Ancient Roman Marriage
We know that ancient Romans got married, but were ancient Roman marriages similar to how we view marriage today? Read on to learn more about this fascinating subject.
Ancient Roman marriage was not about love or shared goals at all. In fact, it was more about financial matters and political aspirations than romance. This was especially true for those people who were living at the higher end of the social ladder.
Ancient Roman Marriage for the Upper Classes
It was the duty of a father to find a suitable husband for his daughter or daughters, starting beginning when were between the ages of 12 and 14 years. The husband selected would almost always be older than his bride. This could be a few as a couple of years older or the young lady might be expected to marry someone three times her age.
Normally, in matters of ancient Roman marriage, the bride-to-be was expected to have little or no input into the choice of husband. In addition, according to the ancient Roman marriage traditions, she was expected to have absolutely no objections to the plans being made for her life.
Some young ladies did have a bit of a say in which they would be married off to. Apparently, Cicero’s wife and daughter made the choice of spouse for the daughter, all the while assuming that Cicero would be in agreement. He was.
Ancient Roman Marriage in the Lower Classes
Lower class women were generally married a little later in their lives. By later in their lives, this means that they were married in their late teens or early twenties. In this form of ancient Roman marriage, it was not as urgent a matter, since it was not about political and economic gain.
The Engagement Ceremony
Both family and friends were invited to an engagement ceremony before the wedding. During the ceremony, the father of the bride-to-be was asked whether he promised to give his daughter in marriage. He was expected to respond that he did. The bride-to-be was given some gifts at the ceremony, including a ring, which was to be worn on the middle finger. It was thought at that time that the middle digit contained a certain nerve that ran straight to a person’s heart.
The Wedding Ceremony
The most formal type of wedding ceremony in ancient Rome was celebrated in front of 10 witnesses. The bride was passed from her father’s household to her new husband’s.
A less formal ceremony could also be conducted in front of five witnesses. This was actually the more common form of marriage ceremony at the time. The groom was expected to pay a penny; he received the bride in exchange. Once again, the bride becomes part of her new husband’s household.
Alternatives to Marriage
Some women, known as concubines, had sexual relationships with a married man. They oftentimes would live together. Any children of their union were considered illegitimate, since their own relationship was not legitimate. Some women became concubines of married men because their families were not able to afford to provide a dowry for them. This was considered an embarrassment.
Many slaves lived in this manner. The relationship was not meant to be permanent; it was only supposed to last until the slaves had gained their freedom.
Courtesans also existed at this point in time. These women lived either with their mothers and sisters or in an apartment provided by whatever man they were involved with at the time. Unlike prostitutes, they usually had only one lover at any given time.
As you can see, there were certain traditional rituals surrounding ancient Roman marriage. Like our society today, there were also alternatives to the traditional-marriage lifestyle.