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date: 28 November 2020

adultery, Greeklocked

  • Mark Golden

Extract

At Athens, a law (attributed to *Draco or *Solon) allowed a man who killed another he found in the sexual act with his wife, mother, sister, daughter, or concubine held for the purpose of bearing free children, to plead justifiable homicide; such adulterers might also be held for ransom. It is probable that there was also a graphē against adulterers, possible that those caught in the act were delivered to the *Eleven for summary execution or trial. Adulterous wives had to be divorced, and were excluded from public sacrifices. As for unmarried women, Solon supposedly permitted a κύριος (‘controller’, male representative at law) to sell a daughter or sister into slavery if he discovered she was not a virgin. No instances are known, however, and indeed some husbands too probably preferred to respond (or not) to adultery without recourse to the law, so avoiding public dishonour. Many states are said to have allowed adulterers to be killed with impunity (Xen. Hiero 3.

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