Women in the Laws of the Twelve Tables

The Twelve Tables are the famous (and famously fragmentary) early laws of Rome. They tend to be concise and not all that exciting – for example, they say that you can kill an intruder in your home at night, but not during the day unless he defends himself with a weapon. They do contain a couple of laws pertaining to women. First, a law showing that the early Romans were keen on preventing paternity fraud:

A child born more than ten months after the father’s death shall not enter into the inheritance

Second, a law which echos the Laws of Manu (one wonders: does it reflect a proto indo-european cultural understanding of women?), stating that women are not fit for independence:

Women, even though they are of full age, because of their levity of mind shall be under guardianship

Compare this with the Laws of Manu, which lay out the same principle in greater detail:

Day and night woman must be kept in dependence by the males of their families, and, if they attach themselves to sensual enjoyments, they must be kept under one’s control.

Her father protects her in childhood, her husband protects her in youth, and her sons protect her in old age; a woman is never fit for independence.

The Twelve Tables also contain one law that pertains to eugenics:

A notably deformed child shall be killed immediately.

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About Pechorin

A Hero of Our Time
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