Weddings in Ancient Greece

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Every young gril has a Kyrios: either her father, a blood-brother, grandfather, or legal guardian. He chose her husband and decided when she was ready to be married. An Athenian married to have children - both to care for him in his old age but more importantly to bury him with full rites and keep up his family cult when he is gone. The first reason for marriage was therefore a religious one. A man married to have male children - one son at least to perpetuate the line and guaraentee cult honours which he, the father, had performed for his ancestors and which were regarded as indispensable for the well being of the dead in the Underworld.

There was a law against bachelors in Sparta and while no such legal sanctions existed in Athens pressure but public opinion was strong. As well as for religious reasons, many men married for social convenience; bed, board, etc - but rarely for love. There was never any period of courtship in Ancient Greece; a couple would probably never meet before the marriage. Love might result, but it did not exist beforehand. Greatly contrasting modern marriage laws is the fact that a man would marry at about 30 years old, a girl between 13 to 16.

Marriage - Gamos

Marriage, or "Gamos" in Ancient Greek, consisted of two halves:

1. The Engeyesis/Engue - an engagement ceremony, but much more legally binding than today's often temporary engagements. This binding agreement was spoken rather than written and concerned the girl in no way. The engagement was finally pledged by the grasping of hands between the suitor and girl's kyrios. A dowry was agreed and oaths were sworn in front of witnesses. It s possible the girl was present but unlikely: she played no part in the ceremony now was her consent required. A suitor may well have consulted his father over whom to marry and fathers often arranged marriages for their sons in order to strengthen family provisions - clearly statu and self-nterests were the main motives.

2. The Ekdosis - the wedding ceremony was proper, the 'giving away' of the bride to the groom. The marriage existed legally speaking from the time of the Engyesis, but the wedding proper - Gamos - required the transfer of the bride to the bridegroom's house so that cohabitation could begin. Ekdosis was meant to occur soon after Engeysis, being superstitious however Greeks preferred to marry at the full moon and in Winter, rather than Summer. Weddings were frequent during the month Gamelion (January), sacred to Hera goddess of marriage.

The wedding ceremony began on the evening the bride changed home and consisted of three primary preparations:

1. A sacrifice to the gods and goddesses who protected the marriage-bed- Zeus, Hera, Artemis and Apollo. The bride offered up a lock of hair, toys and all objects associated with her childhood and the girdle (belt) that she had worn since she started puberty.

2. The principle rite - a purification…

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