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From Hutton Webster's, Early European History (1917); edited for this on-line publication, by ELLOPOS
IX. CLASSICAL CIVILIZATION
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MARRIAGE AND THE POSITION OF WOMEN
A young man in Athens or in Rome did not, as a rule, marry immediately on coming of age. He might remain a bachelor for several years, sometimes till he was thirty or over. The young man's father had most to do with the selection of a wife. He tried to secure for his son some daughter of a friend who possessed rank and property equal to his own. The parents of the two parties would then enter into a contract which, among other things, usually stated how large a dowry the bride's father was to settle on his daughter. An engagement was usually very little a matter of romance and very much a matter of business.
The wedding customs of the Greeks and Romans presented many likenesses. Marriage, among both peoples, was a religious ceremony. On the appointed day the principals and their guests, dressed in holiday attire, met at the house of the bride. In the case of a Roman wedding the auspices were then taken, and the words of the nuptial contract were pronounced in the presence of witnesses. After a solemn sacrifice to the gods of marriage, the guests partook of the wedding banquet. When night came on, the husband brought his wife to her new abode, escorted by a procession of torchbearers, musicians, and friends, who sang the happy wedding song.
POSITION OF WOMEN
An Athenian wife, during her younger years, always remained more or less a prisoner. She could not go out except by permission. She took no part in the banquets and entertainments which her husband gave. She lived a life of confinement in that quarter of the house assigned to the women for their special abode. Married women at Rome enjoyed a far more honorable position. Although early custom placed the wife, together with her children, in the power of the husband, still she possessed many privileges. She did not remain all the time at home, but mingled freely in society. She was the friend and confidante of her husband, as well as his housekeeper. During the great days of Roman history the women showed themselves virtuous and dignified, loving wives and excellent companions.
Cf. The Ancient Greece * The Ancient Rome
Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantium) * Western Medieval Europe * Renaissance in Italy