Marriage in Athens

Marriages were arranged by the father or legal guardian (kyrios) of the bride.

Wives were chosen based on their dowry, presumed fertility and household skills.

Women normally married around the age of 14 following puberty and men normally married around the age of 30.

Marriages were mainly arranged for business reasons between two families and for forming family alliances.

Athenian law stated that men could not marry foreign women, however they were allowed to marry direct relatives.

In Athens the father or legal guardian would announce that he was allowing his daughter to marry, and men would often vie for the right to marry the daughter. This would involve the men competing in games, dance and the bringing of gifts. The father would then choose the suitor and they would shake hands and make a binding promise before the marriage would take place. The daughter had very little say in the choice of her husband.

Marriage celebration took place in 3 separate parts and over 3 days.

Proaulia

The bride-to-be would spend her final time with her mother, female relatives and friends. A feast would take place at the home of the bride’s father and offerings would be given to the gods. There would be a ritual to the gods to show the bride’s separation from childhood into womanhood. This would include the cutting of a lock of hair and dedicating it to the gods.

Gamos

This was the wedding day and consisted of a series of ceremonies and celebrations to transfer the bride from her fathers house to that of her husband.

The bride would start the day with a nuptial bath that symbolised purification and fertility, and both the bride and groom made offerings at the temple. A wedding feast would then be attended by both families; however men and women sat and ate at different tables.

To complete the transfer of the bride to her husband’s family, the ritual of removing the bride’s veil was completed (anakalupteria).

The bride would then move into her husband’s quarters and the marriage would be legalised. The bride’s father would then pass the dowry to his daughter’s husband.

Epaulia

This was a wedding shower where the bride and groom received gifts preparing them for married life.

 

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