The Romans Needed to make Laws to increase their Population
March 28, 2020
THE Romans, by destroying others, were themselves destroyed. Through incessant action they wore out like a weapon kept constantly in use.
How did the Romans increase their population?
Chapter 21= Roman Population Laws
THE ancient laws of Rome tried hard to get people to marry. Dio says that Augusus said=
Dionysius Halicarnasseus† cannot believe that after the death of 305 of the Fabii, exterminated by the Veientes, there remained no more of this family but one child; because the ancient law, which obliged every citizen to marry and to educate all his children‡, was still in force.
Independently of the laws, the censors focused on marriages. According to the republic’s exigencies, they resorted to marriages by shame and by punishments.
The corruption of manners that began to take place, contributed vastly to disgust the citizens against marriage, which was painful to those who had no taste for the pleasures of innocence.
Metellus Numidicus was a censor who spoke to the people= “If it were possible for us to do without wives, we should deliver ourselves from this evil= but as nature has ordained that we cannot live very happily with them, nor subsist without them, we should have more regard to our own preservation, than to transient gratifications.”
The corruption of manners destroyed the censorship, which was itself established to destroy the corruption of manners= for when this depravation became general, the censor lost his power.
Civil discords, triumvirates, and proscriptions, weakened Rome more than any war. They left but few citizens, and most of them remained unmarried. To remedy this last evil, Cæsar and Augustus re-established the censorship, and would even be censors themselves.
Cæsar gave rewards to those who had many children. All women under 45 who had neither husband nor children, were forbid to wear jewels, or to ride in litters; an excellent method thus to attack celibacy by the power of vanity.
The laws of Augustus were more pressing. He imposed new penalties on the unmarried, and increased the rewards both of those who were married, and of those who had children. Tacitus calls these Julian laws; to all appearance they were founded on the ancient regulations made by the senate, the people, and the censors.
The law of Augustus had many obstacles. ; and thirty-four years∥∥ after it had been made, the Roman knights insisted on its being abolished.
He placed on one side such as were married, and on the other side those who were not= these last appeared by far the greatest number; upon which the citizens were astonished and confounded. Augustus, with the gravity of the ancient censors, spoke to them=
Sickness and war snatch away so many citizens. What will happen without marriages? Your celibacy is not owing to the desire of living alone= for none of you eats or sleeps by himself. You only seek to enjoy your irregularities undisturbed. Do you cite the example of the Vestal Virgins? If you preserve not the laws of chastity, you should be punished like them. You are equally bad citizens, whether your example has an influence on the rest of the world, or whether it be disregarded. My only view is the perpetuity of the republic. I have increased the penalties of those who have disobeyed; and with respect to rewards, they are such, as I do not know whether virtue has ever received greater. For less will 1,000 men expose life itself; and yet will not these engage you to take a wife, and provide for children?
He made a law, which was called after his name, Julia, and Papia Poppæa, from the names of the consuls for part of that year. The greatness of the evil appeared, even in their being elected= Dio tells us that they were not married and had no children.
This decree of Augustus was properly a code of laws, and a systematic body of all the regulations that could be made on this subject. The Julian‡ laws were incorporated into it; and received a greater strength. It was so extensive in its use, and had an influence on so many things, that it formed the finest part of the civil law of the Romans.
Parts of it were dispersed in=
- the precious fragments of Ulpian
- the laws of the Digest, collected from authors who wrote on the Papian laws,
- the historians who have cited them,
- the Theodosian code, which abolished them, and
- in the works of the fathers, who have censured them, without doubt, from a laudable zeal for the things of the other life, but with very little knowledge of the affairs of this.
These laws had 35 heads. Aulus Gellius tells us of the seventh and relates to the honours and rewards granted=
The Romans sprung from the cities of the Latins which were Spartan colonies. They had received a part of their laws even from those cities. Like the Spartans, they venerated old age. When the republic wanted citizens, she granted to marriage, and to a number of children, the privileges which had been given to age. She granted some 'the right of husbands' which were privileges to marriage alone, independently of the children which might spring from it.
She gave others to those who had children, and more to those who had three children. These three things must not be confounded. These last had those privileges which married men constantly enjoyed; as for example, a particular place in the theatre*; they had those which could only be enjoyed by men who had children; and which none could deprive them of but such as had a greater number.
These privileges were very extensive. The married men, who had the most children were always preferred whether in the pursuit, or in the exercise of honours. The consul, who had the most offspring, was the first who received the fasces; he had his choice of the∥ provinces= the senator, who had most children, had his name written first in the catalogue of senators, and was the first in giving his opinion in the senate.
They might even stand sooner than ordinary for an office, because every child gave a dispensation of a year**. If an inhabitant of Rome had three children, he was exempted from all troublesome offices. The free-born women who had three children, and the freed-women who had four, passed out of that perpetual tutelage, in which they had been held by the ancient laws of Rome.
They had also penalties. Those who were not married, could receive no advantage from the will of any person that was not a relation†††; and those who, being married, had no children, could receive only half. The Romans, says Plutarch, marry only to be heirs, and not to have them.
The advantages which a man and his wife might receive from each other by will, were limited by law. If they had children of each other, they might receive the whole; if not, they could receive only a tenth part of the succession on the account of marriage; and if they had any children by a former venter, as many tenths as they had children.
If a husband absented himself from his wife on any other cause than the affairs of the republic, he could not inherit from her.
The law gave to a surviving husband or wife two years§ to marry again, and a year and a half in case of a divorce. The fathers who would not suffer their children to marry, or refused to give their daughters a portion, were obliged to do it by the magistrates.
They were not allowed to betroth, when the marriage was to be deferred for more than two years††; and as they could not marry a girl till she was twelve years old, they could not be bethrothed to her, till she was ten. The law would not suffer them to  trifle* to no purpose; and under a pretence of being betrothed, to enjoy the privileges of married men.
It was contrary to law for a man of 60 to marry a woman of 50. As they had given great privileges to married men, the law would not suffer them to enter into useless marriages. For the same reason, the Calvisian Senatus Consultum declared the marriage of a woman above 50, with a man less than 60, to be‡ unequal; so that a woman of 50 years of age could not marry, without incurring the penalties of these laws.
Tiberius added to the rigour of the Papian law, and prohibited men of 60 from marrying women under 50; so that a man of 60 could not marry without incurring the penalty. But Claudius abrogated this law made under Tiberius.
All these regulations were more conformable to the climate of Italy, than to that of the North, where a 60 year old man still has strength and women of 50 are not always past child-bearing.
That they might not be unnecessarily limited in the choice they were to make, Augustus permitted all the free-born citizens, who were not senators, to marry freed-women. The Papian∥∥ law forbad the senators marrying freed-women, or those who had been brought to the stage; and from the time of Ulpian, free-born persons were forbid to marry  women who had led a disorderly life, who had played in the theatre, or who had been condemned by a public sentence. This must have been established by a decree of the senate. During the time of the republic they had never made laws like these, because the censors corrected this kind of disorders as soon as they arose, or else prevented their rising.
Constantine made a law, in which he comprehended, in the prohibition of the Papian law, not only the senators, but even such as had a considerable rank in the state, without mentioning persons in an inferior station= this constituted the law of those times. These marriages were therefore no longer forbidden, but to the free-born comprehended in the law of Constantine. Justinian† however abrogated the law of Constantine, and permitted all sorts of persons to contract these marriages= and thus we have acquired so fatal a liberty.
The penalties inflicted on such as married contrary to the prohibition of the law, were the same as those inflicted on persons who did not marry. These marriages did not give them any civil advantage for the dowry was confiscated§ after the death of the wife.
Augustus having adjudged the succession and legacies of those, whom these laws had declared incapable, to the public treasury, they had the appearance rather of fiscal, than of political and civil laws. The disgust they had already conceived at a burden which appeared too heavy, was increased by their seeing themselves a continual prey to the avidity of the treasury. On this account it became necessary, under Tiberius, that these laws should be softened, that Nero should lessen the rewards given out of the treasury to the† informers, that Trajan should put a stop to their plundering, that Severus should also moderate these laws, and that the civilians should consider them as odious, and in all their decisions deviate from the literal rigour.
Besides, the emperors enervated§ these laws, by the privileges they granted, of the rights of husbands, of children, and of three children. More than this, they gave†† particular persons a dispensation from the penalties of these laws. But the regulations established for the public utility seemed incapable of admitting an alleviation.
It was highly reasonable, that they should grant the rights of children to the vestals‡‡, whom religion retained in a necessary virginity= they gave, in the same manner, the privilege of∥∥ married men to soldiers, because they could not marry. It was customary to exempt the emperors from the constraint of certain civil laws. Thus Augustus was freed from the constraint of the law, which limited the power of§§ enfranchising, and of that which set bounds to  the right of* bequeathing by testament. These were only particular cases= but, at last, dispensations were given without discretion, and the rule itself became no more than an exception.
The sects of philosophers had already introduced in the empire a disposition that estranged them from business; a disposition which could not gain ground in the time of the† republic, when every body was employed in the arts of war and peace. From hence arose an idea of perfection, as connected with a life of speculation; from hence an estrangement from the cares and embarrassments of a family. The Christian religion coming after this philosophy, fixed, if I may make use of the expression, the ideas which that had only prepared.
Christianity stamped its character on jurisprudence; for empire has ever a connexion with the priesthood. This is visible from the Theodosian code, which is only a collection of the decrees of the Christian emperors.
A panegyrist‡ of Constantine says to that Emperor, “Your laws were made only to correct vice, and to regulate manners= you have stripped the ancient laws of that artifice, which seemed to have no other aim than to lay snares for simplicity.”
Constantine's changes were caused by the sentiments=
- from the establishment of Christianity, or
- from ideas of its perfection.
The establishment of Christianity gave so much authority to bishops which created the foundation of the ecclesiastical jurisdiction. These weakened  paternal authority by depriving the father of his property in the possessions of his children.
To extend a new religion, they were obliged to take away the dependance of children, who are always leaft attached to what is already established.
The laws made with a view to Christian perfection were more particularly those by which the† penalties of the Papian laws were abolished; the unmarried were equally exempted from them, with those who being married had no children.
A church historian says=
“These laws were established as if the multiplication of the human species was an effect of our care; instead of being sensible that the number is increased or diminished, according to the order of providence.”
Principles of religion have had an extraordinary influence on the propagation of the human species. Sometimes they have promoted it, as amongst the Jews, the Mahometans, the Gaurs, and the Chinese; at others, they have put a damp to it, as was the case of the Romans upon their conversion to Christianity.
They every where incessantly preached up continency; a virtue the more perfect, because in its own nature it can be practised but by very few.
Constantine had not taken away the decimal laws, which granted a greater extent to the donations between man and wife, in proportion to the number of their children= Theodosius the younger abrogated even these laws.
Justinian declared all those marriages valid, which had been prohibited by the Papian laws. These laws require people to marry again= Justinian granted †privileges to those who did not marry again.
By the ancient institutions, the natural right which every one had to marry, and beget children, could not be taken away. Thus when they received a ‡legacy, on condition of not marrying, or when a patron made his freed-man swear, that he would neither marry nor beget children, the Papian law annulled both the§ condition and the oath. The clauses on continuing in widowhood, established amongst us, contradict the ancient law, and descend from the constitutions of the emperors, founded on ideas of perfection.
There is no law that contains an express abrogation of the privileges and honours, which the Romans had granted to marriages, and to a number of children. But where celibacy had the pre-eminence, marriage could not be held in honour; and since they could oblige the officers of the public revenue to renounce so many advantages by the abolition of the penalties, it is easy to perceive, that with yet greater ease they might put a stop to the rewards.
The same spiritual reason which had permitted celibacy, soon imposed it even as necessary. God forbid that I should here speak against celibacy, as adopted by religion= but who can be silent when it is built on libertinism; when the two sexes corrupting each other, even by the natural sensations themselves, fly from a union which ought to make them better, to live in that which always renders them worse?
It is a rule drawn from nature, that the more the number of marriages is diminished, the more corrupt are those who have entered into that state= the fewer married men, the less fidelity is there in marriage; as when there are more thieves, more thefts are committed.