Women in Roman law

Funerary Stele

This funerary stele from the 2nd century is from a town called Lara de los Infantes in Burgos. It is dedicated by the Roman Bebio Cándido to his servant Optatila Festa, a woman of local origin who died at the age of 27. Above the inscription, a scene depicts a seated woman, who holds an object in her hand that appears to be a mirror, facing a table laden with offerings. The stele is interpreted to reflect the appreciation of the employer toward one of his workers.

In Roman society, servants, slaves, freed slaves and clients were all part of the family, alongside the family father, his wife, his children and grandchildren. Roman civil law recognized a man´s authority over the other members of his household, including his spouse. As regards women, it presents an idealized image as a matron, a model of honesty and modesty, but whose margin of freedom was rather limited. However, as of the first century B.C., a slow process of emancipation of patrician women got underway, thus triggering a misogynistic reaction against them by numerous authors, such as Titus Livius or Juvenal.