Rome: The Invisible Children of Incest

Philippe Moreau

in Children, Memory, and Family Identity in Roman Culture

Published in print October 2010 | ISBN: 9780199582570
Published online January 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191595271 | DOI:
Rome: The Invisible Children of Incest

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This chapter deals with children born of a union considered by ancient Romans as incestuous, mainly from a legal point of view, since we lack any evidence about their social life, with one exception (Digest 23.2.57a: Flavia Tertulla's children). Romans did not doubt that such an union could result in viable descendants, in spite of Pope Gregory the Great's letter to Augustine of Canterbury, and they were only worried about kinship terms for these children. For imperial jurists, from Gaius down to Justinian, these children were not to be treated differently from the other illegitimate children (spurii). But under Justinian's reign, the legislation worsened the plight of incestuous children, mainly due to the development of a policy of deterrence towards potential incestuous pairs.

Keywords: Augustine of Canterbury; children; Flavia Tertulla; Gregory the Great; imperial constitutions; incest; lawyers; Libellus responsionum; Novella

Chapter.  7789 words. 

Subjects: Classical History

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