If a Maidservant “Dies a Horrible Death”: Canon 5 of the Synod of Elvira in the Light of the Norms of Roman Criminal Law

Bartosz Zalewski

Abstract


This article aims to analyse canon 5 of the Synod of Elvira (beginning of the 4th century) taking into account the norms of Roman law concerning the legal protection of slaves. This canon provided for the punishment of repentance and a prohibition of giving Eucharistic Communion to a woman who, in anger caused by jealousy, caused the death of her slave as a result of whipping. It was probably adopted based on a certain, particularly shocking matter, perhaps related to the intimate life between the master and her slave. The content of the canon suggests that the person responsible for its editing was familiar with Roman law, including probably in particular Emperor Hadrian’s rescripts – especially those addressed to the Governor of Baetica, where Elvira was located. The canon provided slaves with a wider scope of protection than the norms of Roman law did, both those in force at the time of its release and later introduced by Emperor Constantine the Great. It was also an expression of the generally discernible attitude of Christian communities towards the institutions of slavery. On the one hand, the existence of slavery was accepted and, on the other hand, there were efforts to improve the situation of slaves, especially if they were Christians.


Keywords


slavery; Roman criminal law; legal protection of slaves; Synod of Elvira

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.17951/sil.2021.30.1.385-400
Data publikacji: 2021-03-31 14:40:47
Data złożenia artykułu: 2020-02-03 17:11:06


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