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betrothal, Roman sponsalia  

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.


marriage ceremonies, 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!”).


marriage law, Roman  

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.



Sharon James

Only the rape of citizens was taken seriously by law. Sexual assaults on non-citizens were lesser matters. Rape of enslaved persons, a daily reality, was a crime only if committed by someone other than their owner. Rape of citizen males damaged their reputations; rape of citizen females could render them ineligible for marriage. Ancient myth features almost countless stories of rape, usually of human females by divine males. These tales were common subjects in ancient art and literature. Overwhelmingly, the victims are unmarried girls, who may suffer brutal treatment afterward and frequently bear miraculous offspring, some of whom establish cities (e.g., Romulus and Remus). Rape by human men is rarer in myth; rape of a wife causes massive militarized response (e.g., Helen of Troy, Lucretia). War-rape and post-war rape were standard practice around the Mediterranean.

Rape in antiquity was a matter of social and civic class. As a crime, it was understood as happening only to citizens: sexual assault of non-citizens was not a concern of law. The law took rape of citizens very seriously. Rape of citizen girls and women was a violation against the men who were responsible for them—father, husband, brother, guardian—but female victims would have experienced it as a personal violation first, rather than damage to their guardian’s ownership of their sexuality.