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Ancient Greek Weddings in Athens & Sparta for Kids Illustration

Ancient Greek Weddings

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Age: Girls were about 12-15 when they married. Men were usually about 25-30. Many marriages were arranged. In some cases, the bride had not met her husband until the say she married. In some families, the bride was promised to a groom when she was about 5 years old, and then 10 years later, they married.

Dowry: A woman had to bring a dowry with her when she married. A dowry was a gift of money, property, cattle, or something else of real value. The woman's parents worked out an acceptable dowry directly with the groom, unless he was still supported by his parents. In that case, the two sets of parents worked out the details.

Ceremony: In most of the Greek city-states, people were married after dark. The ceremony started with a veiled bride traveling from her home to her future husband's home. She had to stand in a slow moving chariot or cart or some wheeled vehicle all the way. Her family and friends walked behind the chariot. Some carried gifts. Some carried torches to light the way. Some played music to scare away evil spirits.

When the wedding party arrived at the groom's home, the groom would give his bride an apple. The bride ate a bite of the apple to show her basic needs would now come from her husband. There was more to the ceremony, but that was the main activity that needed to be done to seal the deal.

When they were married, people feasted and drank wine and looked at the gifts. Gifts were like wedding gifts today, household goods and perfumes and vases and baskets.

Weddings were very different in Sparta. In Sparta, after a short friendly physical fight between the bride and the groom. The groom won if he and the bride wished to be married. The groom would toss his wife over his shoulder and carry her off. That concluded the wedding ceremony. Then, like all the Greeks, wedding guests feasted and toasted the new couple.

Divorce:

Women: Divorce was possible in ancient Greece. All a woman had to do was leave her husband's home and live somewhere else and she was divorced. Her husband had to return her dowry, or a value equal to her dowry. This all sounds pretty easy, but it wasn't easy. Women in most of the Greek city-states were not allowed to hold jobs. Her father might not want her back. Men had the legal right to forcibly stop a wife from leaving. Although she supposedly got the value of her dowry back, her children stayed with her husband. That alone discouraged many women from leaving.

Men: Men could also divorce their wives. A man could throw his wife out of the house. He could return her to her father's home. He could give her to another man to be his wife. Although he had to return her dowry, it did not need to be in the same form. For example, if her dowry was property, and that property had been sold, he could give her a dangerous bull as equal value and tell her to remove it immediately.

Not all divorces were friendly. But divorce in ancient Greece was not uncommon. Women could and usually did remarry after a divorce.

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