This chapter will briefly examine the Greek and Roman literary authors (historians, poets, rhetoricians, and Christian apologists) who attest the marriage ban. No surviving literary author discusses the marriage policy of the Roman army in any detail. This is not surprising: the policy seems to have pertained only to common soldiers and to have been an administrative directive. Elite literary authors were not concerned with the family life of common soldiers; such authors are more likely to focus on details of administration that concerned the upper orders and the city of Rome. Ancient military history, furthermore, focused on the conduct of the generals and on the course of campaigns; non-combatants were mentioned only incidentally.
Some literary passages attest only the existence of soldiers’ illegitimate unions. Tacitus says that the veterans settled at Tarentum and Antium around 59/60 A.D. were “unaccustomed to marrying and bringing up children,” veterani… neque coniugiis suscipiendis neque alendis liberis sueti (Tac. Ann. 14.27). This does not indicate that they were unable to marry, only that they were accustomed not to; suscipere coniuges does not necessitate a legal union, as coniux is often used by slave partners in epitaphs even though slaves could not marry. Elsewhere, the soldiers in Syria mingled with the civilian population: provinciales sueto militum contubernio gaudebant, plerique necessitudinibus et propinquitatibus mixti, et militibus vetustate stipendiorum nota et familiaria castra in modum penatium diligebantur (Tac. Hist. 2.80). “The provincials took particular pleasure in the accustomed companionship of the soldiers, and many were connected to them as family members and friends, and because of the length of their service the soldiers loved their well-known and familiar camps like homes.”1 This passage would seem to refer to the social relationships of the soldiers and does not inform us whether they were legally able to marry.
The marriage ban is usually attributed to Augustus.2 There is no
1 Pollard (1992), 2–3; the Syrian troops’ family formation, 180–190.
2 G. Watson (1969), 134; Jung, “Eherecht” (1982), 335; Campbell (1978), 153–54;
Campbell (1984), 301; Wells (1998), 180–190.