Marriage in the Roman Imperial Period
IdentifiersPermanent link (URI): http://hdl.handle.net/10017/5608
Universidad de Alcalá de Henares. Servicio de Publicaciones
Polis : revista de ideas y formas políticas de la antigüedad clásica, 1999, n.11, p. 111-134. ISSN 1130-0728
The subject of the aforementioned article is the new meaning which was given to the institution of marriage by the Stoic philosophers of the early Roman imperial period, which was also mirrored in the legal and epigraphical texts of the Principate. Both the less known literary texts (i.e Artemidorus' «Oneirocritica») and the inscriptions, prívate and public, present a new ideal of marriage : it seems that the Roman elite wife had had the obligation to help, financially, her husband to shoulder his public burden, sharing with him religious and public offices, whereas her role as sexual partner and friend of her husband had been upgraded. The greater legal freedom which many elite women enjoyed in the Principate, due to imperial legislation, which gave privileges to mothers (starting with Augustus' grant of the ius trium liberorum), enabled wealthy women, even if they were of humbler descent, to become successful «bussinesswomen» and administrators of their own property, despite the prevalence of the sexism in Roman law, whose purpose was to keep female -owned property intact, for the sake of theirs and their husbands' male kin. Widows, if they belonged to the upper echelons of society, could prosper whereas the poor ones had to struggle in order to survive in a male- dominated society. Christianity, with its ascetic ideáis, gave a new, elevated, status to widows who refused to remarry and, also, to etemal virgins.