Roman Marriage

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History, Facts and Information about Roman Marriage
The content of this article provides interesting history, facts and information about life in Ancient Rome including Roman Marriage.

Roman Marriage Contract
After the parties had agreed to marry, a meeting of friends was sometimes held at the house of the maiden for the purpose of settling the marriage-contract, which was called sponsalia which was written on tablets and signed by both parties.

The man put a ring on the finger of his betrothed, as a pledge of his fidelity. This ring was probably, like all rings at this time, worn on the left hand, and on the finger next to the smallest. The last point to be fixed was the day on which the marriage was to take place.

Roman Marriage  - the Wedding Day
The Romans believed that certain days were unfortunate for the performance of the marriage rites due to certain religious observances. Days not suitable for weddings were the Kalends, Nones, and Ides of every month, the whole months of May and February and on various festival days. The date of the marriage was never fixed without consulting the auspices.

Roman Marriage  - Legal Marriages and Ceremonies
A legal marriage was made in three different ways, called confarreatio, usus and coemptio. The first of these was the most ancient.

  • Confarreatio: Farreum was a form of marriage by Patricians in which certain words were used in the presence of ten witnesses, and were accompanied by certain religious ceremonies. A priest, in the presence of ten witnesses, made an offering to the gods consisting of a cake composed of salt water and containing the kind of flour called “far”, from which the name of the ceremony was derived. The bride and bridegroom mutually partook of this, to denote the union that was to subsist between them, and the sacrifice of a sheep ratified the interchange of their vows

  • Usus: When a woman, with the consent of her parents or guardian, lived an entire year with a man, with the intention of becoming his wife, it was called usus.

  • Coemptio was an imaginary purchase which the husband and wife made of each other, by the exchange of some pieces of money

Roman Marriage
Interesting facts and information about the Roman Marriage:

  • It was forbidden among the Romans for a man to have more than one wife

  • The marriageable age was from fourteen years old  for men and twelve years old for girls

  • A marriage ceremony was never solemnized without consulting the auspices, and offering sacrifices to the gods, particularly to Juno

  • Originally there was no marriage between the Patricians and the Plebeians; but this was altered by the Lex Canuleia which allowed the marriage between persons of those two classes

  • There were no legal marriages between Roman slaves

  • Romans were not allowed to marry non Romans citizens, foreigners

  • There were no legal marriages between Roman slaves

  • A man could only have one lawful wife at a time

  • The power of the father over the children of the marriage was absolute - he had the power of life and death over the children

  • Marriage was established by consent, and continued by dissent; for the dissent of either party, when formally expressed, could dissolve the relation

  • When a marriage was dissolved, the parties to it might marry again; but it was considered it more decent for a woman not to marry again.

Women and Roman Marriage
The position of Roman women after marriage was very different from that of a Greek woman. Roman women presided over the whole household; she educated her children, watched over and preserved the honour of the house, and as the materfamilias she shared the honours and respect shown to her husband. Far from being confined like the Greek women to a distinct apartment, the Roman matron, at least during the later centuries of the republic, occupied the most important part of the house, the atrium.

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