Marriage in Ancient Rome Genesis Santos, Miguel Collado, Stanley Ventsel, Carlos Rueda Historical Perspectives on Justice and Inequality: Gender in Pre- Modern World History, FYS 106.20, Professor Mathew Perry
Introduction We live in a time where, in marriage, there is equality between both men and women, all of which could not have happened without the role of marriage in Ancient Rome. We will go into depth about how women shared equal rights in marriage, the foundation of marriage in Ancient Rome, and the values and beliefs tied to this tradition. But mainly, we will understand the principle behind the impact of marriage in Ancient Rome and how this principle affected society today.
Marriage was seen as a way to have a clearly defined social status. The foundation of Roman marriage deals with two important factors: one is common life, and the other is marital love and the desire to create a family. There are two types of marriage: marriage with power of husband and marriage without power of husband. The family of the bride would coordinate the marriage, but in many cases, females had no choice in the man they had to marry. Patriarchal Romans recognized the difficulty of making a marriage work if the woman hated the choice of man her family made for her. Thus, Roman law then stated “It is not sex but consent and marital affection (maritalis affectio) that makes a marriage.”
Impact on Gender in Society
Marriage in Ancient Rome, and the way in which Romans interacted according to society, was very different from other pre-modern societies. Unlike other societies, wives in Ancient Rome were able to own property, as long as it was protected by their husbands. It was very important for people to be married in Ancient Rome, especially for men. Men were also not fully seen as men unless they married and created a family with their wives. This term was called having dignitas. Although marriage was seen as a sacred union of two people, one to be respected, men were still allowed to have other sexual partners known as concubines.
Ceremonies varied from expensive religious rituals with the state gods and goddesses to rituals at home including family feasts during which couples joined hands and gave their consent before the witnesses. Later on, a priest was deemed necessary in order to validate the marriage. The priest’s blessing the marriage was seen to represent civil authority, as well as church authority since the church and state were one. In Ancient Rome, there was the betrothal, when a man agreed to marry a woman. This commitment had a legal status under Roman Law, and the giving of a betrothal ring became a very important part of it.
Conclusions Many of the beliefs that were related to marriage in Ancient Rome now serve as the foundation for many of the marriages that occur in modern society today. As time progressed, marriage in Ancient Rome began to take different turns: from men having all of the power to an equal union among both sexes; from sending a simple letter to the groom’s family in order to seal the union to ceremonies blessed by the priest of the Catholic church. In Ancient Rome, marriage was not only seen as bringing two people together; it was seen as a mandatory process in order to belong in society. It related to property and power and, depending on whom one married, one’s social status was determined.
References Jonaitis, M. (2009). Conception of Roman marriage: Historical experience in the context of national family policy concept. Jurisprudencija, 2(116), 295-316. Ogden, J. (n.d.). Terms of engagement: A history of betrothal and wedding rings. Metalsmith, 34(3), 26-43. Warren, P. (2005). Traditional marriage: A secular affair. Gay & Lesbian Review, 12, 10-14.