Later Emperors

On Social Issues

Selections from the


Book IX, Title IX. On the Lex Julia Relating to Adultery and Fornication


33. The Emperors Theodosius, Arcadius, and Honorius to Rufinus, Praetorian Prefect.

When a charge of adultery has been made, We order that all civil exceptions by means of which a dowry may be claimed, or any other debt demanded, and which are ordinarily pleaded and examined, to be set aside, and that the progress of the case shall not be delayed through their inter-position. But when the accusation has been formulated, that is to say, when it has been regularly instituted, whether it was filed under the right of a husband, or under that of a stranger, the crime shall be investigated, the evidence produced, the more important matters in dispute settled, and all civil actions be subordinated to the criminal prosecution. The woman will afterwards have the right to begin any civil proceedings to which he is entitled, provided they do not interfere with the conduct of the criminal case.... [392CE]


Extract from Justinian, Novel 134, Chapter X. Latin Text.

At present, however, a woman convicted of adultery is placed in a monastery, from which her husband is permitted to remove her within the term of two years. After the two years have expired, without her husband having taken her back, or, before that, if he should have died, the adulteress, having had her head shaved, and assumed a religious habit, shall remain there during lifetime, and her property, if she has any, shall be divided into three parts, two of which should be given to her children, and the third to the monastery. When she has no children, and her parents are living and did not consent to her crime, they shall receive a third part of her property, and the monastery two-thirds of the same. If her aforesaid relatives are not livin , all of her property shall be acquired by her monastery, and, in every instance, all rights under dotal agreements are reserved for the benefit of the husband.... [556CE]

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Last modified 15 February 1998