P.Oxy. VI 903 (BL III 133)
Oxyrhynchos, 4-5th century CE

Concerning all the insults uttered by him against me. He shut up his own slaves and mine together with my foster-daughters and his overseer and his son for seven whole days in his cellars, having insulted his slaves and my slave Zoe and almost killed them with blows, and he applied fire to my foster-daughters, having stripped them completely naked, which is contrary to the laws; and saying to the same foster-daughters, 'Give up all that is hers,' they said, 'She has nothing with us'; and saying to the slaves as they were being beaten, 'What did she take from my house?' they said under torture, 'She has taken nothing of yours, but all your property is safe.' Zoilos went to see him because he had shut up his foster-son, and he said to him, 'Have you come on account of your foster-son or of such a woman, to talk about her?' And he swore in the presence of the bishops and his own brothers, 'In future I will not hide all my keys from her' (he trusted his own slaves but he did not trust me [inserted between the lines], 'I will stop and not insult her.'

And a marriage contract was made, and after these agreements and the oaths he again hid his keys from me; and when I had gone out to the church on the sabbath, he had the outside doors shut on me, saying, 'Why did you go to the church?' and speaking many terms of abuse into my face and through his nose; and concerning the 100 artabas of wheat due to the state on my account he paid nothing, not a single artaba. Having got control of the books, he shut them up saying, 'Pay the price of the hundred artabas,' having himself paid nothing, as I said previously, and he said to his slaves, 'Provide helpers, to shut her up also.' Choous his assistant was taken off to prison, and Euthalamos gave security for him which was not enough. So I took a bit more and gave it for the said Choous. When I met him at Antinoopolis, having my bathing-bag(?) with my ornaments, he said to me, 'Anything you have with you, I shall take because of the security which you gave to my assistant Choous for his dues to the state.' His mother will bear witness to all this.

He also persistently vexed my soul about his slave Anilla, both at Antinoopolis and here, saying 'Send away this slave, for she knows how much she has got possession of', probably wanting to get me involved, and on this pretext to take away anything I have myself. But I refused to send her away. And he kept saying, 'After a month I will take a courtesan for myself.' God knows this is true.

.........Rowlandson, Jane, ed. 1998. Women and Society in Greek and Roman Egypt. Cambridge.
.........Questions:....... -What is artabas?........-What rights did a woman gain, if any, once she entered into marriage, particularly in terms of the household?..........Marriage Contract.......-How were slaves treated usually?.......-How common was domestic abuse and how was it regarded socially?.........Augustine's confession.........-Where does this resource come from and what do we know about that place?.........-Who wrote this and what type of document is it?.........Long Answer.........Short Answer
...... ...Unanswered Questions:.........-What are "the books"?.........Perhaps the term refers to a set of legal books or to the marriage tablets mentioned in Augustine's confession. Nevertheless, I am not sure about what they actually refer to.........-Why does the woman have to pay the price of "the hundred artabas"?.....................Analysis: ............This primary source provides us with an understanding of the types of violence that could exist, and were actually quite common, in a typical Roman household. As certain sources of information show us, domestic violence was not unusual nor illegal in the Roman empire. In fact, it could even be considered necessary to maintaining stability within the household. Domestic abuse on behalf of the father occurred primarily because of the hierarchical position he (the paterfamilias) had within the household and the unchallengeable believe in his right to be the most authoritative figure in his own house. The father's violence is directed not only towards the slaves and women, but also the son. As a result we recognize how domestic violence on behalf of the paterfamilias could be inflicted on any household member, regardless of the victim's status, gender or position in the family..............In this document, the paterfamilias is depicted as an extremely violent figure. Nonetheless, the fact that this is a woman's legal affidavit against her husband suggests that this particular type of violence was considered an extreme given that she felt entitled to denounce him legally. Furthermore, slave abuse stands out in this text since the woman mentions that the slaves were "almost killed... with blows" but does not mention that this type of violence was illegal. She does, however, mention the law regarding the violence inflicted on her foster-daughters. The fact that the woman does not mention the law regarding violence against slaves suggests that this type of extreme brutality was legally acceptable. Then again, the extent to which slave abuse was acceptable changed depending on the time period of the Roman empire.............Ironically, this source not only provides use with an example of violence towards women in the Roman empire but also with an example of the rights that were given to them. In the last paragraph the writer suspects that her husband might want to "take away anything" she owns thus informing us of the fact that, although married, she continues having independent ownership over her belongings (including fetuses). Regardless of the fact that her husband can overpower her physically, he is legally incapable of taking a hold of her belongings. Consequently, we may see how, legally, the role of women in the roman household was one of submission but that simultaneously deserved respect, independence and authority to a certain degree.............Overall this source provides us with a series of examples of how the paterfamilias could violently implement his authority over other members of the household, particularly the materfamilias. Not only does he physically and verbally abuse her, but he also announces his desires to commit adultery. We do not know whether he actually does it or simply suggests it in order to psychologically harm his wife, yet the fact that he mentions it so freely portrays the social inequalities between men and women. The household keys would usually be taken from the wife if the husband suspected that she was copying them in order to sneak out of the house and/or commit adultery. We see an example of this when he insults and interrogates the woman because she left the house to go to church. We can only imagine that if the woman were to suggest that she wished or planned to commit adultery, her husband would most probably harm her either physically, psychologically and/or legally. Therefore, we see how unequal the balance of power is between men and women depending on the ways in which each gender is associated with adultery.
..........To learn more about the position of women in Roman society visit Soldiers' Families...........To learn more about women and Christianity visit church...........To learn more about slaves and prison visit prison.
.........Works Cited
I really liked your document and how your analysis detailed both the rights and abuse that came along with being a Roman woman. One lingering question I had was about the role of Christianity in this document and the treatment of the woman. One of your sources mentions Augustine’s mother putting up with similar abuses; she was a deeply religious woman, and I think that part of her tolerance for her treatment was a result of her faith. It might be interesting to explore whether the arrival of Christianity changed the role or actions of women in the Roman Empire. Did Christian values make Rome a friendlier and safer place to be a woman or did it somehow hurt their status, or did it even leave it unchanged?
-Nat Roth

Hi, I thought your research was informative and insightful. One bit of your document I found mysterious was the situation concerning the slave Choous. What were some of the possible reasons that a slave of yours would end up in jail, and how high did the bail tend to be? Was a master forced to pay the bail? I'm assuming from the context that "security" means bail, though I may be mistaken. Also, is your document part of some larger, official court proceeding? The letter seems to be a testimony given at a hearing, but it could also be a letter. I'd be interested to know what you can find out about the judicial process for domestic cases, or even cases in general. Great work, keep it up. - Ben P.

Your analysis was extremely engaging! I particularly liked the comparison between women and slaves, both being inferior to the paterfamilias. You mention that the legal code in relation to both these groups may have changed over time; I would love to see more elaboration (or even a link) as to how the laws for domestic abuse may have evolved, and to what prompted this change in attitude.
(Watch out for minor misspellings before Anise grades the final version.) --Albert Tomasso
AllsasFascinating analysis. I would like to see a bit more about the perceived impact of the 100 artabas of wheat due to the state. How much was this worth in modern day terms. And relative to the economic standing of the couple in question, as this a significant sum? Were the laws which required these payments to the state scaled according to a family's wealth, or did they apply indiscriminately?- MMatt Serna

Your document provided tons of information and set an excellent context for this specific document. You managed to incorporate many other sources and build a strong analysis of the primary source. I think that it is particularly interesting that you focused on the treatment or mistreatment of women and the prevalence of social inequalities among gender at this time. I agree with Ben in that further research into judicial processes at the time specifically involving, females and slaves would really provide a critical engagement with this primary source. I think you really did an excellent job with all of your research and all of your effort is clear. Great job!
-Quadeera Jackson