A Lex Julia (or: Lex Iulia, plural: Leges Juliae/Leges Iuliae) was 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 et Sociis Danda (90 BC)
Apart from Augustus's laws on marriage, this lex Julia is probably the best known of the laws under this name. In the midst of the Social War, a conflict between the Italians and the Romans over the withholding of Italian citizenship, the consul Lucius Julius Caesar passed a law to grant all Italians not under arms citizenship. It was primarily passed to prevent those who had not risen up against Roman rule from doing so. The next year, the Romans introduced the lex Plautia Papiria de Civitate Sociis Danda, which granted Roman citizenship to the allies which had rebelled, in an attempt to further stem the rebellion.
Lex Iulia de Repetundis (59 BC)
This law was passed by Gaius Julius Caesar, restricting 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 offspring. Marrying-age celibates and young widows who wouldn't marry were prohibited from receiving inheritances and from attending public games.
Augustan Leges Iuliae
- Lex Iulia de Ambitu (18 BC): Penalising bribery when acquiring political offices.
- Lex Iulia de Maritandis Ordinibus (18 BC): Limiting marriage across social class boundaries (and thus seen as an indirect foundation of concubinage, later regulated by Justinian, see also below).
- Lex Iulia de Adulteriis Coercendis (17 BC): This law punished adultery with banishment. The two guilty parties were sent to different islands ("dummodo in diversas insulas relegentur"), and part of their property was confiscated. Fathers were permitted to kill daughters and their partners in adultery. Husbands could kill the partners under certain circumstances and were required to divorce adulterous wives. Augustus himself was obliged to invoke the law against his own daughter, Julia (relegated to the island of Pandateria) and against her eldest daughter (Julia the Younger). Tacitus adds the reproach that Augustus was stricter for his own relatives than the law actually required (Annals III 24)
- Lex Iulia de vicesima hereditatum (5 AD): (on inheritance tax) instituted a 5 percent tax on testamentary inheritances, exempting close relatives.
- Lex Papia Poppaea (9 AD): (to encourage and strengthen marriage) is usually seen as an integral part of Augustus' Julian Laws. The Lex Papia Poppaea also explicitly promoted offspring (within lawful marriage), thus also discriminating against celibacy.
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.