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date: 28 November 2022

betrothal, Greeklocked

betrothal, Greeklocked

  • Gordon Willis Williams
  •  and Mark Golden


Greek betrothal, ἐγγύη, was a contract between two men, the groom and the bride's father (or other κύριος, ‘controller’, male representative at law) which established that a union was a fully valid marriage. In Classical Athens, this contract was oral, more or less formulaic (judging from examples in *Menander (1)), aimed at assuring the legitimacy of children, and accompanied by an agreement concerning dowry; the bride herself need not be present, or even of an age to understand the proceedings, and the celebration of the marriage and cohabitation might be long delayed or in the end not take place (*Demosthenes (2)'s sister was betrothed at 5 to a man she never married). Marriages at Sparta too might involve betrothal; sources speak as well of another custom, abduction marriage (conceivably with the complicity of the bride and her family). Scattered references to betrothal in Hellenistic documents from a number of cities go some way towards confirming the suggestion that most Greeks practised ἐγγύη (Diod.


  • Gender Studies
  • Greek Law

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