The Marriage of Roman Soldiers (13 BC-AD 235): Law and Family in the Imperial Army

By Sara Elise Phang | Go to book overview
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Before the very end of the nineteenth century, the evidence for the marriage ban was confined to Greek and Roman literary and juristic authors. That some restriction on soldiers’ marriages existed was asserted rhetorically by the Renaissance humanist Justus Lipsius and by subsequent historians, based on passages in the ancient literary authors.1 This literary evidence will be discussed briefly in Chapter One.

The publication of the military diplomas and epitaphs in the Corpus Inscriptionum Latinarum revived interest in the soldiers’ unions. Mommsen in CIL III (ed. 1), 906ff. used both the literary authors and passages of the Digest (such as D. 24.1.64, a marriage dissolved propter militiam) to support the existence of a ban. He was followed by Paul Meyer, Der römische Konkubinat nach den Rechtsquellen und den Inschriften (1895), who argued that soldiers were not permitted legal marriage and that their unions in the epitaphs were concubinages. Nevertheless, it was as possible to argue the other way. In 1884 Mispoulet argued that soldiers were permitted legal marriage, rejecting Dio 60.24.3 as “texte isolé et obscur,” and argued that in Herodian 3.8.5 Severus permitted soldiers to cohabit with women.2 Wilmanns expressed disbelief that soldiers were not permitted marriage, citing the epitaphs of numerous soldiers’ families at Lambaesis, in which the children bear the paternal nomen.3

The existence of the soldiers’ marriage ban gained documentary support with the publication of the Cattaoui papyrus, a collection of excerpts or condensations of records of court proceedings before the prefects of Egypt, attesting that soldiers are not permitted to marry and demonstrating the legal consequences.4 Other papyri and tablets

1 Lipsius (1596), 344ff. Studies between Lipsius and Mommsen (from the seven-
teenth to the mid–nineteenth centuries) are summarized, with bibliography, by
Castello, “Sul matrimonio dei soldati” (1940), 27–29.

2 Mispoulet (1884), 113ff.

3 Wilmanns (1877), 190–212 (mostly archaeology).

4Editio princeps: Botti (1894), 529ff., re-edited in Botti (1902), 108–118. Best:
Grenfell, Hunt and P. Meyer (1906), 55–105; repr. in Mitteis and Wilcken (1912),
2.2. no. 372. Full bibliography and discussion of the editions in Chapter Two.


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The Marriage of Roman Soldiers (13 BC-AD 235): Law and Family in the Imperial Army
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