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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CCHAPTER TWELVE
CULTURAL CONTEXT

Introduction

Many more authors have published studies establishing the existence of the soldiers’ marriage ban than analyses of its motives. Richard Alston says, “It is difficult to think of any justification for the ban sufficient to compensate for the problems caused.”1 The reasons for the ban are usually assumed to have been rational and pragmatic, a “mixture of military expediency and legal argument.”2 Traditional studies of the marriage policy suggest that the ban reduced costs and promoted military efficiency. I argue that these alleged motives contain hidden gendered biases.

This chapter will first examine the Augustan policy from a political standpoint, and then examine the cultural assumptions behind it. In the course of this chapter I will “unpack” the cultural baggage in the literary passages that moralize upon soldiers’ marriages: Caesar, Bell. Civ. 3.110; Horace, Odes 3.5.5–12 and Epodes 9.11–16; Herodian 3.8.5, and Libanius Or. 2.39–40. The passages of Herodian and Libanius have usually been read factually as evidence of policy (as in Chapter One), without consideration of the cultural context: the literary sources on military discipline and on women’s presence in militia. These literary sources suggest that the motives for the marriage policy were “gendered”—shaped by an ideological and cultural discourse constructing the soldier’s role.3 Roman gender roles separated masculine from feminine spheres; the military sphere was entirely masculine. As Enloe remarks, concerning soldiers’ marriages in modern armies:

1 Alston (1995), 59.

2 Parker (1928), 245.

3 This is the case for military marriage restrictions in the modern period. For
the Victorian British army, Trustram (1984). For colonial Asia, in particular Indonesia,
Ming (1983), 65–93; Stoler (1997), pp. 13–36. The volume of the overtly “discursive”
sources on military or colonial service marriage is much greater in the modern
period, so parallels with antiquity are difficult; however, an attempt should be made.

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