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Prostitution, Sexuality, and the Law in Ancient Rome$
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Thomas A. J. McGinn

Print publication date: 2003

Print ISBN-13: 9780195161328

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2007

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195161328.001.0001

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Ne Serva Prostituatur *

Ne Serva Prostituatur *

Restrictive Covenants in the Sale of Slaves

(p.288) 8 Ne Serva Prostituatur *
Prostitution, Sexuality, and the Law in Ancient Rome

Thomas A. J. McGinn (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

Roman law recognized certain restrictive covenants in agreements for the sale of slaves, covenants that directed a certain disposition of the slave on the part of the buyer but that, when violated, did not void the sale. Although they played a relatively minor role in Roman private law, these covenants had important implications for public policy and for the relationship of policy and the private law system. This is especially true of the restrictive covenant that forbade the buyer to prostitute the slave: ne serva prostituatur. An analysis of the content of these covenants and their treatment by both emperors and jurists reaffirms the accuracy of the distinction traditionally drawn in modern literature between those covenants that were construed to benefit the original vendor and those that were understood to benefit the slave. The contention is that the covenant is best understood in terms of a value complex known as the honor-shame syndrome. This complex, common to Mediterranean societies, assigns role and status within the household on the basis of gender.

Keywords:   ancient Rome, prostitution, slaves, public policy, covenants, Ne Serva Prostituatur, manumission

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