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Legal Status in the Roman World


118. Pregnancy, status, and paternity (Paul, Opinions 2.24.1-9. L)

The jurist Julius Paulus, or Paul, was, along with his younger contemporary Ulpian, an extraordinarily prolific jurist of the late classical period. He served as a clerk to the praetorian prefect Papinian and on the imperial council of Septimius Severus (A.D. 193-211). It is possible that he also became praetorian prefect during the reign of Alexander Severus (A.D. 222-235). Although his exact dates are unknown, most of his writings date from the reign of Commodus (A.D. 180-192) to that of Alexander Severus. He wrote more than eighty-five works in more than three hundred books, perhaps the most important of which was the commentary on the Edict of the Urban Praetor, in 80 books. The Opinions (Sententiae) was an anthology of selections from the works of Paul (and possibly of other jurists) compiled towards the end of the third century A.D. It would have served as a concise summary of the principles of law and is valuable for preserving many juristic texts in a pre-Justinianic form.

2.24 (1) If a female slave conceives, and has a child after she has been manumitted, the child will be free.

(2) If a free woman conceives and has a child after having become a slave, the child will be free; for this is demanded by the favour conceded to freedom.

(3) If a female slave conceives, and in the meantime is manumitted, but, having subsequently again become a slave, has a child, it will be free; for the intermediate time can benefit but not injure freedom.

(4) A child born to a woman who should have been manumitted under the terms of a trust is born free, if it comes into the world after the grant of freedom is in default.

(5) If, after a divorce has taken place, a woman finds herself to be pregnant, she should within thirty days notify either her husband or his father to send witnesses for the purpose of making an examination of her condition: and if this is not done, they shall in any event be compelled to recognise the child of the woman.

(6) If the woman does not announce that she is pregnant, or does not admit witnesses sent to make an examination of her, neither the father nor the grandfather will be compelled to support the child, but the neglect of the mother will not offer any impediment to the child's being considered the proper heir of his father.

(7) Where a woman denies that she is pregnant by her husband, the latter is permitted to make an examination of her, and appoint persons to watch her.

(8) The physical examination of the woman is made by five midwives, and the decision of the majority shall be held to be true.

(9) It has been decided that a midwife who introduces the child of another in order that it may be substituted shall be punished with death.