Between bedroom and courtroom: legal and literary perspectives on slaves and the freed in Augustus’ adultery legislation
Bratton, Amy Eleanor
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This thesis offers an investigation into the roles of slaves and freedmen and the extent of their involvement in the Romans’ legal and literary discourse on adultery and the legislation introduced to address it – the lex Iulia de adulteriis coercendis. It also seeks to assert their place more firmly within the context of the Roman familia and explore what this means in the context of the adultery statute. This thesis reasserts the position of slaves and freedmen within the Roman familia as a whole and, more specifically, as individuals deserving and requiring of consideration within the context of the analysis of the adultery statute and other social legislation. A multi-disciplinary approach has been adopted in this thesis to address the multiple avenues apparent in the investigation. A detailed analysis of the primary extant source of the statute, found in Justinian’s Digest, was carried out to determine the extent of the inclusion of the servile and freed in adulterous relationships and how much consideration was shown to them by the legal writers, or jurists. As a corollary to this analysis, a range of literary works, from Ovid, the Elder Seneca, Quintilian, Tacitus and Suetonius, was examined to provide a counterpoint to the legal perspective on the inclusion of slaves and freedmen within adulterous relationships, and, subsequently, the familia. Re-assessing the roles of slaves and freedmen within adulterous relationships and the legislation aimed at controlling this crime also necessitates another reassessment – namely, that of the motivations behind the introduction of the statute itself. Notoriously difficult to determine, this thesis posits, in conclusion, that, rather than being an instrument of the moral indignation of the contemporary Roman population, the adultery legislation was instituted as an instrument of economic control to counter the potential dilution of the wealth of the elite of Rome by illegitimate children. Slaves and freedmen were, then, a crucial element of a deceptively complex piece of legislation typically assumed to affect and address members of the Roman elite only.