In the Roman empire, marriage was a pivotal institution that determined the transmission of personal status and of family property to the children. When Rome increased its hold over individuals who, up till then, had used their own legal system, its new subjects articulated claims to make use of their own laws and the Roman law as well. This gave rise to various reactions from the Roman authorities.
Particularly, the Roman conception that marriage was based on the consent of the parties – most notably on the woman’s free will – entered into conflict with some local institutions, before as well as after the Antonine Constitution that granted universal Roman citizenship in 212 AD.
This paper deals with some discretionary decisions of the Roman authorities in Egypt from the 1st to the 3rd centuries, known through papyri: mainly the famous case of Dionysia (P. Oxy. II 237) and its precedents, with special attention to the attitude of the Roman Prefects regarding the local institution of the katochê, and later imperial decisions kept in the Justinian Code 5.20 & 8.38(39).2. This consent principle had a different impact in various situations, sometimes playing out in favor of the women’s interests and sometimes against them. The topic of this paper thus explores very important aspects of the interaction of different legal culture in Egypt at a turning point.
Culture and Society in Greek, Roman, and Byzantine Egypt