Life within an ancient knot. The extraordinary within the confines of the ordinary


Life within an ancient knot. The extraordinary within the confines of the ordinary


This chapter introduces the relevance, scope, caveats, and resulting findings of a study of married life in antiquity spanning seven centuries and based on literary, epigraphic, and iconographic sources of Greek, Egyptian, and Roman origins. The potential pitfalls of investigating a notion covering myriads of different realities are discussed such as the oft-repeated problem caused by sources produced mainly by a male, elite, and urban population; the danger of anachronism; the issues of authorial bias and the specificities of the types and aims of the sources; the lack of recognition of alternatives to different-sex unions; and the difficulty of navigating emotional utterances, filtered by formulaic expressions, traditional ideology, wishful thinking, and/or displaced emotions. The analysis of the interpersonal dynamics of 107 couples through their mention, depiction, or self-expression in relation to married life yields a picture of commonalities which transcends, quantitatively and qualitatively, geographical, cultural, and chronological differences, principally the predominant notion of inclusion through ordinariness – married life being used as an ongoing vetting process of socially expected qualities – and the pervasive evidence that to love and being loved, in the broad sense of the word, is the ultimately sought-after state, an ideal revealed not only by all media but also by the depictions of individual experiences. The variety of the types of sources, contexts, and circumstances of the mentions of married life is evidence of the pivotal role that it played in the lives of men and women beyond the confines of dyadic interactions.

In: Centlivres-Challet, Claude-Emmanuelle (Ed.), Married Life in Greeco-Roman Antiquity. London: Routledge, 2021, pp. 1-20


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Edité par:

Claude-Emmanuelle Centlivres Challet

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Couple – relations(s) – mariage – partnariat


Sciences de l'Antiquité


Chapitre d'ouvrage collectif