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Aulus Gellius 4.3

Translation copyright 2001 Neil W. Bernstein; all rights reserved.

That before Carvilius' divorce there were no lawsuits in the city of Rome concerning a wife's property; also, the correct usage of the word concubine [paelex] and its derivation.

  1. For almost five hundred years after the foundation of Rome, according to tradition, there were neither lawsuits nor written agreements concerning a wife's property either in the city of Rome or in Latium. There had been no need for them because there had been no divorces as of yet.
  2. In his book On Dowries, Servius Sulpicius Rufus (1) wrote that written agreements concerning a wife's property first appeared to be necessary when the nobleman Spurius Carvilius Ruga divorced his wife because she could not produce children as the result of a physical handicap. This was in the five hundred and twenty-third year after the founding of the city (2), when Marcus Atilius and Publius Valerius were consuls. It is said, however, that this man Carvilius greatly loved the wife whom he sent away, and esteemed her most dearly because of her moral character, but put adherence to his oath before his desire and his love, as he had been required to swear before the censors that he would take a wife for the purpose of producing children.
  3. Furthermore, a woman was called a concubine [paelex] and treated as disreputable if she were joined to and habitually in contact with a man who had taken legal control of another woman through marriage. An ancient law, which we believe to be one of king Numa's, shows this usage of concubine:
    A concubine [paelex] shall not touch the temple of Juno; if she should touch it, she must loosen her hair and sacrifice a female lamb to Juno.
    Paelex [concubine] is similar to the Greek pállax [girl], that is, in the sense of pallakís [concubine]. Like many other Latin words, this one is also derived from Greek.

Notes:

  1. Consul 51 BC; a famous legal scholar and friend of Cicero.
  2. 231 BC; the consuls, however, held office in the year 227 BC.

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