Roman Women

.. edding ceremony itself could be seen as a little complicated. The wedding party would travel from the bride’s home to the groom’s where she signed something similar to a marriage contract. The bride would then declare herself his wife with the words, Ubi tu Gauis, ego Gaia. This meant, To whatever family or clan you belong, I also belong. They then joined hands and sat across from each other on the fleece-covered chairs. A sacrifice was made and there was cake for everyone. Escorting the bride to her new home was also a fundamental part of the ceremony.

The bride would rub oil and fat around the groom’s door and line it with wool. She was taken to the bedchamber and undressed by women who had only been married once and then they left her to wait for her new husband who arrived shortly thereafter. In the morning, she began all the customs of her new family. After the marriage would take place many expected the couple to soon have children. Roman marriage contracts explicitly stated that marriage existed for the procreation of children.

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The idea of marriages was often without the romance and glamour that many Americans see it as today. Marriage to many Romans was a necessity for social existence. Because of this, many shied away from it. No one wanted to settle down and pop out several children in the fast moving Rome. Many men picked up mistresses on the side to try and regain, or hold onto, a little of their youth. Of course, it was frowned upon for an unmarried man and woman to have a child.

For this reason pregnancy was something short of a disaster. Abortions became popular at this time even though most of them proved fatal to the mother. If abortion was not an option then many illegitimate children were easily left on a lonely hillside to die. Another problem with childbirth in Rome were the numerous amounts of miscarriages. There was also a heavy death toll on both women and children in childbirth. This was another reason for the woman to fear having children.

In many instances, women did not survive childbirth. Infant mortality was also high, making childbirth even more aggravating. These are just a few of the factors that frustrated a couple’s desire to have children. The ideal marriage in Rome was one that included children. Children often led to the success or downfall of a marriage.

The seal of success was automatically placed on the marriage by the birth of a child, particularly the birth of a boy. Three children from each family were expected if one was to be successful in Rome. Having three children also carried its rewards. The mother gained full legal independence by bearing three children and the father received promotions in his job. Outside of Rome, one must have four children to acquire these privileges. And in the provinces, five children was the minimum. The unhappy marriage was one of no children. This happened more than expected and often led to divorce.

It was always possible to adopt a son but those were not easily acquired in Rome. With the passing of time, a strain from the childless marriage developed on the husband and wife. Divorce was always an option and in 451 B.C., Roman law recognized it. This leads us to what some consider the seedier side of Rome. Of course, as in any society, Rome had its fair share of less reputable women.

There were two types in Rome: prostitutes and courtesans. Prostitutes were usually foreigners from Egypt or Syria. They wore heavy make-up and a short tunica and toga. They loved bright colors when in came to clothes. Prostitutes did pay a tax, which was the sum in any day that she received from one client. Sometimes the prostitute was independent; sometimes she was an employee of a brothel. Prostitutes catered mostly to the lower class of Rome, particularly to slaves. Many middle and upper class male citizens, however, thought it beneficial to their son’s education to visit prostitutes once or twice.

It was long thought that Romans were immune to venereal diseases but further research uncovered several cases of syphilis. Courtesans were elegant and expensive ladies of the town. Most of them lived with their mother’s who often supported this behavior and shared the profits. It was expensive for a man to hold the interest of an attractive mistress. Most men threw their money to their courtesans instead of wisely investing it in their political game. Courtesans were generally Roman and usually came from respected backgrounds.

Besides their beauty, most were talented, cultured, and lively. Some sang, some played musical instruments; some danced, and most were well read. The biggest tragedy for a courtesan was to fall in love with the man who kept her, or paid the most for her services. And after Augustus passed a law, no Roman was allowed to marry a courtesan. Roman women, in general, lived well.

There was always inequality between the sexes, which prevented women from doing some of the activities that they might have liked. Of course, if the woman was in an abusive situation then it was a whole different story. Her freedom was severely limited if her husband was the controlling type. But most women lived with general freedom. They were allowed to walk around town and take part in some activities. The women of Rome took good care of themselves with public baths, hairdressers, and bright clothes.

A married woman controlled the house since this was her assigned sphere in the Roman world. Her position as wife, mother, and head of the house gave her a good position in society. Roman women may not have had all the desires of their heart but they possessed more than other women in surrounding countries did. Most Roman women were classy, stylish, and cultured for the time period they lived in. Bibliography Bibliography Balsdon, J.P.V.D., Roman Women. Barnes and Noble Books, Inc., New York, 1998. History Essays.

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