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Author Topic: Marriage in Ancient Greece  (Read 3670 times)

sailor

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Marriage in Ancient Greece
« on: July 10, 2011, 07:33:32 pm »
The "modern human needs and hellenic religion" http://www.ecauldron.com/forum/showthread.php?188-Modern-Human-Needs-and-Hellenic-Religion drifted over to a discussion about marriage in ancient greece.

I contend that marriage in ancient greece contained a significant religious element, in that sacrifices and such were done as part of the marriage.

Carnelian contends that poor people didn't do any of the religious stuff since marriage was a civil affair. If they were poor there was an oral agreement between the father of the bride and groom and the couple moved in together.

Carnelian, is that a fair assesement of your position?

Part of my arguement is based upon this page:
http://ablemedia.com/ctcweb/consortium/ancientweddings3.html
« Last Edit: February 13, 2013, 01:01:02 pm by RandallS »

Nyktelios

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Re: Marriage in Ancient Greece
« Reply #1 on: July 10, 2011, 09:31:04 pm »
Quote from: sailor;3713


Carnelian contends that poor people didn't do any of the religious stuff since marriage was a civil affair. If they were poor there was an oral agreement between the father of the bride and groom and the couple moved in together.

Carnelian, is that a fair assesement of your position?


The oral contract between father and husband was for both the rich and the poor.

No one knows what the poorer members of society actually did, as the surviving evidence comes from the elite. I was just guessing that they didn't do such things because they were expensive and unnecessary. Aside from sacrificing to gods who presided over marriage, there was no religious ritual that rendered a couple as husband and wife.

A marriage (in Athens, at least) consisted of the oral contract between the bride's father and husband, and then the transfer of the bride into her husband's household. This process *could* be accompanied by various rituals, but it wasn't these rituals themselves that married two people together and weren't necessary for the marriage to be legally valid. Marriage was primarily a civic institution between a citizen man and a virgin girl also of citizen birth for the purpose of having legitimate citizen children. It wasn't a deep spiritual bond between two people in love, especially as most marriages were arranged and the couple probably wouldn't have even known each other very well, if at all.

sailor

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Re: Marriage in Ancient Greece
« Reply #2 on: July 10, 2011, 10:07:56 pm »
Quote from: Carnelian;3759
The oral contract between father and husband was for both the rich and the poor.

No one knows what the poorer members of society actually did, as the surviving evidence comes from the elite. I was just guessing that they didn't do such things because they were expensive and unnecessary. Aside from sacrificing to gods who presided over marriage, there was no religious ritual that rendered a couple as husband and wife.

A marriage (in Athens, at least) consisted of the oral contract between the bride's father and husband, and then the transfer of the bride into her husband's household. This process *could* be accompanied by various rituals, but it wasn't these rituals themselves that married two people together and weren't necessary for the marriage to be legally valid. Marriage was primarily a civic institution between a citizen man and a virgin girl also of citizen birth for the purpose of having legitimate citizen children. It wasn't a deep spiritual bond between two people in love, especially as most marriages were arranged and the couple probably wouldn't have even known each other very well, if at all.

 
They offered a sacrifice(s) to the gods as part of the marriage process, hence a religious ritual.  This is fairly similar to modern Jewish marriages. It's a contract witnessed by the community (minimum 10 adults) with the bride and groom saying a prayer over the wine and a few other prayers. The presence of a rabbi is a modern US thing.

Saying that the poor didn't do sacrifices because we don't have any information about the poor is counter intuitive. Ancient religion was one of doing. If you don't Do, then you are not following the religion; it would logically follow that the poor would effectively be athesists since they can't afford to do anything. Even the very poor in India or Japan make offerings for weddings, etc. if Hindu or Shinto.

A deep spiritual bond is very modern.  My grandmother & her sisters all had arranged marriages, and didn't meet the grooms until they were under the chupa (wedding canopy).

RandallS

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Re: Marriage in Ancient Greece
« Reply #3 on: July 11, 2011, 08:01:00 am »
Quote from: sailor;3766
Saying that the poor didn't do sacrifices because we don't have any information about the poor is counter intuitive. Ancient religion was one of doing.

We don't know what they did. I'm sure they did some type of sacrifice, but I doubt is was anything like the elaborate marriages between wealthy families we have solid records of. I suspect in most cases it would have been so minimal in comparison that it often would have been considered "just paying lip service" by those better off. It's possible to have an elaborate religious wedding today -- or one can have a religious wedding with just a preacher and the couple being married and a few friends and family.
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Re: Marriage in Ancient Greece
« Reply #4 on: July 11, 2011, 08:06:11 am »
Quote from: sailor;3713



From what I have read (and feel free to point me to resources either confirming or refuting it; can't have too much information), the offerings to the gods came after the civic arrangement between the families, pretty much like the modern handshake after signing a contract. They weren't asking for the gods' permission to solemnise the marriage; they were calling them as witnesses to the human decision.

The poor may not have done the whole animal sacrifice, auguries and whatnot, but I imagine a libation was not beyond anyone's means.
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Re: Marriage in Ancient Greece
« Reply #5 on: July 11, 2011, 10:37:10 am »
Quote from: RandallS;3870
It's possible to have an elaborate religious wedding today -- or one can have a religious wedding with just a preacher and the couple being married and a few friends and family.

 
I was kind of thinking along these lines, actually.  It's customary for a wedding around here to involve expensive clothes and jewelry, several pre-parties, a major post-party, significant giftgiving, and so on, but that doesn't mean that Western marriage is generally conceived of as a commercial activity - no matter how much money is spent on the stereotypical wedding.

(We just got through Other People's Wedding Drama here, so the "HOW much are they spending on this thing?" question is kind of fresh in my mind.)
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

sailor

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Re: Marriage in Ancient Greece
« Reply #6 on: July 11, 2011, 05:11:16 pm »
Quote from: Chatelaine;3872
From what I have read (and feel free to point me to resources either confirming or refuting it; can't have too much information), the offerings to the gods came after the civic arrangement between the families, pretty much like the modern handshake after signing a contract. They weren't asking for the gods' permission to solemnise the marriage; they were calling them as witnesses to the human decision.

The poor may not have done the whole animal sacrifice, auguries and whatnot, but I imagine a libation was not beyond anyone's means.

 
At the link I posted above, there are two sections of particular interest on Greek weddings.

The agreement to do the marriage comes first.

Then comes a bunch of religious rituals marking the event. Yeah, the poor probably couldn't offer a whole bull but the short article doesn't mention what was offered beyond some of her locks of hair, childhood toys and clothing.  She had to take a ritual bath.  

After the religious offerings, the bride was turned over to the groom with the phrase "in front of witnesses I give this girl to you for the production of legitimate children."

sailor

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Re: Marriage in Ancient Greece
« Reply #7 on: July 11, 2011, 05:15:28 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;3870
We don't know what they did. I'm sure they did some type of sacrifice, but I doubt is was anything like the elaborate marriages between wealthy families we have solid records of. I suspect in most cases it would have been so minimal in comparison that it often would have been considered "just paying lip service" by those better off. It's possible to have an elaborate religious wedding today -- or one can have a religious wedding with just a preacher and the couple being married and a few friends and family.

 
Even minimal sacrifices would be expected and are indications that marriage was bound up in religious ritual.  There wasn't an option similar to a Justice of the Peace with zero religious ritual. You could, if poor, be cheap with the gods, but you couldn't ignore them.

Nyktelios

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Re: Marriage in Ancient Greece
« Reply #8 on: July 16, 2011, 09:32:13 am »
Quote from: sailor;3981
Even minimal sacrifices would be expected and are indications that marriage was bound up in religious ritual.  There wasn't an option similar to a Justice of the Peace with zero religious ritual. You could, if poor, be cheap with the gods, but you couldn't ignore them.

 
This website sums up Egyptian marriage very well, and I bring it up because Greek traditions were very similar, as were concepts of marriage in most ancient cultures. Greek marriage only differed in that it could be a state matter, as Greeks recognized the difference between legal marriage, and a marriage-like arrangement that was unofficial (concubinage).

Quote
Marriage was purely a social arrangement that regulated property. Neither religious nor state doctrines entered into the marriage and, unlike other documents that related to economic matters (such as the so-called "marriage contracts"), marriages themselves were not registered. Apparently once a couple started living together, they were acknowledged to be married.

http://www.fathom.com/course/21701778/session1.html

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