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LAWS AND CUSTOMS RESPECTING THE ROMAN WOMEN.
The Roman women, as well as the Grecian, were under perpetual
guardianship; and were not at any age, nor in any condition, ever
trusted with the management of their own fortunes.
Every father had power of life and death over his own daughters: but
this power was not restricted to daughters only; it extended also to
The Oppian law prohibited women from having more than half an ounce of
gold employed in ornamenting their persons, from wearing clothes of
divers colors, and from riding in chariots, either in the city, or a
thousand paces round it.
They were strictly forbid to use wine, or even to have in their
possession the key of any place where it was kept. For either of these
faults they were liable to be divorced by their husbands. So careful
were the Romans in restraining their women from wine, that they are
supposed to have first introduced the custom of saluting their female
relations and acquaintances, on entering the house of a friend or
neighbor, that they might discover by their breath, whether they had
tasted any of that liquor.
This strictness, however, began in time to be relaxed; until at last,
luxury becoming too strong for every law, the women indulged themselves
in equal liberties with the men.
But such was not the case in the earlier ages of Rome. Romulus even
permitted husbands to kill their wives, if they found them drinking
Fabius Pictor relates, that the parents of a Roman lady, having detected
her picking the lock of a chest which contained some wine, shut her up
and starved her to death.
Women were liable to be divorced by their husbands almost at pleasure,
provided the portion was returned which they had brought along with
them. They were also liable to be divorced for barrenness, which, if it
could be construed into a fault, was at least the fault of nature, and
might sometimes be that of the husband.
A few sumptuary laws, a subordination to the men, and a total want of
authority, do not so much affect the sex, as to be coldly and
indelicately treated by their husbands.
Such a treatment is touching them in the tenderest part. Such, however
we have reason to believe, they often met with from the Romans, who had
not learned, as in modern times to blend the rigidity of the patriot,
and roughness of the warrior, with that soft and indulging behavior, so
conspicuous in our modern patriots and heroes.
Husbands among the Romans not only themselves behaved roughly to their
wives, but even sometimes permitted their servants and slaves to do the
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