The heritage dowry in Greek-Roman practice

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Spina, A. (2016). The heritage dowry in Greek-Roman practice. RIDROM. Revista Internacional De Derecho Romano, 1(16), 38–70. Recuperado a partir de


The dowry institution, since its most ancient practices, is an interesting testing ground of the relationship between husband and wife and, more generally, between man and woman. It attests the original foundation of the dowry heritage, along with the practice of dowry restitution, when the marriage ends. In Roman law two different dowry systems developed: the dos adventicia and the dos profecticia. In the classical age they both suffered important changes as compared with the archaic law. These changes entailed a progressive increasing of the dowry restitution to the wife and its subtraction from the husband’s assets, in case of marriage dissolution. Even more favorable to women and to the recognition of their heritage dowry ownership was the legislation of the different Greek poleis, as showed by the law of Gortyn. In fact, a Modestino’s passage, reported in D. 31.34.7, particularly shows the difference between Roman and Greek dowry systems. It testifies that, in provincial law, the woman’s legal position was granted favors, in case of wife’s premature death. At the same time, it discloses the novelty of the 3rd Century AD Roman jurist’s interpretation. That is, Modestino resolutely accepts to solve a ictu oculi case, whose principles were different from those he normally applied, and he accepts its outcomes too, although in stark contrast to the established civil Roman practice. So, the woman civil status improves, as wives are acknowledged free and leading patrimonial subjectivity..


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