The Purpose of Marriage in Ancient Roman and Modern American Society

Essay by tgruelaUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, March 2004

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When you think of a wedding you probably picture a woman in a beautiful white gown and hear the wedding march, but what do people of other times and cultures envision? Although some basic qualities span across societies, every culture harbors individual beliefs and expectations concerning many aspects of marriage. Basic aspects of the marriage customs of several cultures such as the betrothal, the wedding ceremony, and the actual institution of marriage, reflect a society's perception of the purpose of marriage. The people of ancient Rome had specific views and standards about marriage that help to identify them as an individual society. These beliefs can be compared and contrasted with those of modern society to illustrate how they reflect differing purposes of marriage.

The purpose that the institution of marriage is supposed to serve varies from culture to culture. Rather than the love and romance associated with modern American marriages, people in ancient Rome married for practical reasons.

The primary function of a Roman marriage was to produce heirs and provide a stable environment in which these heirs could be raised (Shelton 43). The Romans put extreme emphasis on the continuation of their families, one reason for which was the lack of a comprehensive community-sponsored welfare system. Family members depended heavily on one another for mutual assistance (Shelton 17). Because of this, married couples were encouraged to have children as soon as possible. Many wives that were unable to bear children would feel embarrassed, as though they had not been able to serve their duty as a wife and fulfill the main purpose of their marriage. The physician Soranus bluntly expresses the purpose of Roman marriage when he writes, "Since women are married for the sake of bearing children and heirs, and not for pleasure and enjoyment, it is totally...