XXIII[23arg] A passage from a speech of Marcus Cato on the mode of life and manners of women of the olden time; and also that the husband had the right to kill his wife, if she were taken in adultery.
Those who have written about the life and civilization of the Roman people say that the women of Rome and Latium “lived an abstemious life”; that [p. 279] is, that they abstained altogether from wine, which in the early language was called temetum; that it was an established custom for them to kiss their kinsfolk for the purpose of detection, so that, if they had been drinking, the odour might betray them. But they say that the women were accustomed to drink the second brewing, raisin wine, spiced wine 1 and other sweet-tasting drinks of that kind. And these things are indeed made known in those books which I have mentioned, but Marcus Cato declares that women were not only censured but also punished by a judge no less severely if they had drunk wine than if they had disgraced themselves by adultery. I have copied Marcus Cato's words from the oration entitled On the Dowry, in which it is also stated that husbands had the right to kill wives taken in adultery: 2 “When a husband puts away his wife,” says he, “he judges the woman as a censor would, and has full powers if she has been guilty of any wrong or shameful act; she is severely punished if she has drunk wine; if she has done wrong with another man, she is condemned to death.” Further, as to the right to put her to death it was thus written: “If you should take your wife in adultery, you may with impunity put her to death without a trial; but if you should commit adultery or indecency, she must not presume to lay a finger on you, nor does the law allow it.” [p. 281]