Roman Antiquity and Colonial America shared much in common regarding limits on women’s legal rights and the role of gender in law. Gendered stereotypes regarding women’s ability and place in society are reflected in the patria potestas and manus of Ancient Roman law, as well as through the patriarchal and pious Puritan laws of New England society during the American Colonial period. Both male-dominated social and legal systems were based on the notion of women’s innate inferiority and female submission to male authority. Gender expectations and biases are also present, not only in family law, but also in law governing sexual behavior and partnerships. While Roman law punishes sodomy and male same-sex relationships on the grounds of contradicting the concept of the pater familias, Puritan New England relied on Christian morals and religious teachings to govern their sodomy laws. However, such gender disparities in the law are also subject to social status and race, leading men who did not reflect the respective society’s preferable identity to face harsher punishments as a result. Regarding the concept of gender and male superiority, family law and the societal expectations that both shaped and were shaped by such laws reflect an ever-present patriarchal structure throughout the Early American and Ancient Roman legal systems. The gendered attitudes toward marriage, rape, sex, and consent in both Roman and Early American society are reflected in the laws that governed the lives of women and gender non-conforming minorities in both societies.
Copyright (c) 2020 John B. Kamp
Kamp, John B. (2020) "Patriarchy and Gender Law in Ancient Rome and Colonial America," Iowa Historical Review: Vol. 8: Iss. 1
Ancient History, Greek and Roman through Late Antiquity Commons, Civil Rights and Discrimination Commons, History of Gender Commons, Law and Gender Commons, Law and Society Commons, Legal History Commons, Sexuality and the Law Commons, United States History Commons