previous next


DONA´TIO PROPTER NU´PTIAS Subsequent to the time of the classical jurists under the early Christian emperors, it became customary for a man, when about to marry, to make a donatio to his future wife as an equivalent to the dos which was brought into settlement on her part. On account of the correspondence between this kind of donatio and dos, it is called in Greek ἀντίφερνα, and in Latin contrados, antidos. The meaning of the term donatio propter nuptias is explained in the Institutes of Justinian. It was originally called donatio ante nuptias because, as there could be no donatio between husband and wife, it was necessary that the donatio should be ante-nuptial; but when, by an enactment of Justin I., it became legal to increase the donatio after marriage, and by a further enactment of Justinian even to constitute it after marriage, the old term was no longer suitable, and so donatio propter nuptias was substituted for it by Justinian. The object of the donatio propter nuptias seems to have been to secure a provision for the wife. If a dos had been given by the wife, or on behalf of the wife, and the husband by the terms of the settlement was entitled to it, or to a part of it in the case of the wife's death, it was usual for the husband, or some one on the part of the husband, to secure something to the wife in the event of her surviving him. The father of the husband was under the same obligation to make a donatio ante or propter nuptias as the father of the wife to provide a dos. (Cod. 5.11, 7.)

By a constitution of the Emperor Leo it was absolutely required that the amount secured in this way to the wife should be equal to the amount of dos the husband might be entitled to. (Cod. 5.14, 9, 10.) According to the legislation of Justinian, the donatio and the dos must be equivalent: if the dos was increased during marriage, a similar increase of the donatio was also necessary. (Nov. 97, 100.1, 2.) The husband had, during the marriage, the legal and actual control of the property given as donatio, but such part of it as consisted in things immovable he could not alienate or pledge even with the consent of the wife, unless she ratified her previous consent after two years from the time of giving it, and the husband had other property to satisfy her claim. The wife was given by law a hypothec over the husband's entire property as security for the donatio. If the husband became impoverished during the marriage, the wife was entitled to the profits of the donatio for her support; and the property was not liable to the demands of his creditors. [p. 1.691]If the marriage was dissolved by the death of the wife or by divorce not caused by the husband's fault, the donatio became the absolute property of the husband, unless some person who made the donatio was entitled to the reversion of it by the agreement. If the husband died, the wife had a usufruct in the entire donatio. she was also entitled to share with her children in the ownership of it. (Nov. 127, 100.3.)

The special provisions, such as the necessity of insinuatio, which applied to the ordinary donatio, were dispensed with in this case. The opinions of modern jurists are much divided as to the notion, purpose, and law of the donatio propter nuptias. (Cod. 5.3; Cod. Theod. 3.5; Inst. 11.7, 3; Glück, xxv. pp. 274-329.)


hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: