The very earliest Roman laws to mention adultery are those attributed to Romulus, the first king, usually dated to the 8th century BCE. They allowed the death penalty for both adultery and drinking wine, and it was a woman’s husband and his cognates* who judged her.
[Bust assumed to be Cato the Elder, 2nd century BCE, source: Wikimedia Commons]
[Julia Augusti Filia, 1553, Guillaume Rouille, Source: Wikimedia Commons]
*It’s basically a fancy word for “relatives” (from the Latin co-, meaning “with,” and natus, meaning “born”). Some people limit the term to mean only the mother’s side of the family, but in this case it seems to refer to both sides. I used it here because it’s common enough in roman legal texts that it’s probably a good word to know. And I wanted to call it a “fancy word,” which it is.
**People convicted of adultery with each other were to be sent to separate islands.
The Laws of the Kings, 8th century BCE - Diotima
Cato the Elder on Adultery (from Aulus Gellius Attic Nights, 2nd cent.) - Diotima
The Julian Marriage Laws (from various primary sources) - Diotima
Roman Jurists on Adultery - Diotima
Roman Jurists on the Right of Life and Death - Diotima
Marriage in Ancient Rome - Wikipedia
Lex Julia - Wikipedia
Cato the Elder - Wikipedia
Julia the Elder - Wikipedia