What was marriage and family life like in the Roman Empire Essay Example
Women were often seen as the weaker sex and thus often seen as having only two purposes in life, these are child bearing; focusing on male heirs and keeping the house suitable for their husbands to come home to. But what was life really like for all women in Roman Society. The Romans did not name their daughters at all. Their daughter was automatically given the feminine form of her father's name. In view of the later development of the patronymic into surnames it appears that Roman girls had no individual names at all.
This was just the reflection of history of Roman legislation affecting women, especially guardianship, marriage and inheritance. The attitude towards the female sex created the underlying principles of Roman legal theory that all women were to be under the custody of males. Women were expected to acc...
ept the authority and protection of their husbands and fathers. Even in early Rome women were expected to look after their families in the greatest way possible.. In childhood, a daughter fell under the sway of the eldest male ascendant in her family, usually the father, the pater familias.
Her father extended to the determination of life and death for all members of the household. A daughter was under her father's authority for his lifetime unless she married or became a Vestal Virgin. Vestal Virgins were women who were chosen in early childhood and sacrificed their fertile years by serving for 30 years in the maintenance of the shrine of the goddess, Vesta. The quality of chastity in service of Rome's religious observances was a quality that encouraged the deepest worship towards these women.
After a period o
thirty years of service, the women were freed from their vows and permitted to marry if they desired, few of these did so. Vestals were under the exclusive authority of Rome's high priest and were immune from male interference. As a result these women enjoyed greater wealth and much influence. During the first century A. D. family life changed. Women had more rights. Women could own land, run businesses, free slaves, make wills, be heirs, and get jobs. There were many differing forms of marriage in Rome, from the arranged marriages of the elite to the unions of slaves and soldiers.
The Romans' actual expectations of married life and the gains they thought they would receive from the experience depended greatly on their age, sex and social status. The groom had to be at least 14 years old, and the bride had to be at least 12 years old, they could not be related. In general, marriage was forbidden between relatives four times removed, and between anyone connected by marriage. The first and most traditional type of marriage was called confarreatio. This was a marriage limited to patricians whose parents were also married with confarreatio.
The wedding was an elaborate ceremony with the Flamen Dialis (one of the highest forms of priesthood) and Pontifex Maximus (the most important official in Rome) presiding, as well as ten witnesses present. Divorce for confarreatio marriages, diffarreatio, was a difficult process and therefore rare. There was a special type of sacrifice that caused the closure of the relationship between the man and woman. She would then pass back into the hands of her father, and family. The second and more common
type of marriage was called coemptio.
It represented a "bride purchase," as the groom paid a penny, and received the bride in exchange. While this purchase was not a real sale, it symbolized the traditional bride purchases of earlier societies. Only five witnesses were required and the wedding ceremony was much less formal than confarreatio, but the bride still passed into her husband's hands A third type of marriage is a bit more unusual and was obsolete by the end of the Republic. Usus was a practical marriage that did not require an actual wedding ceremony; it was a transfer to the hands of the husband by default after cohabitation.
The only requirement for an usus marriage was that the man and woman live together for one full year. The woman would then pass into her husband's hands. There was one exception, however. If, within that year, the woman was away for three consecutive nights, she would not pass into the hands of her husband. There were also marital unions that did not require the women to pass into her husband's hands. One, for instance, was free marriage. The wife would keep her independence as "filiafamilias to her paterfamilias".
If her father was dead, and had so specified in his will, she would be responsible for herself. She could then manage her own property and even initiate a divorce. Prostitution was an alternative to marriage, though not for honourable women. Prostitutes were called scortae, meretrices, or lupae, but did not have the same status in Roman society as hetarai did in Greek society. Like their Greek counterparts, they were usually foreigners and were easy to identify with their
make-up and flamboyant attire that contrasted sharply with the austere look of a married woman.
They registered with the aediles and later were required to pay taxes. As is the case today, prostitutes could work independently or for a brothel owner, the leno or lena. No specific civil ceremony was required for the creation of a marriage; only mutual agreement and the fact that the couple must regard each other as husband and wife accordingly. Although not a legal necessity, some weddings, usually the first marriage of elite couples was accompanied by much festivities and song. Consent was very important and consisted of three steps.
First, consent had to be shown in public prior to the wedding ceremony. One way to show consent was for the future bride and groom to appear in public holding hands. Consent was shown again during the wedding ceremony, and once again at the door of her new home, before she entered. The betrothal was a formal ceremony between the two families where gifts were exchanged, the dowry was agreed upon, an agreement was signed, and the deal sealed with a kiss. The actual wedding date was chosen carefully.
Although June was the month in which most people chose to marry, weddings did take place throughout the year. An engagement period before the wedding was considered good manners, but it wasn't a legal requirement. An engagement ring was usual, when affordable. This ring was worn on the third finger of the left hand, as it is today, because the ancient Romans believed that a nerve ran from this finger directly to the heart. On the wedding day, the groom would lead a procession
to his bride's family home. Bridesmaids would escort the bride to meet her groom.
She would be wearing a tunica recta; a white woven tunic, belted with an elaborate "Knot of Hercules," elaborately arranged hair, an orange wedding veil, and orange shoes. In upper-class weddings, the bride wore a flame-coloured veil over her bridal tunic. Some other wedding ceremonial tunics had pearls embroidered throughout the gown that is very similar to the gowns worn today. The veil that was used was topped with a wreath of flowers that the bride had to gather herself before the ceremony took place. There had to be witnesses to the ceremony to make it legal, typically at least ten witnesses.
The bride and groom would stand before a priest, holding hands. The bride had agreed to the wedding by appearing in public holding hands with her future husband. Once again, the bride had to consent to the marriage during the wedding ceremony, this time by saying words of consent in public. "These words were a chant, and were the same words for all brides and grooms. The bride would say: "Quando tu Gaius, ego Gaia. " (When-and where-you are Gaius, I then-and there-am Gaia. ) This chant may have been chosen for the lucky meaning of the name.
After the words of consent, the bride and groom sat on stools, facing an altar. An offering was made to the god Jupiter, which usually consisted of cake. Once the priest had made the offering, the bride and groom then ate this cake. Then followed congratulations by the guests. Following the signing of the marriage contract, there was a great marriage feast. The day
ended with a noisy procession to the couple's new home, where the bride was carried over threshold so she wouldn't trip, if she did it was considered bad omen.
The young bride would have been in her early teens, as is the girl described in Catullus' poem with the words, "Young boy, release the little girl's small smooth arm". After marriage she will be transformed from a "little girl" into a respected wife. Elsewhere Catullus assures his readers that young daughters are unloved by their parents until they are married. "If, when she is ripe for marriage, she enters into wedlock, she is ever dearer to her husband and less hateful to her parents... " (Catullus, Poems 62. 57-65) For the first 500 years in Rome, divorce was unknown.
So, a great deal of care was taken selecting a marriage partner. Towards the latter part of the republic, and under the empire, divorces became very common; and in the case of marriages, where we assume that there was no "conventio in manum", there was no particular form required. "Cn. Pompeius divorced his wife Mucia for alleged adultery, and his conduct was approved and Cicero speaks of Paula Valeria as being ready to serve her husband, on his return from his province, with notice of divorce. Cicero himself divorced his wife Marcia, that his friend Hortensius might marry her and have children by her".
If a husband divorced his wife, the wife's dos; every thing which when they were married was transferred by her, or by another person, to the husband, or to the husband's father. It would have then been restored and the same was the case when
the divorce took place by mutual consent. As divorce became more common, attempts were made to check it indirectly, by affixing financial penalties or financial loss on the party whose behaviour made the divorce necessary. The husband, when in fault, was punished by being required to return the dos earlier than it was first said. After the divorce, either party might marry again.
As soon as a child was born, it was laid at its father's feet. If he raised the child in his arms, he was acknowledging as his own and admitting it to all rights and privileges of membership in a Roman family. If he did not take it, the child was an outcast, without family or protection. If a child was to be disposed of; taken from the house by a slave and left by the roadside. This did not often occur. During the first eight days of a baby's life there were various religious ceremonies. The day of naming was called dies lustricus (day of purification) on this day the family rejoiced and celebrated.
If a boy's father was a farmer, he learned to plough, plant and reap. If the father was a man of high position in Rome, his son stood beside him in the atrium when callers were received, to gain some practical knowledge of politics and affairs of state. The father trained the son in the use of weapons in military exercises, as well as in riding, swimming, wrestling, and boxing. Some boys were sent to school or taught by their fathers. The goal of education in ancient Rome was to be an effective public speaker. , and to learn
to argue well. The school day began before sunrise, like most of the work in Rome.
The Students brought candles to use until the sun came up, as it would still be dark. There was a rest for lunch and the afternoon siesta, and then went back to school until late afternoon. The length of the school year varied from school to school. However, all schools began again each year on the 24th of March. About 200 BC, the Romans borrowed some of the ancient Greek system of education. Although they did not add many more subjects, they did begin sending their boys, and some of their girls, with their father's permission, to school, outside their home, at age 6 or 7.
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