Lex Julia

A Lex Julia (or: Lex Iulia, plural: Leges Juliae/Leges Iuliae) is an ancient Roman law that was introduced by any member of the Julian family. Most often, "Julian laws", Lex Iulia or Leges Iuliae refer to moral legislation introduced by Augustus in 23 BC, or to a law from the dictatorship of Julius Caesar.

Lex Iulia de Civitate Latinis Danda (90 BC)

Apart from Augustus' laws on marriage, the 90 BC Lex Julia is probably the best known of the laws under this name. It was introduced by the consul Lucius Julius Caesar, and offered Roman citizenship to all citizens of Italian municipia who had not raised arms against Rome in the Italian War (Social War).

Lex Iulia de Repetundis (59 BC)

This Law restricted the number of 'gifts' that a Governor could receive during his term in a province, and also ensured that governors balanced their accounts before leaving a province.

Lex Iulia Municipalis (45 BC)

Sets regulations for the Italian municipalities. See Tables of Heraclea.

Moral legislation of Augustus (18–17 BC)

Under Augustus, the Leges Juliae of 18–17 BC attempted to elevate both the morals and the numbers of the upper classes in Rome and to increase the population by encouraging marriage and having children (Lex Julia de maritandis ordinibus). They also established adultery as a private and public crime (Lex Julia de adulteriis).

To encourage population expansion, the Leges Juliae offered inducements to marriage and imposed disabilities upon the celibate. Augustus instituted the "Law of the three sons" which held those in high regard who produced three male[1] offspring. Marrying-age celibates and young widows who wouldn't marry were prohibited from receiving inheritances and from attending public games.

Augustan Leges Iuliae

Later updates to the Julian laws

The extracts below are from later legal codes and textbooks, but are also valuable in the sense that they are based on, and frequently quote from, the actual text of Augustus' laws.

Ulpian (3rd century)

As written down by Ulpian

The Lex Julia relating to marriage
(Epitome 13-14) By the terms of the Lex Julia, senators and their descendants are forbidden to marry freedwomen, or women who have themselves followed the profession of the stage, or whose father or mother has done so; other freeborn persons are forbidden to marry a common prostitute, or a procuress, or a woman manumitted by a procurer or procuress, or a woman caught in adultery, or one condemned in a public lawsuit, or one who has followed the profession of the stage....

Justinian (6th century)

Under the rule of Emperor Justinian

The Lex Julia on adultery
(Institutes 4, 18, 2-3) Public prosecutions are as follows....the Lex Julia for the suppression of adultery punishes with death not only those who dishonour the marriage bed of another but also those who indulge in unspeakable lust with males. The same Lex Julia also punishes the offence of seduction, when a person, without the use of force, deflowers a virgin or seduces a respectable widow. The penalty imposed by the statute on such offenders is the confiscation of half their estate if they are of respectable standing, corporal punishment and banishment in the case of people of the lower orders.
(Digest 4, 4, 37) But as regards the provisions of the Lex Julia....a man who confesses that he has committed the offence [i.e. adultery] has no right to ask for a remission of the penalty on the ground that he was under age; nor, as I have said, will any remission be allowed if he commits any of those offences which the statute punishes in the same way as adultery; as, for example, if he marries a woman who is detected in adultery and he declines to divorce her, or where he makes a profit from her adultery, or accepts a bribe to conceal illicit intercourse which he detects, or lends his house for the commission of adultery or illicit intercourse within it; youth, as I said, is no excuse in the face of clear enactments, when a man who, though he appeals to the law, himself transgresses it.

See also


  1. "The Romans: From Village to Empire: A History of Rome from Earliest Times to the End of the Western Empire" by M. Boatwright, et al. 2nd edition. 2011.
  2. 1 2 "The Julian marriage laws". Unrv.com. Retrieved 2010-11-29.
  3. 1 2 Greg Woolf (2007). Ancient civilizations: the illustrated guide to belief, mythology, and art. Barnes & Noble. p. 386. ISBN 978-1-4351-0121-0.

External links

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