The Ancient Library

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The choice of a wife among the ancients was but rarely grounded upon affection, and scarcely ever could have been the result of previous acquaintance or familiarity. In many cases a father chose for his son a bride whom the latter had never seen, or compelled him to marry for the sake of checking his extravagances. Terence (Andria, i. 5) thus illustrates the practice : —

" Pater praeteriens modo

Mihi apud forum, uxor tibi ducenda est, Pamphile, hodie inquit: para."

Tn Plautus (Tritium, v. 2. 59) a son promises his father that he will marry in these words : —

" Ego ducam, pater: etiam si quam aliam jubebis."

Representations of this sort may indeed be con­sidered as exaggerations, but there must have been scenes in real life to which they in some measure correspond. Nor was the consent of a female to a match proposed for her generally thought neces­sary : she was obliged to submit to the wishes of her parents, and receive from them, it might be a stranger for her husband and lord. Sophocles thus describes the lot of women in this respect: — " When we are grown up (he makes a female say) we are driven away from our parents and paternal gods,1'

Kai raCr', eireifiav evtypovfy Xpt&v eirawz'ijSy Kal 5o/ce«/

frag. Tereus.

So also in Euripides (Androm. 951) Hermicne de­clares that it is her father's business to provide a husband for her. The result of marriages con­tracted in this manner would naturally be a want of confidence and mutual understanding between


husband and wife, until they became better ac­quainted with, and accustomed to, each other. Xenophon (Oecon.l. § 10.) illustrates this with much naivete, in the person of Ischomachus, who says of his newly married wife : — " When at last she was manageable (xeiporj^s), and getting tame so that I could talk with her, I asked her," &c., &c. By the Athenian laws a citizen was not allowed to marry with a foreign woman, nor conversely, under very severe penalties (Demosth. c.Neaer. p. 1350); but pramixity by blood (ayx/o^reta), or consan­guinity (mryyeVeicc), was not, with some few ex­ceptions, a bar to marriage in any part of Greece ; direct lineal descent was. (Isaeus, de Oiron. her. p. 72.) Thus brothers were permitted to marry with sisters even, if not d/JLop.^rpioi^ or born from the same mother, as Cimon did with Elpinice, though a connection of this sort appears to have been looked on with abhorrence. (Becker, Chctri-Ides, vol. ii. p. 448.) In the earlier periods of society, indeed, we can easily conceive that a spirit of caste or family pride, and other causes such as the difficulties in the way of social intercourse would tend to make marriages frequent amongst near relations and connections. (Compare Numbers^ c. xxxvi.) At Athens, however, in the case of a father dying intestate, and without male children, his heiress had no choice in marriage ; she was compelled by law to marry her nearest kinsman not in the ascending line ; and if the heiress were poor (3-fjcrcra) the nearest unmarried kinsman either married her or portioned her suitably to her rank. When there were several coheiresses, they were respectively married to their kinsmen, the nearest having the first choice. [EpiCLERUS.j The


heiress in fact, together with her inheritance, seems to have belonged to the kinsmen of the family, so that in early times a father could not give his daughter (if an heiress) in marriage with­out their consent. (Muller, Dorians, ii. 10. § 4.) But this was not the case according to the later Athenian law (Demosth. c. Steph. p. 1134), by which a father was empowered to dispose of his daughter by will or otherwise ; just as widows also were disposed of in marriage, by thtj will cf their husbands, who were considered their right­ful guardians (Kvpioi). (Demosth. c. Apkob. p. 814.)

The same practice of marrying in the family (otKos), especially in the case of heiresses, prevailed at Sparta ; thus Leonidas married the heiress of Cleomenes, as being her o/yxio-Teus^ or next of kin, and Anaxandrides his own sister's daughter. Moreover, if a father had not determined himself concerning his daughter, it was decided by the king's court, who among the privileged persons or members of the same family should marry the heiress. (Herod, vi. 57 ; Muller, /. c.) A striking resem­blance- to the Athenian law respecting heiresses is also found in the Jewish code, as detailed in Numbers (c. xxvii. 1 — 11), and exemplified in Ruth (c. iv.).

But match-making among the ancients was not, in default of any legal regulations, entirely left to the care and forethought of parents, for we read of women who made a profession of it, and who were therefore called Trpo/nvrjcrTpiai or Trpo/j.iff](rrpid<Es. (Pollux, iii. 31.) The profession, however, docs not seem to have been thought very honourable nor to have been held in repute, as being too nearly connected with, or likely to be prostituted to, Trpocrywyem. (Plato, Tlieaet. 2. p. 150.)

Particular days and seasons of the year were thought auspicious and favourable for marriage amongst the Greeks. Aristotle (Polil.'vu. 15) speaks of the winter generally as being so consi­dered, and at Athens the month TayU^Aiajj', partly corresponding to our January, received its name from marriages being frequently celebrated in it. Hesiod (Oper. 800) recommends marrying on the fourth day of the month,

'Ez> 5e rerdpry }M]vbs fcyeaOcu €s oTicov clkqitiv,

but whether he means the fourth from the begin­ning or end of the month is doubtful. Euripides (Ipltig. in Aid. 707) speaks as if the time of the full moon were thought favourable,


in which he is confirmed by the expression /u,r)vi8es ecnrepai^ or the full-moon nights in Pin­dar. (Istli. vii. 45.) That this prepossession, how­ever, was not general and permanent appears from Proclus (ad Hesiod. Oper. 782), who informs us that the Athenians selected for marriages the times of new moon (tocs -npbs gvvo§ov T^uepccs), i. e. when the sun and moon were in conjunction.

There was also some difference of opinion, on which it is not worth while to dilate, about the proper age for marrying ; but generally speaking men were expected to marry between 30 and 35, and women about 20 or rather before. (Plato, Let/. vi. p. 785.)

We proceed now to explain the usual prelimi­naries and accompaniments of marriage in various parts of Greece. The most important preliminary

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