On Social Issues

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


29. The Emperor Constantine to Africanus.

It should be ascertained whether the woman who committed adultery was the owner of the inn, or only a servant; and if, by employing herself in servile duties (which frequently happens), she gave occasion for intemperance, since if she were the mistress of the inn, she will not be exempt from liability under the law.

Where, however, she served liquor to the men who were drinking, she would not be liable to accusation as having committed the offense, on account of her inferior rank, and any freemen who have been accused shall be discharged, as the same degree of modesty is required of these women as of those who are legally married, and bear the name of mothers of families.

Those, also, are not subject to judicial severity who are guilty of fornication or adultery, and the vileness of whose lives does not render them worthy of the attention of the law.... [326CE]

30. The Same Emperor to Evagrius.

Although the crime of adultery is included among public offenses, the accusation of which is granted to all persons without distinction, still, in order that those who inconsiderately wish to cause discord in households may not be allowed to do so, it is hereby decreed that only the nearest relatives of the guilty party shall have the power to bring the accusation; that is to say, the father, the brother, and the paternal and maternal uncles, whom genuine grief may impel to prosecute. We, however, also give the said persons permission to revoke the accusation, by withdrawing it, if they should so desire.

The husband, above all others, should be considered the avenger of the marriage bed, for he is permitted to accuse his wife on suspicion, and he is not forbidden to retain her, if he only suspects her; nor will he be liable if he files a written accusation when he accuses her as her husband, a privilege which was established by former Emperors.... [326CE]

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Last modified 15 February 1998