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Legal Status in the Roman World


159. A wife's complaint against an abusive husband. Oxyrhynchus, Egypt, 4th cent. A.D. (Oxyrhynchus papyrus 903. G)

Although the names of the addressee and parties involved are missing, this sensational account appears to be taken from a petition to a court complaining of the misconduct of a husband in his role as kyrios (cf. no. 82).

Now concerning the insulting allegations he made about me: he shut up his own daughters and mine, along with my foster daughters and his agent and his son for seven whole days in his cellars, and treated his slaves and my slave Zoe violently, [virtually] killing them with blows. He stripped my foster-daughters naked and set fire to them, in complete violation of the law. And he said to the foster-daughters, 'Give me everything that belongs to her', and they said that they had nothing that belonged to me. To the slaves as they were being beaten he said, 'What did she take from my house?' Under torture they said, 'She has taken nothing that belongs to you; all your property is safe'. Zoilus accused him because he had locked up his foster-son. He said to Zoilus: 'Have you come on account of your foster-son or to speak on behalf of a certain woman?' [47]

He swore in the presence of the bishops and his own brothers, 'from now on I shall not hide all my keys from her and I shall not attack her and insult her from now on. (Added above the line) He trusted his slaves but not me. He made a marriage agreement, and after his contract and his oaths he hid the keys from me again. When I went to the church in Sambatho, he also shut the outside doors and said about me 'Why did you go to church?' He made many abusive comments to my face, and further insulted me by speaking through his nose.

Of the public grain in my name valued at 100 drachmas he did not pay one artaba. He locked up the accounts after he got hold of them and said, 'Put down the price of the grain as 100 artabas', but he paid nothing, as I said. He told his slaves, 'Bring reinforcements so they can lock her up'.

Choous his assistant was sent to prison and Euthalmus posted bail for him, but ran short of money. I took a little extra and gave it to Choous. When he met me in Antinoöpolis when I had my bathing bag containing my ornaments, he also said to me, 'If you have some money with you, I shall take it because of what you gave to Choous as bail for his imprisonment'. All this is verified by his mother's testimony.

Also he kept on tormenting my soul about his slave girl Anilla, both in Antinoöpolis and here. He said: 'Throw out this slave since she knows what she has taken', perhaps because he wished to implicate me and use it as an excuse to take all my possessions. I did not put up with her being sent away. And he kept on saying that 'a month from now I'm going to take a mistress [48] for myself'. God knows that this is true.


Notes

47. An insulting reference to the petitioner.

48. Literally, 'a woman of the city', politike. Cf. P. Grenf. II. 73.