The Ancient Library

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On this page: Marriage (continued)



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(II) Roman. Among the Romans a law­ful marriage could only be contracted by ersons who were politically entitled to o so. The right of contracting a lawful marriage was at first confined to the patri-cians, until in 445 B.C. the law of the tribune Canuleins opened it to all Roman citizens. The Latins received it on being admitted to the Roman citizenship ; in later times it was extended in like manner to all the Italians, and finally Caracalla conferred it on all the inhabitants of the Roman empire. If only one party to the marriage were a Roman citizen, the marriage was invalid : the children took the position of the mother, unless she were a citizen. Marriages within the sixth degree of re- ; latiouship were originally forbidden. In later times they were allowed as far as the fourth degree, and after 49 a.d. within certain limitations as far as the third. It was originally the parent's business to I arrange the marriage of the children, but I the consent both of son and daughter was I absolutely necessary. There were two methods of concluding a marriage. The woman might come into the power (mdnus) of her husband : in this case she passed into his family, the property she brought with her became his, and she acquired the right of inheritance in his family. Or she might remain in the manus of her own father and in possession of her own rights of property. A marriage of the first kind might be contracted in three ways :

(1) By confarreatw. This ceremony was so called from the offering of a cake of spelt, made to Jupiter in the presence of the pontifex and flamen Dialis, with ten witnesses. This was the ancient patrician form of marriage. Towards the end of the republican age it became obsolete except in case of the most sacred priesthoods of the State. (2) By usus. If the woman lived for a year in her husband's house without absenting herself from him for three nights. (3) By coemptio, or a sym­bolic sale. (See coemptio.) In this case the father delivered his daughter to her husband as a piece of property, she at the same time declaring her consent. The con­clusion of the marriage was preceded by the betrothal. In this ceremony the bride­groom gave the bride earnest-money, as in other cases of contract, or a ring in its stead.

The wedding-day was always carefully chosen, certain seasons of the year being deemed inappropriate on religious grounds.

These unlucky periods were the whole of May, the first half of March and of June, all the dies rfliglBsi and the calends, nones, and ides. The bridal garment consisted in a white tunica, a robe woven in ancient fashion from top to bottom, and fastened by a woollen girdle with a peculiar knot. The bride's hair was arranged in six locks (crlnffs), and in it she wore a garland of flowers of her own gathering: her head was covered with a red veil. A victim was sacrificed, the auspices taken, and the marriage contract completed. A married lady then led the bride and bridegroom together: they took each other's hands, a prayer was addressed to the gods of marriage, and a sacrifice offered by the newly married pair, generally on one of the public altars. A feast was held in the bride's house, and at nightfall the bride was carried off with a show of violence from the arms of her mother and conducted to her new house in festal procession, pre­ceded by a flute-player and torch-bearer, to the singing of Fescennine verses and the wedding cry talasse. (See fescennini, and cp. talassio.) Two boys, whose fathers and mothers were still living, walked at her side; a third lighted her way with a torch of white-thorn, which was accounted a charm against magic; a spindle and thread were carried after her. The bridegroom threw walnuts to the boys in the street as a token that he was bid­ding adieu to the amusements of childhood. Arrived at the house, the bride anointed the doorposts with oil and fat, and decked them with woollen fillets. She was then lifted over the threshold into the atrium, her future abode, where stood the marriage bed. Here her husband welcomed her into the partnership of fire and water, that is to say, of domestic life and worship. Here also she offered a prayer to the gods for a happy marriage. A feast was given on the next day by her husband, called repdtia. At this, in her new position as a married lady, she welcomed her relations, who brought her their presents, and offered her first sacrifice to the Penates,

The position of a married woman among the Romans was much better than it usually was among the Greeks. She was indeed subordinate to her husband, but shared the management of the house with him. She was free in her house, not confined to a special part of it. She had no menial offices to perform, not even cooking, and her time was devoted to the management

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