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Marriage In Ancient Rome Posted by on Nov 2, 2009 in Latin Language

Marriage in ancient Rome was anything but a romantic affair. Marriage was a business deal for the families of the bride and groom. There were two types of marriages. Manus Marriage was where the property and inheritance rights of the wife automatically transfered to the husband. Then there were marriages where the wife was allowed to keep her dowry (in the case of a divorce) if she had not committed adultery. A dowry was a contibution from the bride’s family to the husband. Dowries could be anything grand from slaves, land, or trifling as household appliances.

The nuptiae or nuptials were extravagent for the upper classes. Auspicious days were carefully ascertained for when the wedding was to take place. The expenses of the wedding was usually taken care of by the bride’s family. Sometimes the groom and bride would exchange presents with each other. After the ceremony the bride was taken to her new home. When the bride accepted the torch and water offered to her, this symbolized the bride’s consent or the aquae et ignis communicatio. For the lower classes a simple ceremony was all that was needed. Some even skipped the wedding ceremony altogether and just cohabitated (usus) together.

Upper class women were married off quite young. Since virginity was a prerequisite for marriage, families married off their daughters soon after they hit puberty so that there was a smaller chance that the girl would lose her chastity after puberty. In lower class marriages, the women were married off at an older age than the upper class women. Lower class women were in their teens and late twenties when they married. Perhaps since the families of upper class women had more to gain politically and economically from a marriage, their girls were married off at a younger age.

In sum, the purpose of marriage was to bear legitimate citizens of the Roman empire (hence the emphasis on chastity) and exchange property within a conventional manner.

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