Divorce in Ancient Rome?

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Divorce in Ancient Rome?

Postby Anonymous on Tue Oct 14, 2003 1:56 pm

Avete et Salvete!

Did divorce exist in Ancient Rome and how did it function?

Valete optime!
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Postby Publius Dionysius Mus on Tue Oct 14, 2003 5:34 pm

Salve!

For an good introduction on Roman marriages, I would like to refer to an article on our website by M. Moravius Horatius Piscinus:
http://www.societasviaromana.org/Collegium_Religionis/nuptiae.htm. The specific Latin terms I will use further on are explained in this article.


In a marriage cum manu a divorce from one of the partners was possible: the man could divorce from his wife, not the opposite way. This divorce could happen when the wife was unfaithful, when the wife tried to poison a child, or when the wife neglected her duty to be a good custos or housekeeper.

Divorce already occured in the fifth century BC. And also the paterfamilias of the husband could make an end to a marriage.

A marriage done by confarreatio was dissolved by a diffarreatio ("Diffarreatio erat genus sacrificii, quo inter virum et mulierem fiebat dissolutio, dicta diffarreatio, quia fiebat farreo libo adhibito").

The marriage cum manu almost completely disappeared at the beginning of the empire. It was replaced by the marriage sine manu, originally a plebeian form of marriage. In this marriage the wife was completely equal to her husband, also concerning divorce.

A marriage that was reached with the two partners' consent, is much easier to end than the previous one. There was no interfering from the government; a divorce needed no specific 'law' anymore. One of the partners had to announce the wish to divorce to the other partner. The usual procedure to divorce was a simple, formal letter or message: nuntium remittere/mittere. A released slave could bring the note or message to the other partner: "Collige sarcinulas", dicet libertus, "et exi". Also the following words would be used: "Res tuas tibi habe" (Seneca), "Res tuas habeto" (Apuleius), "Tuas res tibi habeto" (Caius). In other words: a simple "Get lost!" was enough to divorce.

The use of a formal letter of civorce (repudium), whether or not with a released slave as a messenger, gave the divorce a more formal and clearer aspect. This way the divorcing partners avoided a more painful direct contact with each other.

Until the third century BC divorce seems to be a rather exceptional event. But at the end of the republic and under the emperors this happened more frequently.

A divorce without iusta causa (acceptable reason) was fined, and in fact illegal, but it counted altogether.


Some law texts on divorce:

Paulus, D.24.2.1: "Dirimitur matrimonium divortio, morte, captivitate, vel alia contingente servitute utrius eorum."

Paulus, D.24.2.3: "Divortium non est nisi verum, quod animo perpetuam constituendi dissensionem fit. Itaque quidquid in calore iracundiae vel fit dicitur, non prius ratum est, quam si perseverantia apparuit iudicium animi fuisse: ideoque per calorem misso repudio si brevi reversa uxor est, nec divortisse videtur."

Iustinianus, Codex, 8.38.2: "Libera matrimonia esse antiquitus placuit, ideoque pacta, ne liceret divortere, non valere et stipulationes, quibus poenae inrogarentur ei qui divortium fecisset, ratas non haberi constat."


I hope this can be helpful.

Vale bene
Publius Dionysius Mus

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Postby Marcus Pomponius Lupus on Wed Oct 15, 2003 11:41 pm

Salvete,

Mus scripsit :

The usual procedure to divorce was a simple, formal letter or message: nuntium remittere/mittere. A released slave could bring the note or message to the other partner: "Collige sarcinulas", dicet libertus, "et exi". Also the following words would be used: "Res tuas tibi habe" (Seneca), "Res tuas habeto" (Apuleius), "Tuas res tibi habeto" (Caius). In other words: a simple "Get lost!" was enough to divorce.


An example of this can be found in one of the letters Cicero wrote to Atticus. After the infamous Bona Dea scandal Cicero writes this :

"Credo enim te audisse (...) uxori Caesarem nuntium remisisse."

"I believe that you have heard that (... list of things Atticus is believed to have heard ...) and that Caesar had sent a messenger to his wife"

Apparently this phrase was obvious enough since Cicero gives no further explanation. No Roman who reads this would think that Caesar sends a messenger to his wife to let her know that he will be late that evening due to bad traffic at the forum or something like that. ;-)

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