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Different Types of Ancient Roman Marriages

The type of marriage that a woman entered during ancient Roman times played an important role in the aspects of her life. In this article, you will learn the connections between marriage and property control as it pertains to the bride.

Ancient Romans often referred to marriages “in manum,” which meant that the bride belonged to the groom’s family. All of her property was included in the union. However, if a marriage was not “in manum,” the bride was still under the control of the head of her former household , whether it was her father, brother or uncle.

Because of this, laws pertaining to dowries were created. A marriage “in manum” made a wife the equivalent of a daughter within the household of her husband. Women were required to be faithful to her husband as long as she lived under the same roof as he. If not, she faced divorce.
In ancient Rome, there were three main kinds of marriages, which included:

Confarreatio

This kind of marriage called for an elaborate religious ceremony. Ten witnesses were present during the ceremony. Also in attendance of the wedding was the high priest of Jupiter (called the flamen dialis) and those who held the highest Roman priestly office, such as an emperor (called pontifex maximus). Only children who had parents that married in this manner were eligible to undergo this type of marriage. To celebrate the occasion, grain was baked into a special wedding cake (called farreum). The presence of high-level religious leaders and the cake are some of the elements that set this type of marriage apart from the others.

Coemptio

This type of marriage meant that the wife carried with her a dowry into the marriage. During a ceremony, the husband “bought” the dowry in front of at least five witnesses. After the marriage, the woman and her belongings became the possession of her husband.

Usus

This type of marriage took place after a couple lived with one another for a year. The woman then became joined under the family circle of her husband. If the woman stayed away from the house for three nights, then this union was not valid. Since the woman was not living with her family and she wasn’t legally under the name of her husband, she enjoyed a bit of freedom.

Other Kinds of Marriage

Another method of marriage was called sine manu, which was not “in manum.” This practice started in the 3rd century BC and soon became the most favored way to marry by the 1st century AD. Other marital arrangements of ancient Roman times included contuberium (for the union between slaves) and concubinatus (when freedmen and slaves married).