The Romans had their own evolutionary story about family mores, and it had nothing to do with the invention of affection, which they took to be natural and eternal in the family. However, their story did contain elements of the decline of paternal authority and the stable family. Roman authors–all men–often lamented that in the late Republic wives no longer played the ideal role that they had fulfilled for centuries. According to the Roman writers of the first century BCE and first century CE, divorce became increasingly frequent after 200 BCE, initiated easily by the husband or the wife. In addition, wives had their own property, which they could sell, give away or bequeath as they liked. As a result, women became more liberated and less dependent on their husbands. In fact, by the late Republic a rich wife who could divorce and take her wealth with her had a real threat against her husband and could wield influence over him. The sense of independence also showed up in increasing sexual promiscuity and adultery.
Roman men deplored the fact that these rich women were more concerned with their own figures and luxuries than with their families. Unlike the good, old-time matrons, according to the historian Tacitus around 100 CE, these modern women did not spend time with their children and did not nurse their infants but left them to slave wet nurses. Furthermore, children were handed over to be raised by child-minders, usually the most useless slaves of the household.