Volume 62, Issue 1, June 2022

Mario Resta
Pages 177-188

Lay or Consecrated, Subjected and Subtracted
The Abduction of Women in the 4th Century Canonical Legislation

The present paper provides a comparative analysis of imperial and canonical legislation concerning the abduction of lay or consecrated women in the 4th century, when both legislations delineated the distinctive features of the abovementioned crimen. The imperial law showed both an extreme severity towards abductors and a leniency towards lay and consecrated women, who were considered innocent; however, women were not allowed to live together with their abductors. The canonical legislation also severely punished abductors and considered lay women innocent; however, contrary to the provisions in the civil laws, the ecclesiastical legislation condemned consecrated women who consented to abduction. The paper aims to reconstruct the basic outline of both legislative systems and to identify a set of key features that might describe female submission to both the will of male members of the family and to the provisions in the canonical laws: indeed, the consent to abduction often represented an extreme attempt on the part of women to determine their own lives.