Duhaime's Law Dictionary

Jus Vitae Necisque Definition:

Latin: Power of life and death.

Part of patria potestas, the power of the father.

"The Roman law of persons provided for the patria potestas, the power of the father, about which Gaius wrote in the first century A.D. It included jus vitae necisque, the power of life and death, and, a fortiori, of uncontrolled corporal chastisement over wife, children, and other family members."1

Relying on Henry Maine's Ancient Law treatise, Christoper Stone wrote in his article of the ancient Roman maxim in the context of a father's rights over his children:

"... jus vitae necisque - the power of life and death-over his children.... he had power of uncontrolled corporal chastisement; he can modify their personal condition at pleasure; he can give a wife to his son; he can give his daughter in marriage; he can divorce his children of either sex; he can transfer them to another family by adoption; and he can sell them. The child was less than a person: an object, a thing."


  • NOTE 1: Oppenlander, Nan, The Evolution of Law and Wife Abuse, 3 Law & Pol'y Q. (1981)
  • Stone, Christopher D., Should Trees Have Standing - Toward Legal Rights for Natural Objects, 45 S. Cal. L. Rev. 450 (1972)

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