THE WORLD OF MARRIAGE
The marriage ceremony: dextrarum iunctio
Marriage was the prize for which the
culture prepared every daughter of citizen parents from birth; it was the rite
of maturation for a young female, enabling her as bride, wife, and mother to
contribute to the state by producing new citizens. Early on Rome, whose
founding myths preserved the stories of the birth out of wedlock of its first
king Romulus and the Sabine marriage of its first matronae, set legal
protections around Roman citizen marriage for the citizen body (see Table XI of
colonies, and allies, for whom
ius conubium was a privilege of association
granted by treaty. Marriage was not possible for slaves, who were the property
of their masters and so could not produce citizens (cf. this
freed family). Until the last century BCE,
citizen women were traditionally married cum manu, that is, the bride moved from the patria potestas of her father to the manus of her husband (by usus, conferreatio, or coemptio). From the late Republic on, most women chose to marry sine manu, a more advantageous form of marriage in which wives remained under their father's authority or, in the event of his death, became independent. In this World the absence of women's voices is felt most keenly, for
marriage was a central moment in a woman's life, usually negotiated by the
parents of the couple, and equaled only by the birth of her children, while for
her husband it was yet another arena in which he gave service to the state and
perhaps advanced his social and economic status. These arrangements of
convenience did not, however, preclude a loving and respectful relationship, as
the marriage of Caesar's daughter Julia to Pompey the Great evidences. The
marriage ceremony itself was elective and primarily a
social occasion whose elaboration depended on the rank
and resources of the participating families and whose core was the dextrarum
iunctio and the witnessed signing of the marriage contract, which, for the
elite, set terms of agreement on the dowry, divorce, and widowhood. While
marriage was intended to be a lifelong bond and often was, divorce
(divortium) was an option for both parties, involving the return of a
woman to her birth family with her dowry but without her children, who remained
with their father. This World is conveyed in great part by mute statuary and
conventional sentiments on tombstones, in encomia which honor women who
expectations, and in comedy and satire which mock the
stereotype of the wife. For further information on the forms and ceremony of lawful Roman Marriage, see Matrimonium; Hull's lesson plan; the
Bibliography, especially the works of Treggiari and Hersch; Images
of Marriage below.
|| Additional Readings
Annales XV.63-4: Paulina
||See the Latin reader
The Worlds of Roman Women for the following
Condita XXX.12, 15: Sophonisba
||M. Valerius Martialis,
Epigrammata 10.35: Calenus' Sulpicia (see Epigrammata X.38)
|Marcus Valerius Martial,
Epigrammata X.38: Sulpicia
||ILS 8393, Funerary
Inscription Laudatio Turiae
|Marcus Valerius Martial,
Epigrammata IV.13: Claudia Peregrina
|| ILS 1221a, b,
|C. Plinius Caecilius
Secundus (minor), Panegyricus 83:
||ILS 8403, Funerary
Annales XI.12: Messalina
Agricola 6.1, 3: Domitia Decidiana
|Marcus Annaeus Lucanus,
Bellum Civile V.762-790:
Maximus, Facta et Dicta Memorabilia 6.7: three loyal wives
|Marcus Annaeus Lucanus,
Bellum Civile II. 326-371:
||CIL 6.6593, Funerary
Inscription: carissima coniunx
|Decimus Magnus Ausonius, Epigrammata 13: Anicia
||Valerius Maximus, Facta
et Dicta Memorabilia 4.6.5: Porcia
|Decimus Magnus Ausonius, Epigrammata20, Parentalia 9: Sabina
||Valerius Maximus, Facta
et Dicta Memorabilia 4.3.3:
|Aurelius Augustinus Hipponensis, Confessiones IX.9.19: Monica
||M. Valerius Martialis,
Epigrammata 11.53: Claudia Rufina (also Epigrammata 4.13) |
|T. Maccius Plautus,
Menaechmi 602-652: the long-suffering matrona
|for Dasumia Soteris
||C. Plinius Caecilius
Epistulae 7.5: Calpurnia
|for Julia Capriola
|for Claudia Piste
||See De Feminis Romanis at Diotima for the
following on-line Latin texts:
|by Furia Spes
||C. Plinius Caecilius
Epistulae 7.5: Calpurnia
|by Nothi Coniunx
||C. Plinius Caecilius
Epistulae 3.16: Arria
IMAGES of MARRIAGE
relief in layered Onyx, depicting the wedding of Eros and Psyche.
Roman. Detail of the couple. Boston, Museum
of Fine Arts.
- Aldobrandini Wedding Fresco. Traditionally viewed as depicting scenes from a Roman wedding, recent scholarship links it to Euripides' Alcestis. In the central scene a veiled woman sits on a draped lectus, being comforted by a semi-nude woman wearing a myrtle wreath. On her left, a semi-nude woman pours perfumed oil into a scallop shell. In the left corner, a veiled woman holding a leaf-shaped fan lifts her hand over a basin while two boys assist her. To the right of the lectus, a semi-nude male wearing a garland of grapes and ivy (? Dionysus), reclines. In the right corner three figures stand: the first woman pours incense into a thymiaterion (incense burner); an androgynous figure in the center wears a rayed crown; the woman on the right plays a tortoise-shell lyre. From a late 1st century BCE Roman house on the Esquiline Hill. Rome: Vatican Museums.
- Wedding procession painted on a terracotta urn. Four women are pictured: the mother at left (?), pronuba at right (?),
musician with drum and the anxious-looking veiled bride in the center. The bride wears a special garment for the ceremony called the tunica recta or regilla, traditionally woven in one piece on an upright loom. The urn was made for a
Centuripe, 3-2 century BCE. NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
preparations: scene painted on a two-handled, round bottomed red-figure
gamikos). The bride is seated among her attendants carrying wedding
objects, especially (left) loutrophoros for the wedding bath (detail
of the base). Athenian, c. 430-20 BCE. NY: Metropolitan Museum of
loutrophoros used for the ritual wedding bath; it was also a grave
marker for unmarried women. Elegantly decorated with narrative zones: upper
scene of Zeus, Aphrodite, Cupid; lower scene of seduction of Leda by Zeus as a
swan with Hypnos (sleep) nearby. Apulia, South Italy, 330 BCE. Malibu, Getty
- Dressing the bride: one of a series of wall frescoes describing a ritual preparation for marriage (or, some scholars believe, for initiation into a religious cult). A female attendant begins the special arrangement of the bride's hair, while beside the seated bride Eros holds up a mirror in which her face is reflected. The bride wears a saffron-colored gown, bound with a cloth belt perhaps tied in a Herakles knot; she wears yellow sandals, jewelry, and has a transparent veil wrapped around her and resting on her lap (detail). The final frame of the mural shows the Domina, fully draped in her palla, seated on a throne, displaying her wedding ring detail. Triclinium, Villa of the Mysteries, Pompeii, mid-1st century CE. Photos by Ann Olga Koloski-Ostrow, Brandeis University, 2009.
- Bridal procession in mosaic showing Philonoe about to wed Bellerophon; though they are characters from Greek mythology, the scene reflects a Roman wedding. The shy bride, assisted by her mother or a pronuba, is dressed in a saffron tunic with a wedding wreath hovering symbolically over her head. The groom stands on the right holding Pegasus, the winged horse. Between them stands Philonoe's father, Iobates, king of Lycia. Roman Tunisia. From the "House of the Nymphs." 4th century CE. Nabeul Archaeological Museum.
Relief of a prominent but unknown bride and groom in civic dress. They clasp hands before a small blazing altar and the Pronuba, here a personification of the goddess Concordia, on the front of a striated marble sarcophagus. They are surrounded by female personifications dressed in the stola of the married woman, wearing the Hercules-knotted belt: to the left are Portus and Annona; to the right are the Genius of the Senate, Abundantia, and Africa. Found on Rome's Via Latina, 270-80 CE. Rome: Massimo Museum.
of a couple joining their right hands in marriage (see gold ring) on a marble tombstone in the shape of a niche; in between two putti hold
garlands above their heads; the bearded husband holds a scroll while his wife
holds a pomegranate (?); their boy child clings to his mother's leg. 2nd-3rd
century CE. Ostia Museum.
Relief in marble of a married couple exchanging vows dextrarum
iunctio with a nude child between them holding the wedding torch;
wife and husband are sculpted on the corners. c. 240 CE. Munich, Glyptothek.
- Cinerary urn
in marble for Helius Afinianus, dedicated by his wife. He is dressed in a
toga, holding a scroll; she wears a stola and palla. They
stand in front of open doors, holding hands before an altar in the marriage
pose dextrarum iunctio. Inscription: D[is] M[anibus] HELIO AFIN[iano]
PUB[lico] AUG[urum] SEXTIA PSYCHE CONIUGI B[ene] M[erenti] [fecit]. Rome,
2nd century CE. Berlin, Pergamon Museum.
relief in marble of a freed couple, a young woman with a much older
man, both in civic dress, depicted in the marriage pose dextrarum
iunctio. Inscription: P[UBLIUS] AIEDIVS P[UBLI] L[IBERTUS] AMPHIO;
AEIDIA P[UBLI] L[IBERTA] FAVSTA MELIOR. found on Via Appia, Rome, c. 30
BCE. Berlin, Pergamon Museum.
- Cinerary urn in marble for Vernasia Cyclas (CIL VI.8769) showing the freed couple in citizen dress at their wedding; the letters inscribed between them (FAP) perhaps stand for Fides Amor Pietas (see student project). 1st century CE. Rome, Baths of Diocletian Museum.
Lid of Proconnesian marble in high relief of a Roman marriage ceremony
in which the couple clasp right hands (dextrarum iunctio), a symbol of
the marriage contract which the groom holds in his left hand; the
pronuba stands between and behind them; a young man (?offspring) stands
beside them. 160-80 CE (partly restored in the 18th century). London, British
Tombstone: portraits of a couple in their later years (top) and earlier
at their marriage (below) in the dextrarum iunctio pose; dedicated by
their child(ren). Inscriptions
between their portraits: (left) TVRPILLAE M[arci] F[iliae] / TERTIAE /
MATRI (right) C[aio] ACVTIO / C[aii] F[ilio] / PATRI. From Aquileia.
Mid 1st century CE. Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.
- Marriage ceremony in the center panel
of a veined marble sarcophagus relief. Wife and husband stand joining hands
(damaged) before Juno Pronuba, with Psyche & Eros (lost) below them Long
wave patterns separate the central pagan reliefs from scenes on the left and
right from the Old Testament and the New. Imperial/christian period. Rome,
Vatican Museum (Christian).
- Wedding panel: marble relief showing
a veiled bride, followed by the pronuba, clasping hands (dextrarum
iunctio) with the groom before an altar; on the left a huge male carries
the sacrificial bull on his shoulder, on the right a maenad dances. Rome:
Vatican, Bracchio Nuovo.
- Portrait relief on a marble funerary altar set up by Claudia Prepontis for her patron and herself (inscription). Dionysius, himself probably a freedman, may have owned Prepontis. Although both wear the toga and palla of the Roman citizen and are portrayed in the marriage pose, it is possible they had only a de facto marriage, either because he had not freed Prepontis legally or only later in his will (see their funerary plaque in the World of Class). CIL 6.15003. 1st Century CE. Rome, Gregoriano Profano, Vatican Museums.
- Funerary Altar in marble, carved with a portrait bust of Julia Saturnina and her husband in the marriage pose of iunctio dextrarum; inscribed with a dedication (left side; right side). 130 CE. ( CIL VI.20667) Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.
- Harmony in marriage is portrayed on a brass sestertius of Antoninus Pius: the emperor stands clasping the hand of his wife, Faustina the Elder. She holds a scepter, he a statuette of the goddess Concordia. Below them are smaller figures of their daughter Faustina the Younger and her husband Marcus Aurelius, clasping right hands over an altar. Inscription: CONCORDIAE. Rome mint, 142 CE. Naples, National Archaeological Museum.
- Couple clasping right hands (damaged) in marriage before a pronuba, detail of the relief frieze on the front of a marble biographical sarcophagus. Rome, 160-80 CE. Los Angeles, County Museum of Art (LACMA).
- Wedding Group in high relief on the right side of the large marble Sarcophagus of the Brothers. The nupta is being crowned by a female identified as Venus Felix (Cupid floats in the backgreound). The damaged figure visible behind and between the bride and groom should be the pronuba. The bare-torsoed male beside the groom and holding a cornucopia has been identified as the Genius of the Roman People. Roman, c. 260CE. Naples, National Archaeological Museum.
- Portrait busts of a family of three in relief on a marble tombstone: the parents in civic dress, clasping right hands, are beside a veiled young woman, probably their daughter. No inscription. 40-30 BCE. Rome, Altemps Museum.
- Relief of a couple in the central panel of a marble sarcophagus that once held 3 scenes: a muse as witness on the left and a Greek philosopher as witness on the right. Two half-figures of boys hold symbols of fertility and prosperity. Roman. Mid 3rd century CE. Copenhagen, Ny Carlsberg Glyptotek.
- Sestertius of Antoninus Pius, portraying two couples of the imperial family (Antoninus & Faustine Maior; Marcus Aurelius & Faustina Minor) in the marriage gesture before an altar. Antoninus holds a statuette of Condordia while his wife holds a scepter. Inscribed: CONCORDIAE S(enatus) C(onsulto). Rome, 140-4 CE. Berlin: Bode Museum.
Couple facing each other on a terra-cotta roundel. Inscription: IN SE
SENESCATES (read senescatis; May you grow old together). Roman, c. 330-60 CE.
Boston, Museum of Fine Arts.
of the married couple perhaps at their wedding, from the reception room in the
villa of P. Fannius Synistor. Boscoreale, 50-40 BCE. New York, Metropolitan
Museum of Art.
depicted on a marble sarcophagus in a central rondel, holding an instrument and
surrounded by winged boy figures and images of floral and faunal fertility (see
below the couple a recumbent female--goddess Italia?-- with cornucopia and
twins). 2nd-3rd century CE. Ostia Museum.
Funerary Relief in marble of Aurelius Hermia and his wife Aurelia Philematio, one
of earliest to commemorate legitimate marriage between freedpeople; they are
portrayed as Roman citizens (see text in WRW, pp. 46-47). From tomb on Via
Nomentana, c. 80 BCE. London, British Museum.
- Funerary altar in marble dedicated to Primigenia and Diogenes, probably
freedpersons, who had lived together 47 years, by their freedpersons and slaves
The opulent reliefs echo Augustan monuments: garlands, birds, ram's heads,
1 with traditional jug for libations; side
2 with patera). Julio-Claudian period (14-68 CE). New York:
Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- Tombstone in marble containing portrait images of the couple within garlanded niches and an inscription below for Antistia Plutia, freedwoman, and her husband Lucius Antistius Sarculo, a member of the Salian order of priests who opened and closed the military campaign season, dedicated by their freedmen in recognition of the merit of their patrons. Rome, 30-10 BCE. London: British Museum.
carved in high relief on marble containing full-length portraits of a young
woman and her older husband. From Via Statilia. 2nd quarter of 1st Century BCE.
Rome: Museo Montemartini.
- Carpentum: Etruscan alabaster cinerary urn with relief on front of a
couple reclining in a covered wagon (carpentum) on their way to the underworld,
surrounded by mourners. From Volterra, 100-50 BCE. London, British
on a sarcophagus lid (full
view) of the deceased woman sitting on a lectus with her
husband, while their pet dog looks on. The harmony of their marriage is shown by
her arm on his shoulder and his offer of fruit, probably a
pomegranate. The dog and pomegranate visually link this earthly
couple to the harmonious rulers of the Underworld. Mid 2nd
century CE. Rome, Palazzo Nuovo (Capitoline Museums).
- Couple on
a marble grave plaque intended for an outdoor monument which would have
contained their names. Probably freedpersons with Augustan hairstyles. Roman,
13 BCE-5 CE. NY: Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- Veiled woman rests her hand on the arm
of a bearded man holding a scroll; their busts are placed on a seashell in the
central medallion of a marble sarcophagus relief; around them are scenes from
the Old Testament and the New. From the cemetary of St. Calixtus, 325-350 CE.
Rome, Vatican Museum (Christian).
- Funerary stele for Papinia Felicitas, inscribed with high praise for her virtue by her husband, T. Flavius Flavianus (CIL VI.23773). Rome: Vatican Museum (Chiaramonte).
- Cinerary altars, matching, for Petronia Sabina and by her will for her husband, Marcus Natronius Rusticus, secretary of the Quaestors and Head of their Decuria. (CIL VI.1820). First half of 1st century CE. Found at the Porta Capena. Rome, Terme Diocleziano.
- Marble Altar with rich carving, inscribed by Valeria Spes for herself and her husband, Marcus Valerius Carus. (CIL VI.28277). Found on the Via Appia. 1-2nd century CE. Rome, Terme Diocleziano.
- Funerary tablet in marble for Severa Seleuciane and her husband Aurelius Sabutius; they lived together 17 years before the death of one of them 10 years prior. In the upper corner is a drawing of a shuttle and upright loom, symbols of her virtue as a materfamilias (or of their trade as weavers). The dedicator is unnamed. 279 CE (Gordon III.302). Rome, Capitoline Museums.
Turiae: fragment of the opening lines of a long inscription containing
a funerary eulogy by a husband in praise of his wife (possibly named Turia),
who saved his life during the proscriptions (see text in WRW, pp.
42-45). Roman, 8-2 BCE. Rome, Terme Diocleziano.
- Marble altar for Cominia Tyche, dedicated with affection to his pious, chaste 27 year old wife by Gaius Lucius Festus, also for himself and their children (inscription; CIL VI.16054). Roman, 90-100 CE. New York, Metropolitan Museum of Art.
- Portrait heads on a marble tombstone of a freedman couple. Inscribed: A[ulus] PINARIVS A[uli] L[ibertus] ANTEROS OPPIA C[aiae] L[iberta] MYRSINE. Mid to late Augustan period. CIL 6.24190. Rome, Altemps Museum.
- Funerary tondo in marble of relief busts of a couple: she gazes at him with one hand on his chest and her arm around his shoulders, her gown having slipped off one shoulder (a pose reminiscent of Venus); her husband is in a citizen toga, holding a scroll (marriage document?). 250-270 CE. Boston, Museum of Fine Arts.
All images are courtesy of the
VRoma Project's Image Archive.