Roman Reenactors at Carlisle Legio XIIII GMV
The Reenactment of a Roman Marriage
Here is an example of a Roman marriage, as performed by the reenactors of the Legio XIIII GMV at Carlisle Castle in 2005.
The marriage is in fact being conducted in defiance of the law which outlawed the marriage of soldiers. Yet it is generally believe this law was more honoured in the breach than in the observance.
Here an gnarled old centurion is taking himself a young bride. Perhaps he is already once widowed. No doubt his family see him as a good catch for their daughter, bringing her status in society and a good, steady income, perhaps also a sizeable inheritance in his will. All this would be part of the Roman marriage contract.
The wedding party arrives, led by two priests, one reading incantations from a scroll as they go.
The auspices are taken by inspecting an animal's liver and wine is proffered to the gods.
The wedding contract (tabulae nuptiales) is signed. Such weddings could be as much about business contracts than about the wedding itself. One important fact to specified in such a wedding agreement was the dowry, the financial gift to the couple provided by the bride's family. Importantly, should the couple divorce, the dowry would have to be handed back.
On this picture, the father of the bride places his seal on the document.
The contractual paperwork out of the way, the chief priest begins the ceremonies and leads a prayer to Jupiter Optimus Maximus.
A sacrifice is made by the priests. Sacred cake is crumbled onto a little sacrificial plate on the altar and some wine is poured over it.
The acolytes assist silently in the holy proceedings.
The right hand of both groom and bride are placed in each other and a band is wrapped around them to symbolise their unity.
Finally the priest uncovers his head as a sign that his religious duties at this ceremony are at an end.
The newly-wed pair stand as husband and wife.
If you are surprised at the difference in age, this is much due to the changes our societies have witnessed since then. An age difference such as this one might not have raised eyebrows at all in ancient Roman times.
My thanks to the reenactors of the Legio XIIII GMV for a very interesting display.