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Gordon Willis Williams and Antony Spawforth

In the republic consisted of reciprocal sponsiones, and breach-of-promise actions (in the form of actions for damages) existed. The movement of classical Roman law was in the direction of removing constraint, and the term sponsalia came near to an informal agreement to marry, voidable at will (except that the intending husband was required to return such dowry as had been given to him and the intending bride was expected to return the much more usual gift from her intending husband, the donatio ante nuptias, for gifts after marriage were excluded). The betrothal was solemnized with a kiss and the intending husband put an iron *ring (anulus pronubus) on the third finger of his partner's left hand; it was the occasion for a party (also called sponsalia).

See also marriage law, Greek and Roman.


Gordon Willis Williams

The favourite season was June. Usually on the previous day the bride put away her toga praetexta: she had come of age. Her dress and appearance were ritually prescribed: her hair was arranged in six locks (sex crines), with woollen fillets (vittae), her dress was a straight white woven tunic (tunica recta) fastened at the waist with a “knot of Hercules,” her veil was a great flame-coloured headscarf (flammeum). and her shoes were of the same colour. Friends and clients of both families gathered in the bride's father's house. the bridegroom arrived, words of consent were spoken, and the matron of honour (pronuba) performed the ceremony of linking bride's and bridegroom's right hands (dextrarum iunctio). This was followed by a *sacrifice (generally of a pig), and (in imperial times) the marriage contract (involving dowry) was signed. Then the guests raised the cry of Feliciter! (“Good luck!”).


Adolf Berger, Barry Nicholas, and Susan M. Treggiari

Traditional expressions enshrine the view that a man took a wife for the procreation of children. According to the celebrated definition of *Herennius Modestinus adopted in the Digest, Roman marriage was ‘a joining together of a man and a woman, and a partnership (for life) in all areas of life, a sharing in divine and human law’ (Dig. 23. 2. 1), an ideal rather than a legal definition. No formalities were legally necessary for the inception of a marriage: the usual ceremonies had social and sometimes religious significance. All that was legally necessary was for a man and woman to live together with the intention of forming a lasting union (affectio maritalis, the reciprocal attitude of regarding each other as husband or wife). The initial consent was also given by both partners; if one or both was in paternal power (*patria potestas) that of the respective fathers was needed. The social consequences of marriage (honor matrimonii) followed.