Inheritance Rights of Nonmarital Children in Late Roman Law
Roman Legal Tradition, Vol. 4, pp. 1-36, 2008
37 Pages Posted: 8 Oct 2008 Last revised: 25 Feb 2009
Date Written: October 7, 2008
Late Roman legislation regarding the inheritance rights of nonmarital children is a tangled web of seemingly conflicting constitutions. Focusing on the period 371-428 AD, this Article argues that, when two particular Western laws from that era are considered alongside others issued at the same time, it is possible to discern some wider legislative trends that may help to contextualize the different attitudes shown toward nonmarital children. C.Th. 4.6.4 (371), a Western law beneficial to nonmarital children, can arguably be linked with another Western law issued shortly afterward granting a privilege to the daughters of actresses, another disfavored class in the late empire. On the other hand, the later Western constitution C.Th. 4.6.7 (426-27), the exact content of which is uncertain and disputed, appears to have been issued at a time when the Western consistory was especially concerned with promoting the interests of legitimate heirs. This lends support to the theory that the Western C.Th. 4.6.7 (and not a subsequent Eastern constitution hypothesized by Antti Arjava) was the law referred to in C.Th. 4.6.8 (428) as adopting a harsh position with regard to nonmarital children.
Keywords: Inheritance, Roman Law, Theodosian Code
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