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date: 17 October 2019


Manus was the power (akin to patria potestas) which a husband might have over his wife. In early times it perhaps covered not only (as later) control of property, but the right, after due process, to execute. Entry into manus (conventio in manum) took place in three ways. Confarreatio (so called from a sacramental loaf) was a religious ceremony and requisite for the holders of certain priesthoods; it survived, for the few, probably while polytheism lasted. Coemptio (‘purchase’) was a legal procedure, an imaginary sale. By usus (‘prescription’, obsolete by the 2nd cent. ce), manus resulted if a couple lived uninterruptedly as husband and wife for one year: the Twelve Tables specified that the wife's removal for three successive nights prevented this result. By conventio in manum a woman was freed from any previous paterfamilias and entered the husband's family, coming under his control or that of his paterfamilias, merging her property in his, and gaining succession rights on intestacy equivalent to those of his children (see inheritance, Roman). By the end of the republic, manus was evidently uncommon; by the 2nd cent. ce at latest a wife in manu might initiate divorce and the removal of manus. See marriage law, Roman.

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