The Ancient Library

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On this page: Marriage (continued)



guests before the doors of the chamber. The next two days were taken up with the send­ing of wedding presents, and it was only after these days had passed that the young bride appeared unveiled. It was now the duty of the husband to enroll his wife in his phrcitria, and have his marriage regis­tered ; a sacrifice and a banquet forming part of the ceremonies. If these formalities were neglected, doubts might be subse­quently raised as to the validity of the marriage. A representation of the cere­monies preliminary to a Greek marriage may be seen in the painting called the Aldobraiidini Wedding. (See cut under painting, fig. 4.) The usages were similar in the other Greek cities. The Spartans had some peculiarities, one of which was that the bridegroom had to get possession of his bride by an act of violence, carrying her off from among her companions, who had to offer a more or less serious resis­tance. He then brought her to the house of a female relation, who took her to the bridal chamber, cut off her hair and clothed her in male attire, and then introduced the bridegroom. Greek custom allowed of marriage between half brothers and half sisters, when not descended from the same mother. Girls generally married early, sometimes when not older than fourteen.

The women lived in a separate part of the house, situated in the upper story or at the back. To this the unmarried daughters were confined, and no men, except the nearest relatives, were allowed to enter it. The life of a Greek woman was entirely taken up with household management, for which she was responsible to the fullest extent. Her appearance in public was regulated by certain limitations of general custom and of law, which in many places were strictly enforced by a special author- ! ity. It was only at family festivals and the great religious celebrations that they mixed freely in men's society; at the ordinary meals of the men they were never allowed to be present. Their position was in most states a subordinate one. The general opinion was that women were, not only physically, but intellectually and morally, inferior to men, that they required guidance and superintendence, and were only to a slight extent in sympathy with higher interests. They were all their life precluded from the legal acquisition of property. Sparta was an exception. Here the training of the women was assimilated to that of the men. The Spartan woman

was accustomed from her youth up to account herself a citizen, to take a lively interest in all public affairs, and even in matters which elsewhere were deemed to be quite outside the sphere of women's judgment. Thus women in Sparta acquired a considerable influence, and much impor­tance was attached to their approval or disapproval. But even in Sparta the life of married women was mostly confined to their own houses, nor were they so free as the unmarried girls to mingle in men's society. The married women, unlike the unmarried girls, could not appear in public unveiled. — In Sparta dowries were for­bidden by law, but in Athens they were an important element in society, The hus­band had only the usufruct of the dowry, it did not become his property. Every­thing else that the wife brought into the house was regarded as her personal pro­perty, though she had by no means the free disposal of it. If the husband died first, the wife, if she had no children, would return with her dowry to her rela­tions on the father's side: if there were children, she was free to remain with them in her husband's house. The property of father and mother came to the sons as soon as they were of age, up to which time it was administered for them by guardians-Divorce might take place at the mere-pleasure of the husband, but he had to repay the dowry, unless the wife had given any legal ground for his action, as, e.g., by the commission of adultery. The wife could not separate from her husband against his wish without a judicial decision. To obtain this she had to hand in to the archon a written statement of the grounds on which she sought a divorce. If the-wife was guilty of adultery, the husband was bound to divorce her; if he failed, his-reputation suffered as much as that of the adulteress herself. The injured husband1 was legally allowed to kill the adulteress on the spot. Not to marry was in Sparta accounted a violation of civil duty- and punished by a sort of Mimla. An old bachelor was not admitted to the public festivals, such as the Gymn5p(edia. He had, at the command of the ephors, to walk round the market in a single shirt, singing against himself the while a mocking ditty in which he owned the justice of his punishment for disobedience to the laws. Nor had he any claim to being greeted with the marks of deference with which the old were generally received by the young.

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