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Following the collapse of the Republic , laws pertaining to marriage, parenting, and adultery were part of Augustus ' program to restore the mos maiorum traditional social norms , while consolidating his power as princeps and paterfamilias of the Roman state. Augustan law pertaining to marriage and family life encouraged marriage and having children, and punished adultery as a crime. Members of the upper classes thus had most to lose. Citizens who had already produced three children, and freed persons who had produced four, were exempt. Marriages between senators and freed women, and slaves and citizens, were declared legally void.

Children born to such liaisons were illegitimate, non-citizen and unable to inherit. A confarreatio wedding ceremony was a rare event, reserved for the highest echelons of Rome's elite. The Flamen Dialis and Pontifex Maximus presided, with ten witnesses present, and the bride and bridegroom shared a cake of spelt in Latin far or panis farreus , hence the rite's name. It would have been carefully planned.

Sometimes the bride and groom exchanged gifts before the wedding. The lighting of a sacred torch in honor of Ceres was part of the celebration, in hopes of imparting fertility upon the couple [30] A wedding sacrifice was also offered, with a sow being the most likely victim. It was more customary than compulsory. Ancient papyrus texts show that dowries typically included land and slaves but could also include jewelry , toiletries , mirrors , and clothing. While a marriage lasted, the dowry was the husband's property but his use of it was restricted; if the marriage ended through divorce, it was returned to either the wife or her family.

If a wife was blameless for the ending of her marriage, the dowry was restored to her. If a wife or husband with children initiated a divorce, their partner could claim a share of dowry on behalf of the children, to meet their needs and later inheritance.

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A dowry of dos recepticia was one in which agreements were made in advance about its disposal and recovery. A dowry of dos profecticia was one given by the bride's father or her paterfamilias ; it could be recovered by the donor or by the divorced woman herself.

Thayer's Notes:

A dowry of dos adventicia was more flexible; it might be given by the wife, though it came from her father, and used to settle a debt incurred by the husband. If she divorced, a wife could reclaim this dowry; if she died, the husband kept it. Lawful divorce was relatively informal; the wife simply took back her dowry and left her husband's house. Roman men had always held the right to divorce their wives; a pater familias could order the divorce of any couple under his manus. Divorce was socially acceptable if carried out within social norms mos maiorum. By the time of Cicero and Julius Caesar , divorce was relatively common and "shame-free," the subject of gossip rather than a social disgrace.

The censors of BCE thus expelled him from the Senate for moral turpitude. Elsewhere, however, it is claimed that the first divorce took place only in BCE, at which time Dionysius of Halicarnassus notes [40] that " Spurius Carvilius , a man of distinction, was the first to divorce his wife" on grounds of infertility. The evidence is confused.

Divorce by either party severed the lawful family alliance that had been formed through the marriage; and remarriage might create an entirely new set of economically or politically useful alliances. Among the elite, husbands and wives might remarry several times. A spouse who had entered marriage sane and healthy, but became incapable of sound judgment insane was not competent and could not divorce their partner; they could be divorced without their knowledge or legal notice.

Divorce, like marriage, was considered a family affair. It was discussed and agreed in private, in an informal family gathering of the parties most affected; the husband, wife, and senior members of both families. No public record was kept of the proceedings. Official registration of divorce was not required until CE. The frequency of remarriage among the elite was high. Speedy remarriage was not unusual, and perhaps even customary, for aristocratic Romans after the death of a spouse. Please enter a valid ZIP Code.


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