Inside the Ancient Roman Marriage

When it came to getting married, the ancient Romans approached the practice in many different ways. Some married from the heart, while others looked forward to financial or political gain. In this article, you will learn traditions and practices associated with ancient Roman marriages.

Benefits of Being Married

Being married gave ancient Romans an advantage. For example, men planning to run for a political position could increase their chances of winning with marriage. Creating a political alliance through the marriage of children was a popular method of solidifying one’s status and position regarding power.

Just like the ancient Greeks, the Romans arranged marriages to strengthen future generation lines. Children were an important aspect of getting married. Even the word ‘matrimonium’ uses the root ‘mater’ , which makes a reference to mother. Marriages were also arranged to improve social status and increase personal wealth. In Rome, some couples also married because they were in love with one another.

Early marriages did not involve the state and were kept between the husband, wife, and their families. It wasn’t until Augustus that marriages became an affair of the state.  However, legal requirements for getting married still existed. For starters, people thinking about tying the knot needed to have the right to marry , the connubium. All Roman citizens and some non-citizen Latins had connubium. Until the Lex Canuleia (445 BC), there was no connubium between patricians (aristocratic families) and plebians (a commoner).

Before marriage could take place, both fathers (or heads of the households) of the family needed to give their consent. At the time of marriage, both the bride and the groom were supposed to have reached puberty. During these ancient times, the standard age for a girl was 12 and for boys, they were 14 years old. Because eunuchs (men who have been castrated, usually, before they experienced any hormonal changes) would never reach puberty, they were not allowed to marry.

Announcing an engagement or holding a party to celebrate an engagement was an optional affair. If an engagement was made and someone backed out of the marriage, this was considered a breach of contract and financial consequences would follow as a result. It was the responsibility of the bride’s family to hold an engagement party and formal betrothal between the groom and the bride-to-be. A pre-determined dowry was paid after the marriage. At the wedding, grooms often gave their new brides a gift, such as an iron ring or money.

In Case of Death”¦

The ancient Romans viewed the ownership of property much different than we do today. The concept of communal property did not exist in marriage. The children were also viewed as belonging to the father. If a wife died, the husband was entitled to keep one-fifth of his wife’s dowry for each child that she gave birth to. The remaining funds were returned to her family.