During the Augustan age, families were forbidden any refusal of marriage without given any valid reason as to why they refused a marriage. Marriage between a close relation likewise ascendant and descendant marriage were also unlawful. There were two social classes during the early Roman period; the patricians who were the citizens and the plebeians who were the free non-citizens. During that time, the patricians only marry the patricians and the plebeians only the plebeians respectively as there was no inter-marital relationship between these two social classes.
Marriage by the Patricians was considered a sacred institution which cannot be done just by merely saying it. Some manners of consideration have to be taken before a marriage could actually take place. With the direct consent of the gods, the patrician takes his bride from her father’s house to his own residence in the company of a representative of his clan. In this form of marriage, the bride is put under the authority of her husband and her husband in a way becomes her master. The plebeian marriage however consist essentially the cohabitation of a man and woman as husband and wife.
Plebeian marriages were not recognized by the patricians as they were not considered citizens and even when the plebeians became citizens and their marriage were legalized, inter-marriage between the plebeians and the patricians were still not allowed because of the religious differences between them. But as years past, their laws were amended and the marriage between the social classes now became possible. The early Romans married at a relatively early age as a girl was considered ready for marriage between the ages of fourteen and seventeen.
Her father would choose a husband and perform the required arrangements. Though young Roman children were not forced into marriage, very few children were able to refuse an arranged marriage (Mellor). Betrothal before marriage was considered a good form although it had no legal obligation attached to it. Betrothal involves a girl been promised solemnly by her family to the man or his family. This process in most case is represented by the man giving the prospective wife a ring.
The ring is worn on the third finger of the left hand which the Romans believed had a direct link with the heart, as they believed that the finger had a connection with the heart by a nerve. It was customary point of pride with the Romans for the bride to bring her groom a dowry which was provided by her family if she is still dependent on them or by herself. The bride is dressed by her mother on the morning of her wedding day; one of the most significant parts of the dressing was the “knot of Hercules” who was considered the guardian of wedded life (Rome exposed - Roman Children).
The groom is the only one permitted to loose the knot once it is tied and this is done after the wife has been accompanied to her new home. After the marriage ceremony, there is usually a dinner (reception) in the house of the bride after which she is then accompanied to her husband’s house by her family members. On entering into her new home, the bride is carried into the house so as to prevent any bad omen that may result if she stumbles upon her first entrance into the house. Until the first child is born, marriage itself is not regarded as having been consummated.
This is because the Romans believe that children are of paramount importance in order for a marriage to be considered blissful. However husbands and wives could tend to love each other as time goes on. The Roman women enjoy social freedom as they could attend both public and private banquets in the society. After marriage, the social status of a Roman woman increases as she is raised to the rank of her husband and is considered equal with him sharing the same religious and civil status with him.
Her responsibility however is to govern the home and being the mistress of the house, she oversees the education of her children as well as the slaves. During the Augustan age women had more encouragement to bear more children because of the privilege associated with it. The moment a woman has three children, she would be released form all supervision and was free to conduct business by herself (Bierkan, Sherman & Stocquart, 303-327). One could safely say that the Roman woman was vast and sophisticated when compared to her counterparts like the Greeks and this was due to the privileges given to her by the society.