Some Roman law on adultery

From Julius Paulus, book 2, title 26:

(1) In the second chapter of the Lex Julia concerning adultery, either an adoptive or a natural father is permitted to kill an adulterer caught in the act with his daughter in his own house or in that of his son-in-law, no matter what his rank may be.

(2) If a son under paternal control, who is the father, should surprise his daughter in the act of adultery, while it is inferred from the terms of the law that he cannot kill her, still, he ought to be permitted to do so.

(3) Again, it is provided in the fifth chapter of the Lex Julia that it is permitted to detain witnesses for twenty hours, in order to convict an adulterer taken in the act.

(4) A husband cannot kill any one taken in adultery except persons who are infamous, and those who sell their bodies for gain, as well as slaves, and the freedmen of his wife, and those of his parents and children; his wife, however, is excepted, and he is forbidden to kill her.

(5) It has been decided that a husband who kills his wife when caught with an adulterer, should be punished more leniently, for the reason that he committed the act through impatience caused by just suffering.

(6) After having killed the adulterer, the husband should at once dismiss his wife, and publicly declare within the next three days with what adulterer, and in what place he found his wife.

(7) An angry husband who surprises his wife in adultery can only kill the adulterer, when he finds him in his own house.

(8) It has been decided that a husband who does not at once dismiss his wife whom he has taken in adultery, can be prosecuted as a pander.

(9) ….<illegible in manuscript>….

(10) It should be noted that two adulterers can be accused at the same time with the wife, but more than that number cannot be.

(11) It has been decided that adultery cannot be committed with women who have charge of any business or shop.

(12) Anyone who debauches a male who is free, against his consent, shall be punished with death.

(13) ….

(14) It has been held that women convicted of adultery shall be punished with the loss of half of their dowry and the third of their estates, and by relegation to an island. The adulterer, however, shall be deprived of half his property, and shall also be punished by relegation to an island; provided the parties are exiled to different islands.

(15) It has been decided that the penalty for incest, which in case of a man is deportation to an island, shall not be inflicted upon the woman; that is to say when she has not been convicted under the Lex Julia concerning adultery.

(16) Fornication committed with female slaves, unless they are deteriorated in value or an attempt is made against their mistress through them, is not considered an injury.

(17) If a delay is demanded in a case of adultery it cannot be obtained.

These are portions of Roman law that our modern politicians might not entirely find welcome.

4 thoughts on “Some Roman law on adultery

  1. “It has been held that women convicted of adultery shall be punished with the loss of half of their dowry and the third of their estates, and by relegation to an island.”

    Now that’s what I’m talking about. It might be possible to actually find a girl who isn’t a party whore if we had these kind of laws on the books.

Leave a Reply