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IT is on record that for nearly five hundred years after the founding of Rome there were no lawsuits and no warranties 1 in connection with a wife's dowry in the city of Rome or in Latium, since of course nothing of that kind was called for, inasmuch as no marriages were annulled during that period. Servius Sulpicius too, in the book which he compiled On Dowries, wrote 2 that security for a wife's dower seemed to have become necessary for the first time when Spurius Carvilius, who was surnamed Ruga, a man of rank, put away his wife because, owing to some physical defect, no children were born from her; and that this happened in the five hundred and twenty-third year after the founding of the city, in the consulship of Marcus Atilius and Publius Valerius. 3 And it is reported that this Carvilius dearly loved the wife whom he divorced, and held her in strong affection because of her character, but that above his devotion and his love he set his regard for the oath which the censors had compelled him to take, 4 that he would marry a wife for the purpose of begetting children. [p. 325] Moreover, a woman was called paelex, or “concubine,” and regarded as infamous, if she lived on terms of intimacy with a man who had another woman under his legal control in a state of matrimony, as is evident from this very ancient law, which we are told was one of king Numa's: 5 “Let no concubine touch the temple of Juno; if she touch it, let her, with hair unbound, offer up a ewe lamb to Juno.” Now paelex is the equivalent of πάλλαξ, that is to say, of παλλακίς. 6 Like many other words of ours, this one too is derived from the Greek.
1 That is, the repayment of the dowry in case of a divorce was not secured. A cautio was a verbal or written promise, sometimes confirmed by an oath, as in Suet. Aug. xcviii. 2, ius iurandum et cautionem exegit.
2 Fr. 1, Huschke; p. 227, Bremer.
3 231 B.C.
4 An oath was regularly required by the censors that a man married for the purpose of begetting legal heirs (liberorum quacrendorum causa); cf. Suet. Jul. lii. 3.
5 F.J.R., p. 8, fr. 2; I, p. 135, Bremer.
6 Walde, Lat. Etymn. Wörterb. s.v., regards paelex and the Greek πάλλαξ and παλλακίς, the former in the sense of a young slave, as loan words from the Phoenician-Hebrew pillegesh, “concubine.” The spelling pellex is due to popular etymology, which associated the word with pellicio, “entice.”
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