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p377 Curius

Article by John Smith Mansfield, M.A., Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge
on pp377‑378 of

William Smith, D.C.L., LL.D.:
A Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities, John Murray, London, 1875.

CU′RIUS (κύριος), signifies generally the person that was responsible for the welfare of such members of a family as the law presumed to be incapable of protecting themselves; as, for instance, minors and slaves, and women of all ages. Fathers, therefore, and guardians, husbands, the nearest male relatives of women, and masters of families, would all bear this title in respect of the vicarious functions exercised by them in behalf of the respective objects of their care. The qualifications of all these, in respect of which they can be combined in one class, designated by the term curius, were the male sex, years of discretion, freedom, and when citizens a sufficient share of the franchise (ἐπιτιμία) to enable them to appear in the law courts as plaintiffs or defendants in behalf of their several charges; in the case of the curius being a p378resident alien, the deficiency of franchise would be supplied by his Athenian patron (προστάτης). The duties to be performed, and in default of their performance, the penalties incurred by guardians, and the proceedings as to their appointment, are mentioned under their more usual title [Epitropus].

The business of those who were more especially designated curii in the Attic laws, was to protect the interests of women, whether spinsters or widows, or persons separated from their husbands. If a citizen died intestate, leaving an orphan daughter, the son, or the father, of the deceased was bound to supply her with a sufficient dowry, and give her in marriage; and take care both for his own sake and that of his ward, that the husband made a proper settlement in return for what his bride brought him in the way of dower (ἀποτίμημα, Harpocr.). In the event of the death of the husband or of a divorce, it became the duty of the curius that had betrothed her, to receive her back and to recover the dowry, or at all events alimony from the husband or his representatives. If the father of the woman had died intestate, without leaving such relations as above-mentioned surviving, these duties devolved upon the next of kin, who had also the option of marrying her himself, and taking her fortune with her, whether it were great or small (Bunsen, De J. H. Ath. p46). If the fortune was small, and he was unwilling to marry her, he was obliged to make up its deficiencies according to a regulation of Solon (Dem. c. Macart. p1068); if it were large he might, it appears, sometimes even take her away from a husband to whom she had been married, in the lifetime and with the consent of her father.

There were various laws for the protection of female orphans against the neglect or the cruelty of their kinsmen; as one of Solon's (Diod. XII p298), whereby they could compel their kinsmen to endow or marry them; and another which after their marriage enabled any Athenian to bring an action κακώσεως, to protect them against the cruelty of their husbands (Petit. Leg. Att. p543); and the archon was especially entrusted with official power to interfere in their behalf upon all occasions (Dem. c. Macart. p1076). [Kakosis.]


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Page updated: 8 May 08