Thursday, October 11, 2012

The status of women in Roman and Frankish law

Portrait of young Roman woman
Portrait of young Roman woman (Photo credit: Ian W Scott)
Under sixth century Roman law (Corpus Juris Civilis) and Frankish law (Pactus Legis Salicae), women, while lacking full juridical equality with men, nevertheless possessed many legal rights and freedoms. While similarities existed between the legal standings of women in both worlds, a fundamental difference underlay the laws and legal systems. Over centuries, the Roman legal system evolved from dependence on family for justice to dependence on the state.

The presence of a relatively strong and stable Roman government, legal system, and policing force gradually decreased Roman women’s legal dependence on their families and weakened the legal control of male agnates and husbands on Roman women’s lives, creating a system which gave women legal recourse against kin (paterfamilias excepted). Frankish law was more dependent on family and kin for enforcement; hence, Frankish women, lacking legal recourse against family, were subject to greater legal control by male relatives.