Juristic Opinions on the Augustan Laws Source Analysis

629 words | 3 page(s)

The source addresses the topic of marriage in the time of Augustus, a Roman Emperor. Emperor Augustus was concerned with family also how to grow the population of the Roman Empire. The “Opinions of Paul” analyze how adultery was to be dealt with. At the time, adultery and extravagance were prevalent in the kingdom. The emperor aim was to promote morals and increase populations of native Romans. The opinions are laws that encouraged marriage and childbearing and provisions for establishing adultery as a crime. The law on adultery made the issue a crime that was punishable by confiscation of property and exile. In addition, the law permitted fathers to kill their daughters and partners they were caught engaging in adultery with. The law gave husbands power to kill such partners under particular circumstances; the law also required them to divorce their adulterous wives. The emperor himself invoked the law against his daughter, Julia who he exiled to Pandateria (an Island).

The Digest is a compilation of opinions regarding marriage law by famous lawyers of the early Roman Empire. These lawyers were legal scholars whose works were regarded as important enough to be part of the Digest. It also outlines laws regarding marriage among social classes. Intermarriages between senators and members of their families with actors/actresses, ex-slaves, and their family members were prohibited. Marriage between freeborn citizens and actors, procuresses or women caught in adultery and prostitutes was also prohibited. However, marriage between non-senatorial Romans with ex-slaves was encouraged because of a lack of enough freeborn women. To encourage marriage, stiff penalties and incentives for unmarried individuals were put in place; these largely affected wealthier individuals as a considerable number preferred not to get married. An unmarried individual was barred from benefiting from under wills; however, they were given a grace period to marry to get the benefits while childless individuals were allowed to inherit only half of the property.

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The Code of Justinian details punishments that would be meted to individuals who were caught engaging in adultery or fornication. Those caught could be immediately killed regardless of whether they were freeborn or not. Those who ravished married women were charged with a double crime of adultery and rape. This crime was to be punished more severely due to the extra weight added by the additional crime of rape. In addition to their death, perpetrators also lost their property. The penalties were not only inflicted upon ravishers but also upon all who accompanied them and were present at the time of the crime.

The source provides an important insight into the activities as well as concerns of the Roman Empire. The laws and opinions highlighted in this source were aimed at regulating and protecting the institution of marriage. The laws protected women against forced prostitution, sexual abuse and provided guidance on how to deal with divorce and adultery. In addition, the source reveals Emperor Augustus efforts to restore values of chastity, monogamy, and virtue to the society. The source is a testament to his moral reforms to improve the Roman society and lifestyle.

These laws are very significant in that they inspired the civil laws we use today. The Justinian law is the progenitor of the modern legal system. Justinian compilations are the greatest contribution of Emperor Augustus to the Western society. Surviving manuscripts were studied also reproduced to make the foundation source of the Roman law in the 11th Century. Later systems in the West borrowed from these laws. Although these ancient legal opinions are not as significant today, they have been important in shaping the legal system of the modern world, particularly on the issue of marriage and divorce. At one time or another, every lawyer encounters an element of the Justinian law whether knowingly or not.

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