Friday, September 22

A wedding like the one from two thousand years ago

Marriage comes from mater, which means mother in Latin. In the colony, affection and respect were only presupposed. Marriage bonds were closed for economic and lineage reasons. At first only patricians (direct descendants of the founders of Rome) could marry, but little by little it was extended to plebeians. Those who could never marry were slaves, foreigners, actors and prostitutes.

They were celebrated to procreate. The girls (they were not more than fifteen years old) were educated to act as wives of the men (they used to be much older than them) that their parents designated according to their interests.

Ara Concordiae recreated on Saturday night a wedding like the ones that existed two thousand years ago in the city to explain the role of women in the colony of Augusta Emerita.

It was not easy being a woman in Rome. Fidelity and submission to her husband were her aspirations. No public life. Her life was limited to home and permanent discretion. Against this custom of arranging the betrothal without the consent of the couple, several voices were raised, already in imperial times. Seneca and the jurist Salvio Juliano left writings against this custom and asked that the acceptance of the bride and groom be indispensable. Adultery was something serious that gave the father or husband the right to kill his daughter or wife if he committed it.

The public filled all the seats in the main gallery of the National Museum of Roman Art for a performance in which Pilar Caldera, curator of the Museum, explained the rites that involved this celebration.

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Weddings in the colony used to be in the spring, between April and June. Two years before the celebration, the girl’s parents chose the husband for her daughter and signed the betrothal with the family of her future husband. The document made official the delivery of her in exchange for an amount in silver coins and a ring with a gem set. The gifts were returned if there was a breach of the agreement until the celebration. From the time the betrothal is signed until the day of the celebration arrives, the girl is assigned a pronuba.

They used to be respected widows throughout the colony who acted as advisers and prepared them to satisfy their husbands.

Days before the service, the future wife made an offering to the goddess Juno, protector of the home and the family. She gave him objects that she had accompanied her during the first years of her life and that when she gets married she leaves her as a symbol of the childhood that she leaves behind her.

Tradition also fixed the hairstyle that they should wear. They combed them with six braids and covered her head with an orange veil, the flammeum. Simulating the vestal virgins.

change of robe

The white and straight tunic was imposed. So a symbol of purity. And she tied at her waist with the herculean knot. Hercules was said to have had more than seventy children. The laws of Augustus rewarded the patrician woman who gave more than three children to the Empire. Once in the temple, the officiant of the ceremony sacrificed an animal as an offering for the spouses. And in the custom of the time for the omens of the future, the main speaker looked at the entrails of the animal to make the omens of it.


After this superstition, the husband would remove the veil from the bride and ask her name, now that they were married:

“What is your name?” she asked, lifting the veil.

She answered: Ubi tu Gaius, Ibi ego Gaia. That she means: «Where you are Cayo, there I will be Cayo». At the end she intervened the pronuba joining the hands of the contracting parties.

Finally, a kidnapping was simulated. The bride clung to her mother’s arms and she had to cry while her husband pretended to take her away.

After the banquet, the newlywed paraded through the streets of the neighborhood accompanied by children carrying torches to her husband’s house. She was waiting for him at the door and by her superstition he had to take her in her arms without stepping on the threshold to enter together. She awaited a life of submission.

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