Age of Marriage in Ancient Rome

Author: Lelis, Arnold; Percy, William A.; and Verstraete, Beert C.
This study provides a convenient review of the research done and various views held since the late 19th century on the age of marriage in ancient Roman society. It offers an hypothesis that explains the apparent discrepancy between the literary and epigraphic evidence. The age of marriage in Rome had important demographic implications. This study argues and demonstrates that, given the extremely high mortality rate in the Roman Empire, a very early age of marriage was desirable, especially for Roman girls, in order to ensure a reasonably stable population. This study will make a significant contribution to the area of Roman demography and social history.


“Examining the secondary literature dealing with age of consent (including the age of marriage) is a fascinating illustration of the inability of historians to overcome the cultural beliefs of their own time. It is the willingness of the authors of this monograph to challenge some of the more recent writings on age of marriage in Roman times which makes it most important ... The evidence, when one looks for it, documents what biological observation told the ancients, that younger marriage ages were almost a necessity if Roman society was to survive. To ignore this fact is to try to read modern prejudices and assumptions about what the proper age of consent should be into the past. Hopefully, those readers who follow their arguments will reassess their view both of marriage and family in Roman history.” – Vern L. Bullough, Distinguished Professor Emeritus, State University of New York

“ ... this will be an influential work, of value to anyone interested in the ancient Romans, in demography or sociology, or in the life cycles of a nation of great importance in history. Its successful use of comparative material enables the subject to be seen in the broader perspective, stressing the real differences between ancient and modern societies. Most of it is clearly written and will be accessible to the wider public which the volume could easily attract. After reading this work, the Romans will never look the same, and the careers of their leaders, who started so young, will be seen in a far more satisfactory light.” – Professor Clive Foss, Georgetown University

Table of Contents

Table of Contents:
Foreword; Preface
1. Introduction
2. The Evidence and Other Preliminary Considerations
3. Early Rome up to the End of the Second Century BC
4. the Period of the Late Republic and the Empire
5. A Reconsideration of the Epigraphic Evidence
6. Conclusion: some Observations on the Late Empire and Christian Influence
Appendix I: First Marriages of Roman Men
Appendix II: First Marriages of Roman Women
Bibliography; Index