Today I am pleased to have Kate Quinn,
author of DAUGHTERS OF ROME, (See my review HERE) and MISTRESS OF ROME grace my blog with this wonderful post:
Marriage and Divorce, Roman-Style
There are plenty of things about ancient
that I'm very happy didn't make it into the modern era. Slavery, for example, or the mass slaughter of animals and people for public entertainment. But there are some things about ancient Rome that I wish had stuck around, and top on that list is Roman-style marriage and divorce. Rome
This was a topic I spent a lot of time researching for my second novel Daughters of Rome. One of my heroines just happens to be the richest heiress in
(her grandfather is the ancient world equivalent of Warren Buffet) and her dowry is a prize that gets passed to a new husband every time there is a power change. Since Daughters of Rome takes place during the Year of Four Emperors, my poor heroine manages to clock up a total of five husbands by the age of twenty – and three of those weddings in the same year. She's pretty tired of weddings by the end of the book, and I can't blame her. But at least Roman weddings were more interesting than 21st century ones. Rome
There are some similarities. The Romans started the custom of wearing a plain wedding band on the fourth finger of the left hand, since popular superstition held that a vein was supposed to run from that finger to the heart. Romans also started the custom of getting hitched in June – they considered it lucky, since it was the month named after Juno, goddess of marriage. But Roman brides wore a red veil, which frankly I think is an improvement – no more standing in front of a mirror trying to decide which shade of white, off-white, cream, ivory, beige or biscuit makes you look the least sallow. Roman brides also made sure to part their hair on the wedding morning with the spear of a dead gladiator; a superstition that was supposed to ensure a happy marriage. A little gruesome, to be sure, but more interesting than “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.”
Roman wedding vows were simple; a recitation that began “Where you are Gaius, I am Gaia.” Much better than these dreadful personalized vows that start with “You are the rock in my stormy sea” and only get worse. The priest follows up with a sacrifice for good luck, a sow or maybe a goose. I'm not really in favor of dead animals, but at least it wouldn't put me to sleep the way the inevitable reading from Corinthians does. And after the wedding banquet, the bride gets to light the fire in her new home for the first time – and toss the wedding torch to the unmarried girls in the crowd; the one who catches it will be the next bride. If you're the bride and you want to really nail that one slacker bridesmaid, I'm betting you could do a lot more damage throwing a torch at her than a bouquet.
And we have a lot to learn from the Romans when it comes to divorce. In the modern era, divorce is expensive, painful, time-consuming, and exhausting. It involves not just emotional pain but legal offices, arbitrations, courtrooms, and the expensive services of someone sleazy named Sid who is trying to screw the biggest alimony payments possible out of your ex, whose sleazy lawyer Gino is trying to get full custody away from you. Divorce Roman-style was much easier: either husband or wife announced that they no longer wanted to be married, and moved out. You didn't even have to announce this to your spouse; more than one husband came home to an empty house with a note on the table: “Goodbye, thanks for the memories, and by the way I'll be sending a slave next week for the rest of my things.” You could also dissolve your marriage by marrying somebody else: if your husband came home to the news “Actually, he's my husband now” then there was nothing he could do about it. The law reasoned, with a certain simplicity, that if she married somebody else then she was no longer married to you, and that's an end to it. All he could do was fume – and give back, as also required by law, at least a portion of your dowry.
There were some down sides to this custom. Divorce and remarriage was so casual that even an average nobleman might go through five or six wives in the course of his lifetime. “Sanctity of marriage” was not an idea with much weight in ancient
; a rich girl like my heroine in Daughters of Rome could easily have three weddings in one year, each husband divorced in turn for a better option when power changed hands. But even if I did put the poor girl through three weddings, at least she didn't have to deal with subpoenas, alimony arbitration, custody battles, or anybody named Sid. A world where divorce is easy and divorce lawyers are non-existent? I'm for it. I'm sure Katherine of Aragon, Anne Boleyn, Catherine Howard, and Empress Josephine would agree with me. Rome
I got married myself in the middle of writing this book, and a few Roman customs leaked over into my wedding. Nobody sacrificed a goat, and sadly I wasn't able to find a gladiator's spearhead to part my hair. But my husband and I exchanged iron rings instead of gold – Romans picked iron because it was enduring, considered a better symbol for the coming marriage than soft malleable gold.
And I wore red.
WOW! Thank you so much Kate Quinn!!
...And now...GIVEAWAY Time!
Penguin Group USA is giving away 1 copy of DAUGHTERS OF ROME to one of my lucky followers. Thank you!!
1) You must be a follower of this blog
2) Please leave a comment for the lovely Kate
3) For an extra chance, please leave a comment at my review post
Open to US and Canada
Winner Announced on May 2nd