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date: 27 January 2023

adultery, Romanlocked

adultery, Romanlocked

  • Adolf Berger,
  • Barry Nicholas
  •  and Susan M. Treggiari


Roman tradition ascribed to fathers and husbands great severity in punishing illicit sexual behaviour by daughters or wives. Such misconduct was stuprum in married or unmarried women, an offence against chastity (pudicitia); adulterium described sexual intercourse between a married woman and a man other than her husband. Until the legislation of Augustus, regulation was chiefly in the hands of the family: adultery probably always justified divorce; a family council might advise the paterfamilias (husband or father in whose power the woman was (see patria potestas)) on this and other sanctions, possibly including execution. The immediate killing of adulterers/adulteresses taken in the act was defensible (morally and in court) but probably not legally prescribed. Other physical violence against the adulterer is a literary commonplace. Adultery in the late republic, like the seduction or rape of an unmarried woman, entitled the father or husband to sue the man for damages (for *iniuria, insult) and not only to divorce the wife but to retain part of her dowry.


  • Roman Law

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