Magazine article The Spectator

Roman Weddings

Magazine article The Spectator

Roman Weddings

Article excerpt

The public razzmatazz around the royal wedding is not the sort of thing Romans went in for on such occasions, but their approval for marriage was unconditional.

It was military triumphs and generals returning loaded with gold and silver that triggered great public celebrations.

Marriage in the Roman world was, for the most part, a private affair. A legal digest defined it as 'a joining together of a man and a woman, and a partnership for life in all areas, a sharing in human and divine law'. So whatever family interests may have been in play - and Roman aristocratic marriage often looks like a business deal - marriage ultimately depended on the personal will of the couple involved, affectio maritalis keeping them together. Naturally, marriages broke down, but the ideal was there.

Further, the family home was a holy place, generating strong emotional feelings. The god Limentinus protected the threshold, Forculus the doors and Cardea the hinges. The worship of the family gods was of prime importance, centred round each household's Lares (guardians), Penates (penus, 'provisions'), and Genius loci (the male spirit of the family's tribe, gens, personified in the head of the family). …

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