as 23 A.D.
the Senate had to relax some of the rigour of the old laws on the matter
as a special inducement for women to consent to enter this union.
We may now observe what became of the wife's property after divorce and
what her rights were under such circumstances. If it was the husband who
had taken the initiative and had sent his wife a divorce, and if the
divorce was not the fault of the woman, she at once had an action in law
for complete recovery of her dowry; on her own responsibility if she was
_sui iuris_, otherwise with the help of her father. But even the
woman still under guardianship could act by herself if her father was
too sick or infirm or if she had no other agent to act for her. For
the offence of adultery a husband had to pay back the dowry at once; for
lesser guilt he might return it in instalments at intervals of six
months. If, now, the divorce was clearly the fault of the woman,
her husband could retain certain parts of the dowry in these
proportions: for adultery, a sixth part for each of the children up to
one half of the whole; for lighter offences, an eighth part; if the
husband had gone to expense or had incurred civil obligations for his
wife's benefit or if she had removed any of his property, he could
recover the amount.
A year and six months must elapse after a divorce before the woman was
allowed to marry again. If at the time of the divorce she was
pregnant, her husband was obliged to support her offspring, provided
that within thirty days after the separation she informed him of her
condition. She could sue her former husband for damages if he
insulted her. Whether the children should stay with the mother or
father was left to the discretion of the judge.
[Sidenote: Property rights of widows and single women.]
The married woman had, as I have shown, complete disposal of her own
property. Let us see next what rights those women had over their
possessions who were widows or spinsters.
Roman Law constantly strove to protect the children and laid it down as
a maxim that the property of their parents belonged to them. A
widow could not therefore, except by special permission from the
emperor, be the legal guardian of her children, but must ask the
court to appoint one upon the death of her husband. This was to
prevent possible mismanagement and because "to undertake the legal
defence of others is the office of men." But she was permitted to
assume complete charge of her children's property during their minority
and enjoy the usufruct; only she must render an account of the goods
when the children arrived at maturity. We have many instances of
women who managed their children's patrimony and did it exceedingly
well. "You managed our patrimony in such wise," writes Seneca to his
mother, "that you exerted yourself as if it were yours and yet
abstained from it as if it belonged to others." Agricola,
father-in-law of Tacitus, had such confidence in his wife's business
ability that he made her co-heir with his daughter and the Emperor
Domitian. A mother could get an injunction to restrain extravagance
on the part of her children. Women could not adopt.
Married women, spinsters, and widows had as much freedom as men in
disposing of property by will. If there were children, the Roman law put
certain limitations on the testator's powers, whether man or woman. By
the Falcidian Law no one was allowed to divert more than three fourths
of his estate from his (or her) natural heirs. But for any adequate
cause a woman could disinherit her children completely; and there are
many instances of this extant both in the Law Books and in the
literature of the day.
Single women had grown absolutely unshackled and even their guardians
had become a mere formality, as the words of Gaius, already quoted (page
8) prove. That they had complete disposal of their property is proved
furthermore by the numerous complaints in Roman authors about the
sycophants who flattered and toadied the wealthy ladies with an eye to
being remembered in their wills. For it is evident that if these
women had not had the power freely to dispose of their own property,
there would have been no point in paying them such assiduous court. The
legal age of maturity was now twenty-five for both male and female.
[Sidenote: Women engaged in business pursuits.]
Women engaged freely in all business pursuits. We find them in all kinds
of retail trade and commerce, as members of guilds, in
medicin innkeeping, in vaudevil; there were even
female barbers and charioteer. Examples of women who toiled
for a living with their own hands are indeed very old, as the widow,
described by Homer, who worked for a scanty wage to support her
fatherless children, or the wreathmaker, mentioned by Aristophanes.
But such was the case only with women of the lower classes; the lady of
high birth acted through her agents.
[Sidenote: The right of women to sue.]
When so many women were engaged in business, occasions for lawsuits
would naturally arise; we shall see next what power the woman had to
sue. It was a standing maxim of the law that a woman by herself could
not conduct a case in court. She had to act through her agent, if
she was independent, otherwise through her guardian. The supreme judge
at Rome and the governor in a province assigned an attorney to those who
had no agent or guardian. But in this case again custom and the law
were at variance. Various considerations will make it clear that women
who sued had, in practice, complete disposal of the matter. I.--A woman
who was still under the power of her father must, according to law, sue
with him as her agent or appoint an agent to act with him. Nevertheless,
a father could do nothing without the consent of his daughter.
Obviously, then, so far as the power of the father was concerned, a
woman had practically the management of her suit. II.--The husband had
no power. If he tried to browbeat her as to what to do, she could send
him a divorce, a privilege which she had at her beck and call, as we
have seen; and then she could force him to give her any guardian she
wanted. III.--That the authority of other guardians was in practice
a mere formality, I have already proved (pp. 7 and 8).
From these considerations it is clear that the woman's wishes were
supreme in the conduct of any suit. Moreover, the law expressly states
that women may appoint whatever attorneys or agents they desire, without
asking the consent of their legal guardians; and thus they were at
liberty to select a man who would manage things as they might direct.
There were cases where even the strict letter of the law permitted women
to lay an action on their own responsibility alone: if, when a suit for
recovery of dowry was brought, the father was absent or hindered by
infirmities; if the woman sued or was sued to get or render an
account of property managed in trust; to avenge the death of a
parent or children, or of patron or patroness and their children;
to lay bare any matter pertaining to the public grain supply; and
to disclose cases of treason.
[Sidenote: Instances of women pleading in public and suing.]
We read of many cases of women pleading publicly and bringing suit.
Indeed, according to Juvenal--who is, however, a pessimist by
profession--the ladies found legal proceedings so interesting that
bringing suit became a passion with them as strong as it had once been
among the Athenians. Thus Juvenal: "There is almost no case in
which a woman wouldn't bring suit. Manilia prosecutes, when she isn't a
defendant. They draw up briefs quite by themselves, and are ready to
cite principles and authorities to Celsus [a celebrated lawyer of that
time]." Of pleading in public one of the celebrated instances was that
of Hortensia, daughter of the great orator Quintus Hortensius, Cicero's
rival. On an occasion when matrons had been burdened with heavy taxes
and none of their husbands would fight the measure, Hortensia pleaded
the case publicly with great success. All writers speak of her action
and the eloquence of her speech with great admiration. We hear also
of a certain Gaia Afrania, wife of a Senator; she always conducted her
case herself before the supreme judge, "not because there was any lack
of lawyers," adds her respectable and scandalised historian, "but
because she had more than enough of impudence."
Quintilian mentions several cases of women being sued; Pliny tells
how he acted as attorney for some; and the Law Books will supply
any one curious in the matter with abundant examples. A quotation
from Pliny will give an idea of the kind of suit a woman might
bring, and the great interest aroused thereby: "Attia Viriola, a woman
of illustrious birth and married to a former supreme judge, was
disinherited by her eighty-year-old father within eleven days after he
had brought Attia a stepmother. Attia was trying to regain her share of
her father's estate. One hundred and eighty jurors sat in judgment. The
tribunal was crowded, and from the higher part of the court both men and
women strained over the railings in their eagerness to hear (which was
difficult), and to see (which was easy)."
[Sidenote: Partiality of the law to women.]
There were many legal qualifications designed to help women evade the
strict letter of the law when this, if enforced absolutely, would work
injustice. Ignorance of the law, if there was no criminal offence
involving good morals, was particularly accepted in the case of women
"on account of the weakness of the sex." A typical instance of the
growth of the desire to help women, protect them as much as possible,
and stretch the laws in their favour, may be taken from the senatorial
decree known as the Senatus Consultum Velleianum. This was an order
forbidding females to become sureties or defendants for any one in a
contract. But at the end of the first century of our era the Senate
voted that the law be emended to help women and to give them special
privileges in every class of contract. "We must praise the
farsightedness of that illustrious order," comments the great jurist
Ulpian, "because it brought aid to women on account of the weakness
of the sex, exposed, as it is, to many mishaps of this sort."
[Sidenote: Rights of women to inherit.]
The rights of women to inherit under Roman law deserve some mention.
Here again we may note a steady growth of justice. Some general examples
will make this clearer, before I treat of the specific powers of
inheritance. I.--In the year 169 B.C. the Tribune Quintus Voconius Saxa
had a law passed which restricted greatly the rights of women to
inherit. According to Dio no woman was, by this statute,
permitted to receive more than 25,000 sesterces--1250 dollars. In the
second century after Christ, this law had fallen into complete
desuetude. II.--By the Falcidian Law, passed in the latter part of
the first century B.C., no citizen was allowed to divert more than three
fourths of his estate from his natural heirs. The Romans felt
strongly against any man who disinherited his children without very good
reason; the will of such a parent was called _inofficiosum_, "made
without a proper feeling of duty," and the disinherited children had an
action at law to recover their proper share. A daughter was
considered a natural heir no less than a son and had equal privileges in
succession; and so women were bound to receive some inheritance at
least. III.--It is a sad commentary on Christian rulers that for many
ages they allowed the crimes of the father to be visited upon his
children and by their bills of attainder confiscated to the state the
goods of condemned offenders. Now, the Roman law stated positively that
"the crime or punishment of a father can inflict no stigma on his
child." So far as the goods of the father were concerned, the
property of three kinds of criminals escheated to the crown: (1) those
who committed suicide while under indictment for some crime, (2)
forgers, (3) those guilty of high treason. Yet it seems
reasonable to doubt whether these laws were very often carried out
strictly to the letter. For example, the law did indeed hold that the
estate of a party guilty of treason was confiscated to the state;
but even here it was expressly ordained that the goods of the condemned
man's freedmen be reserved for his children. Moreover, in actual
practice we can find few instances where the law was executed in its
literal severity even under the worst tyrants. It was Julius Caesar who
first set the splendid example of allowing to the children of his dead
foes full enjoyment of their patrimonies. Succeeding emperors
followed the precedent. Tyrants like Tiberius and Nero, strangely
enough, in a majority of cases overruled the Senate when it proposed to
confiscate the goods of those condemned for treason, and allowed the
children a large part or all of the paternal estate. Hadrian gave
the children of proscribed offenders the twelfth part of their father's
goods. Antoninus Pius gave them all. There was a strong public
feeling against bills of attainder and this sentiment is voiced by all
writers of the Empire. The law forbade wives to suffer any loss for any
fault of their husbands.
Since we have now noticed that women could inherit any amount, that they
were bound to receive something under their fathers' wills, and that the
guilt of their kin could inflict no prejudice upon them in the way of
bills of attainder involving physical injury or civil status and, in
practice, little loss so far as inheriting property was concerned, we
may pass to a contemplation of the specific legal rights of inheritance
If women were to be disinherited, it was sufficient to mention them in
an aggregate; but males must be mentioned specifically. If,
however, they were disinherited in an aggregate (_inter ceteros_), some
legacy had to be left them that they might not seem to have been passed
over through forgetfulness. I shall not concern myself particularly
with testate succession, because here obviously the will of the testator
could dispose as he wished, except in so far as he was limited by the
Falcidian Law. The matter of intestate succession may well claim our
attention; for therein we shall see what powers of inheritance were
given the female sex. The general principles are explained by Gaius
(iii, 1-38); and these principles followed, in the main, the law as laid
down in the Twelve Tables (451 B.C.). According to these, the estates of
those who died intestate belonged first of all to the children who were
in the power of the deceased at the time of his death; there was no
distinction of sex; the daughters were entitled to precisely the same
amount as the sons. If the children of the testator had died, the
grandson or granddaughter _through the son_ succeeded; or the
great-grandson or great-granddaughter through the _grandson_. If a son
a daughter were alive, as well as grandsons and granddaughters through
the _son_, they were all equally called to the estate. The estate was
not divided per capita, but among families as a whole; for example, if
of two sons one only was alive, but the other had left children, the
testator's surviving son received one half of the patrimony and his
grandchildren through his other son the other half, to be divided among
them severally. If, then, there were six grandchildren, each received
one twelfth of the estate.
Here the powers of women to inherit stopped. Beyond the tie of
_consanguinitas_, that is, that of daughter to father, or granddaughter
through a _son_, the female line must at once turn aside, and had no
powers; the estate descended to the _agnati_, that is, male relatives on
the father's side. Hence a mother was shut out by a brother of the
deceased or by that brother's children. If there were no _agnati_, the
goods were given to the _gentiles_, male relatives of the clan bearing
the same name. In fact, under this regime we may say that of the female
line the daughter alone was sure of inheriting something.
In the days of the Empire some attempts were made to be more just. It
was enacted that all the children should be called to the estate,
whether they had been under the power of the testator at the time of his
death or not; and female relatives were now allowed to come in for
their share "in the third degree," that is, if there was neither a child
or an agnate surviving. This was not much of an improvement; and the
principle of agnate succession is the only point in which Roman law
failed to give to women those equal rights which it allowed them in
[Sidenote: Protection of property of children.]
There is no point on which Roman law laid more stress than that the
children, both male and female, were to be constantly protected and must
receive their legal share of their father's or mother's goods. After a
husband's divorce or death his wife could, indeed, enjoy possession of
the property and the usufruct; but the principal had to be conserved
intact for the children until they arrived at maturity. In the same way
a father was obliged to keep untouched for the children whatever had
been left them by the mother on her decease; and he must also leave
them that part, at least, of his own property prescribed by the
Falcidian Law. A case--and it was common enough in real life--such as
that described by Dickens in _David Copperfield_, where, by the English
law, a second husband acquired absolute right over his wife's property
and shut out her son, would have been impossible under Roman law.
Neither husband nor wife could succeed to one another's intestate estate
absolutely unless there were no children, parents, or other relatives
[Sidenote: Punishment of crimes against women.]
Rape of a woman was punished by death; accessories to the crime merited
the same penalty. Indecent exposure before a virgin met with
punishment out of course. Kidnapping was penalised by hard labour
in the mines or by crucifixion in the case of those of humble birth, and
by confiscation of half the goods and by perpetual exile in the case of
a noble. Temporary exile was visited upon those guilty of abortion
themselves; if it was caused through the agency of another, the
agent, even though he or she did so without evil intent, was punished by
hard labour in the mines, if of humble birth, and by relegation to an
island and confiscation of part of their goods, if of noble rank.
If the victim died, the person who caused the abortion was put to
[Sidenote: Rights of women to an education.]
The rights of women to an education were not questioned. That Sulpicia
could publish amatory poems in honour of her husband and receive
eulogies from writers like Martial shows that she and ladies like
her occupied somewhat the same position as Olympia Morata and Tarquinia
Molza later in Italy during the Renaissance, or like some of the
celebrated Frenchwomen, such as Madame de Stael. Seneca addresses a
_Dialogue on Consolation_ to one Marcia; such an idea would have made
the hair of any Athenian gentleman in the time of Socrates stand on end.
Aspasia was obliged to be a courtesan in order to become educated and to
frequent cultivated society; Sulpicia was a noble matron in good
standing. The world had not stood still since Socrates had requested
some one to take Xanthippe home, lest he be burdened by her sympathy in
his last moments. Pains were taken that the Roman girl of wealth should
have special tutors. "Pompeius Saturninus recently read me some
letters," writes Pliny to one of his correspondents, "which he
insisted had been written by his wife. I believed that Plautus or
Terence was being read in prose. Whether they are really his wife's, as
he maintains; or his own, which he denies; he deserves equal honour,
either because he composes them, or because he has made his wife, whom
he married when a mere girl, so learned and polished." The enthusiasm of
the ladies for literature is attested by Persius.
According to Juvenal, who, as an orthodox satirist, was not fond of the
weaker sex, women sometimes became over-educated. He growls as
follows: "That woman is a worse nuisance than usual who, as soon as
she goes to bed, praises Vergil; makes excuses for doomed Dido; pits
bards against one another and compares them; and weighs Homer and Maro
in the balance. Teachers of literature give way, professors are
vanquished, the whole mob is hushed, and no lawyer or auctioneer will
speak, nor any other woman." The prospect of a learned wife filled the
orthodox Roman with peculiar horror. No Roman woman ever became a
public professor as did Hypatia or, ages later, Bitisia Gozzadina, who,
in the thirteenth century, became doctor of canon and civil law at the
University of Bologna.
I have been speaking of women of the wealthier classes; but the poor
were not neglected. As far back as the time of the Twelve Tables--450
B.C.--parents of moderate means were accustomed to club together and
hire a schoolroom and a teacher who would instruct the children, girls
no less than boys, in at least the proverbial three R's. Virginia was on
her way to such a school when she encountered the passionate gaze of
Appius Claudius. Such grammar schools, which boys and girls attended
together, flourished under the Empire as they had under the
Republic. They were not connected with the state, being supported
by the contributions of individual parents. To the end we cannot say
that there was a definite scheme of public education for girls at the
state's expense as there was for boys. Still, the emperors did
something. Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius, Marcus Aurelius, and
Alexander Severus, for example, regularly supplied girls and boys with
education at public expense; under Trajan there were 5000 children
so honoured. Public-spirited citizens were also accustomed to contribute
liberally to the same cause; Pliny on one occasion gave the
equivalent of $25,000 for the support and instruction of indigent boys
[Sidenote: The Vestals.]
It may not be out of place to speak briefly of the Vestal Virgins, the
six priestesses of Vesta, who are the only instances in pagan antiquity
of anything like the nuns of the Christians. The Vestals took a vow of
perpetual chastity. They passed completely out of the power of
their parents and became entirely independent. They could not receive
the inheritance of any person who died intestate, and no one could
become heir to a Vestal who died intestate. They were allowed to be
witnesses in court in public trials, a privilege denied other women.
Peculiar honour was accorded them and they were regularly appointed the
custodians of the wills of the emperors.
[Sidenote: Female slaves.]
The position of women in slavery merits some attention, in view of the
huge multitudes that were held in bondage. Roman law acknowledged no
legal rights on the part of slaves. The master had absolute power
of life and death. They were exposed to every whim of master or
mistress without redress. If some one other than their owner harmed
them they might obtain satisfaction through their master and for his
benefit; but the penalty for the aggressor was only pecuniary. A
slave's evidence was never admitted except under torture. If a
master was killed, every slave of his household and even his freedmen
and freedwomen were put to torture, although the culprit may already
have been discovered, in order to ascertain the instigator of the plot
and his remotest accessories.
The earlier history of Rome leaves no doubt that before the Republic
fell these laws were carried out with inhuman severity. With the
growth of Rome into a world power and the consequent rise of
humanitarianism a strong public feeling against gratuitous cruelty
towards slaves sprang up. This may be illustrated by an event which
happened in the reign of Nero, in the year 58, when a riot ensued out of
sympathy for some slaves who had been condemned _en masse_ after their
master had been assassinated by one of them. Measures were
gradually introduced for alleviating the hardships and cruelties of
slavery. Claudius (41-54 A.D.) ordained that since sick and infirm
slaves were being exposed on an island in the Tiber sacred to
Aesculapius, because their masters did not wish to bother about
attending them, all those who were so exposed were to be set free if
they recovered and never to be returned into the power of their masters;
and if any owner preferred to put a slave to death rather than expose
him, he was to be held for murder. Gentlemen began to speak with
contempt of a master or mistress who maltreated slaves. Hadrian
(117-138 A.D.) modified the old laws to a remarkable degree: he forbade
slaves to be put to death by their masters and commanded them to be
tried by regularly appointed judges; he brought it about that a slave,
whether male or female, was not to be sold to a slave-dealer or trainer
for public shows without due cause; he did away with _ergastula_ or
workhouses, in which slaves guilty of offences were forced to work off
their penalties in chains and were confined to filthy dungeons; and he
modified the law previously existing to the extent that if a master was
killed in his own house, the inquisition by torture could not be
extended to the whole household, but to those only who, by proximity to
the deed, could have noticed it. Gaius observes that for
slaves to be in complete subjection to masters who have power of life
and death is an institution common to all nations, "But at this time,"
he continues, "it is permitted neither to Roman citizens nor any other
men who are under the sway of the Roman people to vent their wrath
against slaves beyond measure and without reason. In fact, by a decree
of the sainted Antoninus (138-161 A.D.) a master who without cause kills
his slave is ordered to be held no less than he who kills another's
slave. An excessive severity on the part of masters is also checked
by a constitution of the same prince. On being consulted by certain
governors about those slaves who rush for refuge to the shrines of the
gods or the statues of emperors, he ordered that if the cruelty of
masters seemed intolerable they should be compelled to sell their
slaves." Severus ordained that the city prefect should prevent slaves
from being prostituted. Aurelian gave his slaves who had
transgressed to be heard according to the laws by public judges.
Tacitus procured a decree that slaves were not to be put to
inquisitorial torture in a case affecting a master's life, not even if
the charge was high treason. So much for the laws that mitigated
slavery under the Empire. They were not ideal; but they would in more
respects than one compare favourably with the similar legislation that
was in force, prior to the Civil War, in the American Slave States.
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 Paulus, iii, 4_a_, 1.
 Ulpian, Tit., xx, 16. Gaius, ii, 112.
[ 3: Male relatives on the father's side--agnati--were guardians
in such cases; these failing, the judge of the supreme court (praetor)
assigned one. See Ulpian, Tit., xi, 3, 4, and 24. Gaius, i, 185, and
iii, 10. Libertae (freedwomen) took as guardians their former masters.]
 Ulpian, Tit., xi, 27.
 The power of the father was called _potestas_; that of the husband,
 Aulus Gellius, x, 23. Cf. Suetonius, _Tiberius_, 35.
 Gaius, i, 144.
 Ulpian, Tit., xi, I.
 Ulpian, Tit., xi, 28a. Gaius, i, 194. Paulus, iv, 9, 1-9.
 Gaius, i, 145. Ulpian, Tit., x, 5.
 Gaius, i, 137. For an example see Pliny, _Letters_, viii, 18. Cf.
Spartianus. _Didius Iulianus_, 8: filiam suam, potitus imperio, dato
patrimonio, emancipaverat. See also Dio, 73, 7 (Xiphilin).
If emancipated children insulted or injured their parents, they lost
their independence--Codex, 8, 49 (50), 1.
 Ulpian, Tit., viii, 7_a_.
 Paulus, i, 4, 4; Mater, quae filiorum suorum rebus intervenit,
actione negotiorum gestorum et ipsis et eorum tutoribus tenebitur.
 Ulpian in Dig., 25, 3, 5.
 For Livia's great influence over Augustus see Seneca, _de
Clementia_, i, 9, 6. Tacitus, _Annals_, i, 3, 4, and 5, and ii, 34. Dio,
55, 14-21, and 56, 47.
Agrippina dominated Claudius--Tacitus, _Annals_, xii, 37. Dio, 60, 33.
Caenis, the concubine of Vespasian, amassed great wealth and sold public
offices right and left--Dio, 65, 14. Plotina, wife of Trajan, engineered
Hadrian's succession--Eutropius, viii, 6. Dio, 69, I. A concubine formed
the conspiracy which overthrew Commodus--Herodian, i, 16-17. The
plotting of Maesa put Heliogabalus on the throne--Capitolinus,
_Macrinus_, 9-10. Alexander Severus was ruled by his mother
Mammaea--Lampridius, _Alex. Severus_, 14; Herodian, vi, i, i and 9.
Gallienus invited women to his cabinet meetings--Trebellius Pollio,
Gallienus, 16. The wives of governors took such a strenuous part in
politics and army matters that it caused the Senate grave concern--see
examples in Tacitus, Annals, in, 33 and 34, and iv, 20; also i, 69, and
ii, 55; id. _Hist_., iii, 69. Vellcius Paterculus, ii, 74 (Fulvia).
Of course, no woman ever had a right to vote; but neither did anybody
else, since the Roman government had become an absolute despotism. The
first woman on the throne was Pulcheria, who, in 450 A.D., was
proclaimed Empress of the East, succeeding her brother, Theodosius II.
But she soon took a husband and made him Emperor. She had been
practically sole ruler since 414.
 Plutarch, _Roman Questions_, 6. Aulus Gellius, x, 23. Athenaeus, x,
 Valerius Maximus, vi, 3, 9. For this he was not even blamed, but
rather received praise for the excellent example.
 Aulus Gellius, x, 23. A woman in the _Menaechmi_ of Plautus, iv, 6,
1, complains justly of this double standard of morality:
Nam si vir scortum duxit clam uxorem suam, Id si rescivit uxor, impune
est viro. Uxor viro si clam domo egressa est foras, Viro fit causa,
exigitur matrimonio. Utinam lex esset cadem quae uxori est viro!
 Aulus Gellius, i, 6.
 De Consolatione ad Marciam, xvi, 1.
 _Commentaries_, A, [Greek: gamma].
 Quintilian, _Instit. Orat_., vi, 1, 5. Pliny, _Letters_, vi, 4 and
7, and vii, 5.
 Great admiration expressed for Paulina, wife of Seneca, who opened
her veins to accompany her husband in death--Tacitus, _Annals_, xv, 63,
64. Story of Arria and Paetus--Pliny, _Letters_, iii, 16. Martial, i,
13. The famous instance of Epponina, under Vespasian, and her attachment
to her condemned husband--Tacitus, _Hist_., iv, 67. Tacitus mentions
that many ladies accompanied their husbands to exile and
death--_Annals_, xvi, 10, 11. Numerous instances are related by Pliny of
tender and happy marriages, terminated only by death--see, e.g.,
_Letters_, viii, 5. Pliny the elder tells how M. Lepidus died of regret
for his wife after being divorced from her--_N.H._, vii, 36. Valerius
Maximus devotes a whole chapter to Conjugal Love--iv, 6. But the best
examples of deep affection are seen in tomb inscriptions--e.g., CIL i,
1103, viii, 8123, ii, 3596, v, 1, 3496, v, 2, 7066, x, 8192, vi, 3,
15696, 15317, and 17690. Man and wife are often represented with arms
thrown about one another's shoulders to signify that they were united in
death as in life. The poet Statius remarks that "to love a wife when she
is living is pleasure; to love her when dead, a solemn duty" (Silvae, in
prooemio). Yet some theologians would have us believe that conjugal love
and fidelity is an invention of Christianity.
 Pliny, _Panegyricus_, 26. For other instances see Capitolinus,
_Anton. Pius_, 8; Lampridius, _Alex. Severus_, 57; Spartianus, Hadrian,
7, 8, 9; Capitolinus, _M. Anton. Phil_., 11.
 Gaius, i, 190.
 Ulpian, Tit. xi, 25. Cf. Frag, iur Rom. Vatic. (Huschke, 325): Divi
Diocletianus et Constantius Aureliae Pontiae: Actor rei forum sequi
debet et mulier quoque facere procuratorem _sine tutoris auctoritate non
prohibetur_. So Papinian, lib. xv, Responsorum (Huschke, 327). I shall
discuss these matters at greater length when I treat of women and the
management of their property.
 Dio, 54, 16. Pomponius in Dig., 23, 2, 4.
 Gaius, i, 113.
 Ulpian, Tit., ix, 1: Farreo convenit uxor in manum certis verbis et
testibus X praesentibus et sollemni sacrificio facto, in quo panis
quoque farreus adhibetur. Cf. Gaius, i, 112.
 Aulus Gellius, iii, 2, 12. Gaius, i, 111.
 Gaius, i, 110 and 111.
 Paulus, ii, xix, 8.
 Pliny, _Letters_, i, 14, will furnish an example; cf. id. vi, 26,
to Servianus: Gaudeo et gratulor, quod Fusco Salinatori filiam tuam
destinasti. Note the way in which Julius Caesar arranged a match for his
daughter--Suetonius, _Divus Julius_, 21.
 Paulus in Dig., 23, 2, 2: Nuptiae consistere non possunt, nisi
consentiunt omnes, id est, qui coeunt quorumque in potestate sunt.
 Julianus in Dig., 23, 1, 11.
 Ulpian in Dig., 23, 1, 12.
 Paulus in Dig., 23, 1, 13. Terentius Clemens in Dig., 23, 2, 21.
 Paulus, ii, 19, 2.
 Ulpian, 24, 17.
 Cf. Ulpian, Tit., vi, 6: Divortio facto, si quidem sui juris sit
muller, ipsa habet rei uxoriae actionem, id est, dotis repetitionem;
quodsi in potestate patris sit, pater adiuncta filiae persona habet
The technical recognition of the father's power was still strong. Cf.
Pliny, _Panegyricus_, 38: Tu quidem, Caesar ... intuitus, opinor, vim
legemque naturae, quae semper in dicione parentum esse liberos iussit.
The same writer, on requesting Trajan to give citizenship to the
children of a certain freedman, is careful to add the specification that
they are to remain in their father's power--see Pliny to Trajan, xi
 Paulus, vi, 15. Codex, v, 4, 11, and 17, 5.
 Paulus, in Dig., 23, 3, 28. Codex, v, 13, 1, and 18, 1.
 Codex, v, 17, 5.
 Salvius Julianus: Frag. Perp. Ed.: Pars Prima, vii--under "De is
qui notantur infamia."
 Codex, 8, 46 (47), 5.
 Aulus Gellius, iv, 4.
 Juvenal, vi, 200-203. Gaius in Dig., 24, 2, 2. Ulpian, ibid., 23,
I, 10. Codex, v, 17, 2, and v, I, I.
 Codex, v, 3, 2.
 Dig., 3, 2, 1.
 Ulpian in Dig., 47, 10, 24.
 Cf. Alexander Severus in Codex, viii, 38, 2: Libera matrimonia esse
antiquitus placuit, etc. Also Codex, v, 4, 8 and 14.
 Modestinus in Dig., xxiii, 2, 1.
 Gaius, ii, 159.
 Paulus, ii, xx, 1.
 Note the rescript of Alexander Severus to a certain Aquila (Codex,
ii, 18, 13): Quod in uxorem tuam aegram erogasti, non a socero repetere,
sed adfectioni tuae debes expendere.
 See, e.g., Dig., 47, 10, and Ulpian, ibid., 48, 14, 27.
 Cf. Gaius, i, 141: In summa admonendi sumus, adversus eos, quos in
mancipio habemus, nihil nobis contumeliose facere licere; alioquin
iniuriarum (actione) tenebimur.
 Paulus, i, 21, 13.
 Paulus, i, 21, 14.
 Codex, ii, 11, 15
 Paulus in Dig., iii, 2, 9.
 Aulus Gellius, xvii, 6, speech of Cato: Principio vobis mulier
magnam dotem adtulit; tum magnam pecuniam recipit, quam in viri
potestatem non committit, ean pecuniam viro mutuam dat; postea, ubi
irata facta est, servum recepticum sectari atque flagitare virum iubet.
 Paulus in Dig., 23, 3, 2.
 Pomponius in Dig., 24, 3, 1.
 Ulpian in Dig., 23, 3, 7.
 Tryfoninus in Dig., 23, 3, 75.
 Gaius, ii, 63. Paulus, ii, 21b.
 E.g. Juvenal, vi, 136-141. Martial, viii, 12.
 Apuleius _Apologia_, 523: Pleraque tamen rei familiaris in nomen
uxoris callidissima fraude confert, etc.; id., 545, 546 proves further
the power of the wife: ea condicione factam conjunctionem, si nullis a
me susceptis liberis vita demigrasset, ut dos omnis, etc.--evidently the
woman was dictating the disposal of her dowry.
 Ulpian, Tit., vi, 3, 4, and 5. Codex, v, 18, 4.
 Ulpian in Dig., xi, 7, 16; ibid., Papinian, 17; ibid, Julianus, 18.
Paulus, i, xxi, 11.
 Ulpian in Dig., 48, 20, 3.
 Ulpian in Dig., 48, 20, 5.
 Ulpian in Dig., 24, 1, 1: Moribus apud nos receptum est, ne inter
virum et uxorem donationes valerent, hoc autem receptum est, ne mutuo
amore invicem spoliarentur, donationibus non temperantes, sed profusa
erga se facilitate.
 Paulus in Dig., 24, 1, 14.
 Gaius in Dig., 24, 1, 42; ibid., Licinius Rufus, 41; Ulpian, Tit.
vii, 1. Martial, vii, 64--et post hoc dominae munere factus eques.
 Paulus, ii, xxiii, 1.
 Cf. Paulus, ii, xxiii, 2.
 Paulus in Dig., 25, 2, 1. Codex, v, 21, 2.
 Gaius in Dig., 25, 2, 2.
 Paulus in Dig., 25, 2, 3.
 Ulpian in Dig., 47, 2, 52. The respect shown for family relations
may be seen also from the fact that a son could _complain--de facto
matris queri_--if he believed that his mother had brought in
supposititious offspring to defraud him of some of his inheritance; but
he was strictly forbidden to bring her into court with a public and
criminal action--Macer in Dig., 48, 2, 11: _sed ream eam lege Cornelia
facere permissum ei non est_.
 Ulpian in Dig., 48, 14, 27.
 Ulpian in Dig., 48, 5, 14 (13): Iudex adulterii ante oculos habere
debet et inquirere, an maritus pudice vivens mulieri quoque bonos mores
colendi auctor fuerit periniquum enim videtur esse, ut pudicitiam vir ab
uxore exigat, quam ipse non exhibeat. Cf. Seneca, _Ep_., 94: Scis
improbum esse qui ab uxore pudicitiam exigit, ipse alienarum corruptor
uxorum. Scis ut illi nil cum adultero, sic nihil tibi esse debere cum
pellice. Antoninus Pius gave a husband a bill for adultery against his
wife "Provided it is established that by your life you give her an
example of fidelity. It would be unjust that a husband should demand a
fidelity which he does not himself keep"--quoted by St. Augustine, de
Conj. Adult., ii, ch. 8. In view of these explicit statements it is
difficult to see what the Church Father Lactantius meant by asserting
(_de Vero Cultu_, 23): Non enim, sicut iuris publici ratio est, sola
mulier adultera est, quae habet alium; maritus autem, etiamsi plures
habeat, a crimine adulterii solutus est. Perhaps this deliberate
distortion of the truth was another one of the libels against pagan Rome
of which the pious Fathers are so fond "for the good of the Church."
 Papinian in Dig., 48, 5, 21 (20); ibid., Ulpian, 24 (23). Paulus,
 Macer in Dig., 48, 5, 25 (24).
 Papinian in Dig., 48, 5, 23 (22).
 Papinian in Dig., 48, 5, 39 (38); ibid., Marcianus, 48, 8, 1.
 Paulus, ii, xxvi. Macer in Dig., 48, 5, 25 (24), ibid., Ulpian, 48,
5, 30 (29).
 Paulus, ii, xxvi.
 Juvenal, x. 317; quosdam moechos et mugilis intrat. Cf. Catullus,
 See, e.g., Capitolinus, _Anton_. _Pius_, 3. Spartianus, _Sept.
Severus_, 18, Pliny, _Panegyricus_, 83: multis illustribus dedecori fuit
aut inconsultius uxor assumpta aut retenta patientius, etc.
 Pliny, _Letters_, vi, 31.
 Paulus, ii, xxvi, 15.
 Valerius Maximus, ii, 1, 6.
 Aulus Gellius, xvii, 21, 44. Valerius Maximus, ii, 1, 4. Plutarch,
_Roman Questions_, 14.
 Valerius Maximus, vi, 3, 12.
 "If you should catch your wife in adultery, you would put her to
death with impunity; she, on her part, would not dare to touch you with
her finger; and it is not right that she should"--Speech of Cato the
Censor, quoted by Aulus Gellius, x, 23.
 E.g., Marcellus in Dig., 24, 3, 38: Maevia Titio repudium misit,
etc.; ibid., Africanus, 24, 3, 34: Titia divortium a Seio fecit, etc.
Martial, x, 41: Mense novo lani veterem, Proculeia, maritum Deseris,
atque iubes res sibi habere suas. Apuleius, _Apologia_, 547: utramvis
habens culpam mulier, quae aut tam intolerabilis fuit ut repudiaretur
aut tam insolens ut repudiaret.
_Novellae_, 140, 1: Antiquitus quidem licebat sine periculo tales [i.e.,
those of incompatible temperament] ab invicem separari secundum communem
voluntatem et consensum.
 Martial, vi, 7.
 Aulus Gellius, x, 15: Matrimonium flaminis nisi morte dirimi ius
 Tacitus, _Annals_, iv, 16.
 Ulpian, vi, 6; id. in Dig., 24, 3, 2. Pauli fragmentam in Boethii
commentario ad Topica, 2, 4, 19.
 Paulus in Dig. ii,3, 41.
 Ulpian, vi, 13.
 Ulpian, vi, 9-17, and vii, 2-3. Pauli frag, in Boethii comm. ad
Top., ii, 4, 19.
 Ulpian, xiv: feminis lex Iulia a morte viri anni tribuit
vacationem, a divortio sex mensum; lex autem Papia a morte viri biennii,
a repudio anni et sex mensum.
 Ulpian in Dig., 25, 3, 1. Paulus, ii, xxiv, 5.
 Ulpian in Dig., 25, 4, 8.
 Codex, v, 24, 1.
 Codex, vi, 60, 1: Res, quae ex matris successione fuerint ad
filios devolutae, ita sint in parentum potestate, ut fruendi dumtaxat
habeant facultatem, dominio videlicet carum ad liberos pertinente.
 Neratius in Dig., 26, 1, 18.
 Codex, v, 35, 1.
 Codex, ii, 12, 18: alienam suscipere defensionem virile officium
est ... filio itaque tuo, si pupillus est, tutorem pete.
 Ulpian, Tit. viii, 7_a_. Paulus, i, 4, 4.
 _ad Helviam matrem de consol_., xiv, 3.
 Other instances of women trustees will be found in Apuleius,
_Apologia_ 516; Paulus in Dig; iii, 5,23 (24): avia nepotis sui negotia
gessit, etc.; ibid., Marcellus, 46, 3, 48: Titia cum propter dotem bona
mariti possideret, omnia pro domina egit, reditus exegit, etc.
 Tacitus, _Agricola_, 43.
 Frag. iur. Rom. Vat., 282.
 Ulpian, viii, 7a.
 Gaius, ii, 227. Digest, 35, 2.
 E.g. Pliny, _Letters_, v, 1. Codex, iii, 28, 19; id., iii, 28, 28.
Cf. Codex, iii, 29, I, and 29, 7; and Paulus in Dig., v, 2, 19. Note the
extreme anxiety of the son of Prudentilla about her money as given by
Apuleius, _Apologia_, 517. The estate of a mother who died intestate
went to her children, not to her husband; the latter could only enjoy
the interest until they arrived at maturity--Codex, vi, 60, 1;
Modestinus in Dig., 38, 17, 4.
 E.g., Juvenal, iv, 18-21. Pliny, _Letters_, ii, 20.
 Digest, xiv, 1 and 3 and 8--on the actio exercitoria and
institoria. Cf. Codex, iv, 25, 4: et si a muliere magister navis
praepositus fuerit, etc.
 CIL, xiv, 326.
 Martial, xi, 71. Apuleius, _Metam_., v, 10. Soranus, i, 1, ch. 1
and 2. Galen, vii, 414 (cf. xiii, 341).
 E.g. Suetonius, _Nero_, 27.
 Carmina Priapea, 18 and 27. Ulpian, xiii, 1. The Roman drama had
now degenerated into mere vaudeville, mostly lascivious dancing.
Senators and their children were forbidden to marry any woman who had
herself or whose father or mother had been on the stage.
 Martial, ii, 17, 1.
 Petronius, _Sat_., 45: Titus noster ... habet et mulierem
essedariam. This would not be strange, when we reflect that under
Domitian noble ladies even fought in the arena.
 _Thesmophoriazusae_, 443-459.
 See Cicero, _pro Caecina_, 5, for an account of these business
agents for women.
 Paulus, ii, xi; id. in Dig., 16, 1, 1; Aulus Gellius, v, 19;
Pomponius in Dig., 48, 2, 1: non est permissum mulieri publico iudicio
quemquam reum facere.
 Ulpian in Dig., 1, 16, 9. Salvius Julianus, Pars Prima, vi: si non
habebunt advocatum, ego dabo. Alexander Severus (222-235 A.D.) gave
pensions to those advocates in the provinces who pleaded free of
charge--Lampridius, _Alex. Severus_, 44.
 Cf. Paulus in Dig., 23, 3, 28. Codex, v, 13, 1, and 18, 1. Ulpian
in Dig., iii, 3, 8.
 Gaius, i, 137.
 Frag. iur. Rom. Vat., 325; id., 327 (from Papinian): mulieres
quoque et sine tutoris auctoritate procuratorem facere posse.
 Ulpian in Dig., iii, 3, 8; ibid., Paulus, iii, 3, 41.
 Ulpian in Dig., iii, 5, 3.
 Pomponius in Dig., 48, 2, 1; ibid., Papinian, 48, 2, 2--who adds
that she could also do so in a case regarding the will of a mother or
 Marcianus in Dig., 48, 2, 13.
 Papinian in Dig., 48, 4, 8.
 Juvenal, vi, 242--245.
 Valerius Maximus, viii, 3, 3. Appian, _B.C._, iv, 32 ff.
Quintilian, i, 1, 6.
 Valerius Maximus, viii, 3, 2.
 Quintilian, ix, 2, 20 and 34.
 E.g., Pliny _Letters_, i, 5, and iv, 17.
 E.g., Huschke, pp. 796, 797, 803, 807, 809, 810, 856, 857, 858. Or
instances such as that mentioned in Digest, 48, 2, 18, where a sister
brings an action to prove her brother's will a forgery.
 Pliny, _Letters_, vi, 33.
 Paulus in Dig., 22, 6, 9.
 Fully treated in Dig., 16, 1, and Paulus, ii, xi.
 Ulpian in Dig., 16, 1, 2.
 Aulus Gellius, xvii, 6. St. Augustine, de Civit. Dei, iii, 21: nam
tunc, id est inter secundum et postremum bellum Carthaginiense, lata est
etiam illa lex Voconis, ne quis heredem feminam faceret, nec unicam
 Dio, 56, 10.
 Aulus Gellius, xx, 1, 23. According to Dio, 56, 10, it was
Augustus who in the year 9 A.D. gave women permission to inherit any
 Fully treated in Dig., 35, 2. Also in Gaius, ii, 227, and Paulus,
iii, viii, 1-3, and iv, 3, 3, and 5 and 6.
 Paulus, iv, Tit. v, 1. Cases in which "Complaints of Undutiful
Will" were the issue will be found, e.g., in Codex, iii, 28, 1 and 19
and 28; id., iii, 29, 1 and 7.
 Ulpian in Dig., 38, 16, 1: suos heredes accipere debemus filios
filias sive naturales sive adoptivos. Instances of daughters being left
heiresses of whole estates may be found, e.g., in Dig., 28, 2, 19: cum
quidam filiam ex asse heredem scripsisset filioque, quem in potestate
habebat, decem legasset, etc. Or the example mentioned by Scaevola in
Dig., 41, 9, 3: Duae filiae intestato patri heres exstiterunt, etc.
 Callistratus in Dig., 48, 19, 26: crimen vel poena paterna nullam
maculam filio infligere potest. namque unusquisque ex suo admisso sorti
subicitur nec alieni criminis successor constituitur; idque divi fratres
Hierapolitanis rescripserunt. "Nothing is more unjust," writes Seneca
(de Ira, ii, 34, 3), "than that any one should become the heir of the
odium excited by his father."
 Paulus, v, xii, 1.
 Paulus, v, xii, 12.
 Ulpian in Dig., 48, 4, 11.
 Ulpian in Dig., 48, 4, 11.
 Hermogenianus in Dig., 48, 4, 9.
 Sulla had not only deprived the children of the proscribed of all
their estates, but had also debarred them from aspiring to any political
office--see Velleius Paterculus, ii, 28.
 For examples of the clemency of Augustus see Suetonius, _div.
Aug._, 33 and 51 and 67; Seneca, _de Ira_, iii, 23, 4 ff., and 40, 2;
Velleius Paterculus, ii, 86, 87.
 For Tiberius see, e.g., Tacitus, _Annals_, iv--case of Silius;
id., _Annals_, iii, 17, 18--case of Piso. For Nero, note Tacitus,
_Annals_, xiii, 43--case of Publius Suilius. Clemency of Claudius
mentioned in Dio, 60, 15, 16; of Vitellius in Tacitus, _Hist_., ii, 62.
 Spartianus, _Had._, 18.
 Capitolinus, _Anton. Pius_, 7. See also the anecdote of Aurelian
in Vopiscus, _Aurelian_, 23.
 Codex, iv, 12, 2, rescript of Diocletian: ob maritorum culpam
uxores inquietari leges vetant. proinde rationalis noster, si res quae a
fisco occupatae sunt dominii tui esse probaveris, ius publicum sequetur.
 Gaius, ii, 129 and 132.
 Gaius, ii, 132.
 Codex, iii, 36, 11: Inter filios ac filias bona intestatorum
parentium pro virilibus portionibus aequo iure dividi oportere explorati
 Gaius, iii, 25-31.
 See, e.g., Codex, vi, 60, i: Res, quae ex matris successione
fuerint ad filios devolutae, ita sint in parentum potestate, ut fruendi
dumtaxat habeant facultatem, dominio videlicet eorum ad liberos
 For all this, see Codex, v, 9, 5, and vi, 18, q.
 Paulus, v, 4, 14, who adds that exile was the penalty if the crime
had not been completely carried out. It would seem also that ravished
women had the option of deciding whether their seducers should marry
them or be put to death--see the _vitiatarum electiones_ as mentioned by
Tacitus, _Dial. de Orat_., 35. According to Ruffus, 40, a soldier who
did violence to a girl had his nostrils cut off, besides being forced to
give the injured woman a third part of his goods: militi, qui puellae
vim adtulerit et stupraverit, nares abscinduntur, data puellae tertia
militis facultatum parte.
 Paulus, v, 4, 21.
 By the lex Fabia. Paulus, v, 30 B. Digest, 48, 15; 17, 2, 51.
 Ulpian in Dig., 48, 8, 8; ibid., Tryphoninus, 48, 19, 39.
 Paulus, v, 23, 14; id. in Dig., 48, 19, 38.
 Paulus, supra cit.
 Martial, x, 35, and x, 38.
 Sappho, Telesilla, and Corinna belong to an earlier period, when
the Oriental idea of seclusion for women had not yet become firmly fixed
in Greece. Women like Agallis of Corcyra, who wrote on grammar
(Athenaeus, i, 25) and lived in a much later age, doubtless belonged to
the _hetaerae_ class.
 See, e.g., Pliny, _Letters_, v, 16.
 Pliny, _Letters_, i, 16.
 Persius, i, 4-5: Ne mihi Polydamas et Troiades Labeonem
praetulerint? "Are you afraid that Polydamas and the Trojan Ladies will
prefer Labeo to me?" The _Trojan Ladies_, of course, stand for the
aristocratic classes, Colonial Dames, so to speak, who were fond of
tracing their descent back to Troy just as Americans like to discover
that their ancestors came over in the _Mayflower_.
 Juvenal, vi, 434-440.
 Cf. Martial, ii, 90: sit mihi verna satur, sit non doctissima
 The famous verses of Martial:
Quid tibi nobiscum, ludi scelerate magister? Invisum pueris
 Vespasian (69-79 A.D.) started free public education by appointing
Quintilian Professor of Rhetoric subsidised by the state. Succeeding
emperors enlarged upon it; but especially Alexander Severus (222-235
A.D.), who instituted salaries for teachers of rhetoric, literature,
medicine, mechanics, and architecture in Rome and the provinces, and had
poor boys attend the lectures free of charge--see Lampridius, _Alex.
 Pliny, _Paneg._, 26. Spartianus, _Hadrian_, 7, 8-9. Capitolinus,
_Anton. Pius 8_; id. _M. Anton. Phil._ II. Lampridius, _Alex_.
 Pliny, _Letters_, vii, 18. The sum was 500,000 sesterces.
 Any infringement of this vow was punished by burial alive--for
instances, see Suetonius, _Domitian_, 8; Herodian, iv, 6, 4: Pliny,
_Letters_ iv, 11; Dio, 77, 16 (Xiphilin). Their paramours were beaten to
 A full account of the Vestals will be found in Aulus Gellius, i,
 Quintilian, vii, 3, 27: ad servum nulla lex pertinet. On the rare
instances when a slave could inform against his master in a public
court, see Hermogenianus in Dig., v, 1, 53.
 Gaius, i, 52 ff.
 Gaius, iii, 222. Cf. Juvenal vi, 219-223, and 474-495.
 Gaius, iii, 222. Salvius Julianus, Pars Secunda, xv. Aulus
Gellius, xx, i.
 Paulus, v, 16.
 Paulus, iii, v, 5 ff. Pliny, _Letters_, viii, 14. Tacitus,
_Annals_ xiii, 32.
 Valerius Maximus, vi, 8, in a chapter entitled _de fide servorum_
speaks with great admiration of instances of fidelity on the part of
slaves. Seneca ate with his--_Epist_. 47, 13. Martial laments the death
of a favourite slave girl--v, 34 and 37. Dio (62, 27--Xiphilin) notes
the heroic conduct of Epicharis, a freedwoman, who was included in a
conspiracy against Nero; but she revealed none of its secrets, though
tortured in every way by Tigellinus. The pages of Pliny are full of the
spirit of kindliness to slaves.
 See Tacitus, _Annals_, xiv, 42 ff.
 Suetonius, _Claudius_, 25. Dio, 60, 29 (Xiphilin).
 Sec, e.g., Seneca, _de Clem_., i,18, 1 and 2--especially the
anecdote of Vedius Pollio (mentioned also by Dio, 54, 23).
The interesting letter of Pliny, viii, 16; and cf. iii, 14, and v, 19.
Juvenai, vi, 219-223.
 Spartianus, _Hadrian_, 18.
 Gaius, i, 52 ff. Cf. Ulpian in Dig., 1, 12, 1 and 8.
 The punishment for this was pecuniary damages equal to twice the
highest value of a slave during the year in which he was killed.
 Ulpian in Dig., i., 12, 8: hoc quoque officium praefecto urbi a
divo Severo datum est, ut mancipia tueatur ne prostituantur.
 Vopiscus, _Aurelian_, 49
 Vopiscus, _Tacitus_, 9.
WOMEN AND THE EARLY CHRISTIAN CHURCH
Meanwhile a new world force, destined to overthrow the old order of
things, was growing slowly to maturity and spreading out its might until
eventually it fought its way to preeminence. I have traced the rights of
women under the regime of pagan Rome; I shall inquire next into the
position of women under Christianity. We must first note the attitude of
the early Christians towards women in general; for that attitude will
naturally be reflected in any laws made after the Church has become
supreme and is combined with and directs the State. That will demand a
special chapter on Canon Law; but in the present chapter I propose to
show how women were regarded by the Christians in the centuries which
were the formative period of the Church.
The direct words of Christ so far as they relate to women and as we have
them in the Gospels concern themselves wholly to bring about purity in
the relation of the sexes. "Ye have heard that it was said, Thou shalt
not commit adultery; but I say unto you, that every one that looketh on
a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in
his heart." His commands on the subject of divorce are positive and
unequivocal: "It was said also, Whosoever shall put away his wife, let
him give her a writing of divorcement; but I say unto you, that every
one that putteth away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication,
maketh her an adultress; and whosoever shall marry her when she is put
away, committeth adultery." Christ was content to lay down great
ethical principles, not minute regulations. Of any inferiority on the
part of women he says nothing, nor does be concern himself with giving
any directions about their social or legal rights. He blessed the
marriage at Cana; and to the woman taken in adultery he showed his usual
clemency. For the rest, his relations with women have an atmosphere of
rare sympathy, gentleness, and charm.
But as soon as we leave the Gospels and read the Apostles we are in a
different sphere. The Apostles were for the most part men of humble
position, and their whole lives were directed by inherited beliefs which
were distinctly Jewish and Oriental or Greek; not Western. In the Orient
woman has from the dawn of history to the present day occupied a
position exceedingly low. Indeed, in Mohammedan countries she is
regarded merely as a tool for the man's sensual passions and she is not
allowed to have even a soul. In Greece women were confined to their
houses, were uneducated, and had few public rights and less moral
latitude; their husbands had unlimited license. The Jewish ideal is
by no means a lofty one and cannot for a moment compare with the honour
accorded the Roman matron under the Empire. According to _Genesis_ a
woman is the cause of all the woes of mankind. _Ecclesiasticus_ declares
that the badness of men is better than the goodness of women. In
_Leviticus_ we read that the period of purification customary
after the birth of a child is to be twice as long in the case of a
female as in a male. The inferiority of women was strongly felt; and
this conception would be doubly operative on men of humble station who
never travelled, who had received little education, and whose ideas were
naturally bounded by the horizon of their native localities. We are to
remember also that the East is the home of asceticism, a conviction
alien to the Western mind. There is no parallel in Western Europe to St.
We would, therefore, expect to find in the teachings of the Apostles an
expression of Jewish, i.e., Eastern ideals on the subject of women; and
we do so find them. Following the express commands of Christ, they
exhorted to sexual purity and reiterated his injunctions on the matter
of divorce. They went much farther and began to legislate on more minute
details. Paul allows second marriages to women; but thinks it
better for a widow to remain as she is. It is better to marry than
to burn; yet would he prefer that men and women should remain in
celibacy. The power of the father to arrange a marriage for his
daughter was, under Roman law, limited by her consent; but the words of
Paul make it clear that it was now to be a Christian precept that a
father could determine on his own responsibility whether his daughter
should remain a virgin. Wives are to be in subjection to their
husbands, and "let the wife see that she fear her husband." Woman
is the weaker vessel; she is to be silent in church; if she desires
to learn anything, she should ask her husband at home. Furthermore:
"I permit not a woman to teach, nor to have dominion over a man, but to
be in quietness. For Adam was first formed, then Eve; and Adam was not
beguiled, but the woman being beguiled hath fallen into transgression;
but she shall be saved through childbearing, if they continue in faith
and love and sanctification with sobriety." The apparel of women
also evoked legislation from the Apostles. Women were to pray with their
heads veiled "for the man is not of the woman, but the woman for the
man." Jewels, precious metal, and costly garments were unbecoming
the modest woman.
In this early stage of Christianity we may already distinguish three
conceptions that were quite foreign to the Roman jurist: I. The
inferiority and weakness of women was evident from the time of Eve and
it was an act of God that punished all womankind for Eve's
transgression. Woman had been man's evil genius. II. She was to be
submissive to father or husband and not bring her will in opposition to
theirs. III. She must not be prominent in public, she must consider her
conduct and apparel minutely, and she was exhorted to remain a virgin,
as being thus in a more exalted position. At the same time insistence
was placed on the fact that a virgin, wife, and widow must be given due
honour and respect, must be provided for, and allowed her share in
taking part in those interests of the community which were considered
If, now, we examine the writings of the Church Fathers, we shall see
these ideas elaborated with all the vehemence of religious zeal.
The general opinions of the Fathers regarding women present a curious
mixture. They are fond of descanting on the fact that woman is
responsible for all the woes of mankind and that her very presence is
dangerous. At the same time they pay glowing tribute to women in
particular. St. Jerome held that women were naturally weaker, physically
and morally, than men. The same saint proves that all evils spring
from women; and in another passage he opines that marriage is
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