Marriage in the Ancient Roman Empire

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Kelly Macquire
by and
published on 14 May 2023

Love, sex, and marriage in ancient Rome were defined by the patriarchy. The head of the household was the father (the pater familias) who had complete control over the lives of his wife, children, and slaves. This paradigm was justified, in part, by one of the stories related to the foundational myth of Rome in which the demigods Romulus and Remus argue, Romulus kills Remus, and Romulus founds the city of Rome in 753 BCE.

Shortly after this event (or just before), the Romans attacked neighboring tribes, taking their women, recounted as the famous Rape of the Sabine Women. These tribes then mounted a counterattack to win their women back but one of those taken – Hersila, who had become Romulus' wife – defended the Roman action in order to prevent needless deaths and encouraged the other women to do likewise. Whether the story reflects an actual historical event, it presents the paradigm of male-female relationships in ancient Rome: men held the power and women had to recognize that and respond accordingly. The social structure, informed by religion and tradition, dictated that men made the rules and women had to follow them.



0:00​ Introduction
0:56 Girls and Boys in Ancient Rome
2:42 Types of Marriage in Ancient Rome
4:02 The Marriage Ceremony
8:03 Married Life in Ancient Rome
10:13 Outro

Love, Sex, & Marriage in Ancient Rome–marriage-in-ancient-rome/
Ancient Roman Society
Ancient Rome
Romulus and Remus

Ancient Rome Playlist
Ancient Roman Art and Architecture
The Story of Romulus and Remus in Roman Mythology
The Lives of Ancient Roman Women

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The music used in this recording is the intellectual copyright of Michael Levy, a prolific composer for the recreated lyres of antiquity, and used with the creator's permission. Michael Levy's music is available to stream at all the major digital music platforms. Find out more on:

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#history #romanhistory #ancientrome

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About the Author

Kelly Macquire
Kelly is a graduate from Monash University who has completed her BA (Honours) in Ancient History and Archaeology, focussing on iconography and status in Pylos burials. She has a passion for mythology and the Aegean Bronze Age.

Cite This Work

APA Style

Macquire, K. (2023, May 14). Marriage in the Ancient Roman Empire. World History Encyclopedia. Retrieved from

Chicago Style

Macquire, Kelly. "Marriage in the Ancient Roman Empire." World History Encyclopedia. Last modified May 14, 2023.

MLA Style

Macquire, Kelly. "Marriage in the Ancient Roman Empire." World History Encyclopedia. World History Encyclopedia, 14 May 2023. Web. 22 Jul 2024.