Marriage in Ancient Rome


LoveandReckoningWe are familiar with the idea of marrying for love. In the world of Romance stories, historically speaking, we find that is rarely the case. We’ve been exposed to arranged marriages, one for elevating one of the families’ status or to settle a vendetta or to join warring sides. Marriage is usually a religious affair, involving banns being read, licenses bought, priests for the ceremony plus so much more. And divorce? Another beast, usually so heavy with legal protocol along with it not working in a historical romance story, it is ignored.

So it was the same in 100 C.E., under the might of the Roman Empire – right?

Marriage then involved much of this plus a twist. Let me explain.

Romans could marry for love. But elevation of status ruled high. Thus families could arrange a betrothal. Agreed upon with honor, neither side wanted to stop. Money was often involved in the way of dowries.

When it came time for the ceremony, where would you marry? The Temple of Jupiter? No. Marriage during the time of the Roman Empire, marriages were not a religious affair but more civil. If one of the parties or both requested a priest to officiate the ceremony, the fact was, the civil recognition was the only one needed and required.

The fascinating point about Roman marriage was that, in the society run by paterfamilias, or father ruled families, the marriage was based more on what the bride’s father wanted or gave. He could give her truly to her husband, releasing her from her family OR he’d retain her legally under his rule.

What does this mean? Why wouldn’t he let the bride and groom go and start their lives? Why would he retain her under his paterfamilias?

In many ways, Roman marriages were politics on a big scale. The higher socially you went, the worst it could be. If the paterfamilias didn’t release her, it didn’t mean she stayed home and her husband lived with her there or not at all. No, generally it meant that they could be a married couple and live wherever they wanted BUT if her father wanted or needed her home, he could invoke that right, calling her home to family. And, if he wanted, terminate the marriage. This divorce was not considered bad for the wife or husband because it was not their power doing this.

Now civil divorce could be had, simpler than the marriage, just by one of the spouses setting the other free. But what of love? What of a child? If love was involved, always bad but a child had other connation’s attached. Procreation for the family name was always a top priority, meaning the father could keep the child over the usual regime of a child was better with the mother.

All this wraps up into the wicked story of Love & Reckoning. Check it out!


Born in St. Louis, Missouri, Gina Danna has spent the better part of her life reading. History has been her love and she spent numerous hours devouring historical romance stories, dreaming of writing one of her own. Years later, after receiving undergraduate and graduate degrees in History, writing academic research papers and writing for museum programs and events, she finally found the time to write her own stories of historical romantic fiction.

Now, under the supervision of her three dogs and three cats, she writes amid a library of research books, with her only true break away is to spend time with her other life long dream – her Arabian horse – with him, her muse can play.
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