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Judith Evans GrubbsBetty Gage Holland Professor Emerita

Judith Evans Grubbs, Betty Gage Holland Professor Emerita of Roman History. (B.A. in Greek and English, Emory University 1978; PhD in Classics Stanford University 1987).Roman imperial history; late antiquity; Roman law; women and the family in antiquity; Roman slavery; relationship between Rome and the provinces. Recipient of a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for College Teachers in 1997-98 and in 2004-2005; Jesse Ball duPont Fellow at the National Humanities Center in 1993-1994. Author of Law and Family in late antiquity: the Emperor Constantine's Marriage Legislation (Oxford at the Clarendon Press, 1995) and Women and the Law in the Roman Empire: A Sourcebook on Marriage, Divorce, and Widowhood (Routledge, 2002).

My research focuses on law and the family in the Roman world, especially during the imperial and late antique periods. Currently I am working on a book, Children without Fathers in Roman Law: Paternity, Patrimony, and Freedom, which looks at the Roman legal attitude toward children who had no legal paterfamilias and who therefore were often in a marginalized, precarious position in the patriarchal Roman society. These include children whose father had died and who were under guardianship, but also illegitimate children, children who were abandoned at birth (and sometimes picked up and enslaved by others), and even children who were sold or pledged into slavery by their parents. The line between slavery and freedom in Roman society was often blurred, and fatherless children were particularly vulnerable to exploitation, even enslavement.

For this book and in other recent work I have done, I use the evidence of imperial rescripts from the second and third centuries A.D., mostly preserved in the Codex Justinianus. Rescripts are the responses of Roman emperors to petitions from those they ruled. Although we no longer have the petitions themselves, the responses can tell us something about the petitioners and the situations that led them to apply to the emperor. By and large, the recipients of rescripts were not from the elite of the Empire: most of the ones we have were sent to provincials, especially in the eastern half of the Empire, and about 20% of the total were addressed to women. Even slaves and (often) former slaves sent petitions and received answers, often about issues of enslavement and freedom.


  • BA, Emory University, 1978
  • American School of Classical Studies, Athens, Greeve, 1978-79
  • PhD, Stanford University, 1987

Current Students

Recently-Appointed Doctoral Graduates

Affiliations at Emory:

  • Ancient Mediterranean Studies Program (faculty)
  • Medieval Studies Program (director)
  • Classics Department (associated faculty)
  • Graduate Division of Religion, Historical Studies in Theology and Religion (affiliated faculty)
  • Center for the Study of Law and Religion (associated faculty)