CHAPTER VI. ROMAN JURISPRUDENCE.
The Roman jurists acknowledged all persons originally free by natural law; and, while they recognized slavery, ascribed the power of masters entirely to the law and custom of nations. Persons taken in war were considered at the absolute control of their captors, and were therefore, de facto, slaves; and the children of a female slave followed the condition of their mother, and belonged to her master. But masters could manumit their slaves, who thus became Roman citizens, with some restrictions. Until the time of Justinian, they were not allowed to wear the gold ring, the distinguishing symbol of a man born free. This emperor removed all restrictions between freedmen and citizens. Previously, after the emancipation of a slave, he was bound to render certain services to his former master as patron, and if the freedman died intestate his property reverted to his patron.
Marriage was contracted by the simple consent of the parties, though in early times, equality of condition was required. The lex Canuleia, A. U. C. 309, authorized connubium between patricians and plebeians, and the lex Julia, A. U. C. 757, allowed it between freedmen and freeborn. By the conventio in manum, a wife passed out of her family into that of her husband, who acquired all her property; without it, the woman remained in the power of her father, and retained the free disposition of her property. Poligamy was not permitted; and relationship within certain degrees rendered the parties incapable of contracting marriage, and these rules as to forbidden degrees have been substantially adopted in England. Celibacy was discouraged. The law of Augustus Julia et Papia Poppaea contained some seven regulations against it, which were abolished by Constantine. Concubinage was allowed, if a man had not a wife, and provided the concubine was not the wife of another man. This heathenish custom was abrogated by Justinian. [Footnote: D. 25. 7. C. 5, 26.] The wife was entitled to protection and support from her husband, and she retained her property independent of her husband, when the conventio was abandoned, as it was ultimately. The father gave his daughter, on her marriage, a dowry in proportion to his means, the management of which, with its fruits during marriage, belonged to the husband; but he could not alienate real estate without the wife's consent, and on the dissolution of marriage the dos reverted to the wife. Divorce existed in all ages at Rome, and was very common at the commencement of the empire. To check its prevalence, laws were passed inflicting severe penalties on those whose bad conduct led to it. Every man, whether married or not, could adopt children, under certain restrictions, and they passed entirely under paternal power. But the marriage relation among the Romans did not accord after all with those principles of justice which we see in other parts of their legislative code. The Roman husband, like the father, was a tyrant. The facility of divorce destroyed mutual confidence, and inflamed every trifling dispute, for a word, or a message, or a letter, or the mandate of a freedman, was quite sufficient to secure a separation. It was not until Christianity became the religion of the empire, that divorce could not be easily effected without a just cause.