What was the legal position of women in ancient Rome? Books on Roman law, including, Witold Wołodkiewicz’s “Prawo rzymskie, Słownik Encyklopedyczny” provide many interesting facts about the rights and obligations that have changed over the centuries and concerned various groups.
A woman after the age of 12 (adulthood within the meaning of Roman law) could dispose of her property freely, and the man – her legal guardian only granted permission for her to perform more important legal acts – in Roman law this institution was known as tutela mulierum. The woman, however, had the opportunity to appeal against the guardian’s decision and to give her consent, a mature woman could also choose another guardian through another man.
During the reign of Caesar Augustus, the function of the legal guardian of a woman gradually fell into disuse to be completely abolished at the end of his reign. Women, on an equal footing with men, were also obliged to make an alimenta – to provide the necessary means for the life of their immediate family, such as food, clothing and accommodation. Already during the Republic period, the obligation of maintenance was a duty both of parents and children, and later also by grandparents and grandchildren.