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Le mariage dans le pourtour méditerranéen de l’Europe : du modèle à la comparaison

The Byzantines between Civil and Sacramental Marriage

Les Byzantins entre mariage civil et mariage religieux
Katerina Nikolaou

Résumés

À Byzance, les conceptions et les pratiques relatives au mariage n’étaient pas fixes, et les principes liés à la contraction d’une union ainsi qu’à la manière de la constituer ont varié jusqu’à la fin du ixe siècle.
Dans cet article, le cadre juridique alors en vigueur qui valide la vie maritale, est brièvement abordé. Il est montré que les auteurs, en particulier ceux des textes hagiographiques, évitaient de se rapporter à la façon dont les mariages étaient contractés, dans la mesure où les Byzantins ne recherchaient pas – pour autant qu’il était permis – la bénédiction de l’Église, considérant la fondation d’une nouvelle famille comme une affaire qui concernait exclusivement la société et l’État.

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  • 1 Much ink has been spilled in modern historiography on the historicity of beauty contests. Some rese (...)
  • 2 Romantic marriages include, among others, those of Justinian and Theodora, Heraclius and Martina, L (...)

1Intermittently, for a period adding roughly to a hundred years, from the end of the seventh to the end of the ninth century, it appears that the custom in the Byzantine court was to hold a beauty contest in order for the young emperor to choose a suitable royal bride1; of course, this does not mean that the heir to the throne or an already crowned ruler could not marry out of love or for reasons of political expediency2. Euphrosyne, widow of Michael II, also organised such a contest with the purpose of finding the woman that could stand by the side of her stepson, Theophilos.

  • 3 Wahlgren 2006, pp. 216‑217 (130.2‑5). Cf. Markopoulos 1983, pp. 259‑260. The saint’s Life does not (...)

2A search for beautiful maidens was mounted throughout the empire, and the likeliest candidates were presented to the seventeen‑year‑old emperor for his consideration3. As a token of his choice, Theophilos offered to “the fairest of them all” (τῇ καλλίστῃ) a golden apple, symbolizing love and fertility. The good‑looking, well‑born Kas(s)ia caught his eye, yet the prize went to Theodora, who was standing right next to her; it seems that Kas(s)ia was too sharp‑witted in her response to Theophilos’ test questions, who was obviously not too keen on marrying a woman who was above the norm of her time. Thus, fortune smiled on young Theodora of Paphlagonia and a golden ring on her hand sealed the royal engagement. Kas(s)ia retired to a convent, while the bride‑to‑be remained in the palace, where the serving maids of her mother‑in‑law undertook to serve her, as well as to prepare her for her coronation and the wedding.

  • 4 Markopoulos 1983, p. 260: καὶ βασιλεύει εὐσεβῶς ἡ αὐτὴ Θεοδώρα καὶ αὐτοκράτορος σύζυγος γίνεται ἐν (...)
  • 5 “ΜΑ. Ὅσα δεῖ παραφυλάττειν ἐπὶ στεψίμῳ Αὐγούστης καὶ στεφανώματος”: Reiske 1829, pp. 207‑216.

3With regard to these two magnificent ceremonies, which took place on 5 June 830, Byzantine authors mention only the venue and the participants4; however, Constantine Porphyrogenitus, the tenth‑century scholar-emperor, has preserved in his work De Ceremonies (Περὶ τῆς βασιλείου τάξεως) every detail pertaining to the ritual and protocol that were to be followed on similar occasions5.

4As was the case in most of these instances, the ceremony was preceded by the crowning of Theodora as Augusta. Twenty‑two days after being selected, Theodora was crowned by Theophilos himself, in an almost private ceremony. After they had been received by the emperor, the senators and courtiers left the imperial great reception hall. It was then that the patriarch arrived with his priestly entourage. His role was a limited one: saying a prayer over the imperial robe (chlamys), the crown and its praependulia. Then the bride (and soon‑to‑be empress) was announced and she entered the Great Hall (Αὐγουσταῖος), dressed in imperial garments and with her head covered by a mantle which Theophilos removed. The patriarch presented him with the blessed objects and the emperor dressed Theodora with the imperial robe, placed the crown on her head, and attached to it the praependulia, long strands of pearls that can be seen hanging from the empress’s official crown in artistic representations. The coronation of Theodora was now complete.

5To legitimize the ceremony, both clergy and populace made obeisance and acclaimed her as empress. In her new capacity, she presented herself and received the Court, the Senate and all the officials along with their wives, in order of precedence. During the final banquet in the Hall of the Nineteen Couches, Theodora was acclaimed by the Circus factions and for the first time, she was addressed as basilissa, the female form of basileus (which from the seventh century onwards became the most official term used to denote the ruler).

6Then the empress took her leave by making a deep reverence and, escorted by an entourage of senators and officials, set off for the Augusteus, where she was received by the staff of her private imperial chambers.

7The formal part of the coronation now concluded, the Augusta arrived at the church of Saint Stephen, in the Daphne palace, where the emperor awaited her for the wedding ceremony; as was the custom for royal weddings, the marriage service was held in the church and received the blessing of priests. Theophilus and Theodora left during mass, immediately after the marriage blessings, and returned only to have the marriage crowns placed upon them by the patriarch. The stephanoi, as they were called, were most probably a mesh of gold that could be worn over the imperial crowns. As soon as the ceremony was over, the newlyweds emerged from the church wearing their marriage crowns and were received with acclamations. They made their way to the Magnaura palace, quite some distance from the Daphne. Accompanied by the factions playing music and singers chanting greetings, the newlywed couple reached their bedchamber. They deposited the imperial crowns on the nuptial bed and proceeded to the wedding banquet. Still wearing their marriage crowns, they joined their guests at the Hall of the Nineteen Couches, where the celebrations were to be held.

  • 6 Herrin 2001, pp. 59‑64.
  • 7 De Boor 1883‑1885, p. 444. See the English translation by Mango and Scott 1997, p. 613.

8This, more or less, is how Judith Herrin describes in her book Women in Purple6 first the crowning of Eirene the Athenian and then the marriage rite (stephanoma) that united her to Leo IV; Theophanes, our main source for the period in general and for the wedding in particular, mentions only the time and place of the ceremonies7. Following to the letter the court wedding ritual described by Constantine Porphyrogenitus in De cerimoniis, Herrin recreates the ideal procedure and protocol that would have been used. In a similar vein, I have used the same source to recreate a possible description of the wedding of Theophilos and Theodora in the preceding paragraphs.

9With regard to the subject of the present study, it is interesting to inquire into the reason why emperors, even in periods when ecclesiastical wedding ceremonies had yet to crystallize and, at any rate, were not mandated by law, would seek the Church’s nuptial blessing.

  • 8 Ever since the patriarchate of Nerses I the Great (363‑372/3), Armenian priests blessed the wedding (...)
  • 9 Gregory of Nazianzus explains in one of his letters that people gladly allowed priests to place the (...)
  • 10 Béraudy 1982, pp. 54‑55.

10The evolutionary process that established the marriage rite (stephanoma) of the betrothed by a priest as the main wedding ritual was set in motion in the fourth century, when the Church gave a new interpretation to the marriage crowns that were traditionally used in weddings in the Greek world. The custom at the time was that the father of the bride, after giving her away to the groom, would place crowns on the heads of the newlyweds. John Chrysostom saw in them a symbol of spousal purity. This value that was attributed to the rite of stephanoma allowed for this particular ritual to be left to the hands of a priest. By the second half of the fourth century, it had become an established practice in Armenia8; Cappadocia followed9, and from there the custom reached Constantinople10.

  • 11 De Boor 1887, 10.1: τὸν γὰρ ᾿Ιωάννην, τὸν τῶν ἱεραρχικῶν ἐξηγούμενον θρόνων, ἐς τὸ ἀνάκτορον εἰσκαλ (...)
  • 12 English translation by Whitby M. and M. 1986, (10.1).

11The earliest reference to this ritual in the Imperial City is found in the work of Theophylact Simocatta; more specifically, it forms part of the narrative regarding the wedding of Emperor Maurice (582‑602) to Constantia, daughter of his predecessor Tiberius. Patriarch John IV Nesteutes (582‑595) joined the hands of the spouses, blessed the emperor’s marriage and crowned the heads of the royal couple with the marital crowns11. Of particular interest is the explanation offered by the author for the choice made by Maurice to have the patriarch present and participating in the wedding ceremony: after “he summoned to the palace John, the leader of the high‑priestly thrones, in the great chamber…, he begged to be granted the Almighty’s approval through the priest’s intercession with God, so that the undertaking of the marriage might turn out favorably for the emperor”12. Clearly, the patriarch's role was less to legitimize the marriage than to function as guarantor for the success of the marital union.

12Christians, however, did not marry in the same immutable fashion since the dawn of the new religion, nor were the same paths followed until a separate ritual crystallized in both West and East. This lack of uniformity is explained by cultural differences and variations through time, Church strategies, and theological approaches.

  • 13 For a more detailed description of the evolution of marriage and the turbulent relations between Ch (...)

13In the Byzantine period, perceptions of marriage and the practices surrounding it did not remain constant, especially with regard to those entities which had the ability to enforce their ideology through legislation and regulation. Apart from the State, as early as the first centuries of the Byzantine Empire, the Church, being a spiritual power, also exercised an increasing degree of influence on the mindset of the faithful, foreshadowing its recognition as an agent of political power many centuries later. These entities, therefore, as regulatory systems, usually accommodated and supported each other. From time to time, however, they did not see eye to eye and then marriage rituals and legislation had to be amended in order to strike a new balance. At this point, it is deemed necessary to give a brief presentation of the position of the Church vis‑a‑vis the institution of marriage in tandem with the latter’s variable role in society13.

  • 14 Μeyendorff 1990, pp. 99‑100.

14As early as the first Christian centuries, the Church rejected extreme ascetic practices and those who scorned marriage. It condemned those who had chosen a life of ascetism and were behaving arrogantly towards married people; it also disavowed those who refused to receive the Eucharist from the hands of a married clergyman, or women who abandoned their husbands because of an aversion to married life14.

15In the eighth century, an age of transformation and social upheaval, the emperors of the Isaurian dynasty inveighed against monasticism and its supporters, while at the same time they sought to invigorate family life. With their legislative work, the Ecloga (726 or 741), Leo III and Constantine V aimed at reinforcing the bonds of family and promoting it as the primary role model of society. The Church on its part, by propagandizing monasticism, tried in every way to resist this policy of the Isaurians that was favorable towards the institution of family – a policy that also found expression through the iconoclastic movement.

16During the same period, the issue of the second marriage of Constantine VI to Theodote, his mother’s lady‑in‑waiting, put the relations between Church and State to the test. Those monks who were harboring disaffection with the State, because of its iconoclastic policy, used the remarriage of the emperor – whom they denounced as an adulterer, since his first wife Maria was still alive – as a pretext to break off communion with the patriarch Tarasios, who had come to terms with the marriage. This was the beginning of the so‑called Moechian Controversy, which came to an end in 812 with the ultimate excommunication of the priest who had blessed the union. The ninth-century went on, marked by continued tensions between Church and State, as the second phase of Iconoclasm got under way. The final restoration of icon worship (March 843) put an end to a dispute that had sparked theological and ideological introspection, as well as a promotion of social role models.

17From the end of the ninth century onwards, Church and State were of one mind on the issue of marriage, although temporarily there was a further rift in their relations, occasioned by the fourth marriage of Leo VI - the emperor who more than others had striven to place marriage under the Church's protecion - with Zoë Karbonopsina. He was forced to marry a fourth time, in order to legitimize his son and heir, who was the product of the emperor’s affair with his mistress. The “Tomos of Union”, which finally terminated the dispute over the issue of Leo’s tetragamy, expressed the combined views of the two parties; specifically, the State adopted the views of the Church, while the latter seemed to treat certain needs of society with a measure of understanding. Since then, this synodal edict was considered not only a Church canon, but also a law of the state regarding successive marriages. Ecclesiastical peace had finally been restored. Nevertheless, disagreements with the Church over imperial marriages are still to be found in the following centuries, although no emperor ever dared enter into a fourth marriage again.

18The way marriage was contracted in Byzantium, including the rite to be followed, took shape, evolved and received its final canonical form.

  • 15 The detailed study of Papadatos 1984, remains the key starting point for a foray into the subject o (...)

19The wedding was usually, but not necessarily, preceded by a betrothal15; the latter was distinguished into “incomplete” (also known as “civil” or “legal”), which followed the statutes of civil law, and “primary” or “solemn” engagement, which was deemed equal to marriage and carried almost the same legal obligations.

  • 16 Burgmann 1983, 1.1; Zepos I. and P. 1931b, 1.8.
  • 17 The Ecloga (Zepos I. and P. 1931b), 2.1, sets the minimum age of marriage at 15 for men and 13 for (...)

20The age limit for betrothal was much lower than that required for marriage. Civil law stated that the betrothed had to be at least seven years old16; the Church, on the other hand, recognized the betrothal of seven‑year‑old children as valid, but would not give its blessing unless the betrothed had reached the minimum legal age for marriage, which was 14 for men and 12 for women17. Canon 98 of the Council in Trullo equated betrothal with marriage, provided that the legal age limit for marriage was respected.

21With regard to the type of formation of marriage, the final outcome was the result of the combination of elements of Greek culture, Roman organization and civil law (which was followed throughout the empire), and Christianity, as a universal religion at first, and later in its Eastern Orthodox form.

  • 18 Marrou 1951, 5.6; Béraudy 1982, p. 50 and n. 1.
  • 19 Béraudy 1982, p. 50.

22A testimony dating from the second century18 attests to the fact that the marriages of early Christians were similar to those of other people19, according to Roman law and/or the family wedding ritual that was typical of the Greek world, if the newlyweds belonged to that world or came from it.

  • 20 Béraudy 1982, p. 51.

23Marriage in Ancient Greece was a family affair and followed a family ritual; it did not, however, lack religious significance. It was prepared in agreement with the two interested families and constituted a simple transaction that was not legally binding20.

  • 21 Béraudy 1982, pp. 51‑53.
  • 22 Béraudy 1982, p. 54.

24In the Roman Imperial period, marriage was an arranged agreement which presupposed that the spouses shared the same personal status, and also that both the betrothed and their legal guardians had given their consent21. Likewise, in the Byzantine Empire for several centuries marriage was a private contractual agreement, at least as far as its validity in the eyes of the state was concerned, and until the end of the ninth century the way marriage was contracted varied. Prior to the fourth century, there is no evidence alluding to the existence of a Christian marriage rite. Surely bishops exercised control over the marriage of their faithful, but their interventions were only disciplinary in nature22.

  • 23 Novella 117, ch. 4, in Schöll and Kroll 1985: καὶ διὰ τοῦτο κελεύομεν τοὺς μεγάλοις ἀξιώμασι κεκοσμ (...)

25According to the Corpus Juris Civilis, written marriage contracts were mandatory only for high-ranking officials23, whereas the rest of the empire’s subjects were not obligated to go through either a civil or a religious ceremony.

  • 24 Burgmann 1983, 2.1: Συνίσταται γάμος χριστιανῶν, εἴτε ἐγγράφως εἴτε ἀγράφως, μεταξὺ ἀνδρὸς καὶ γυνα (...)

26In the Ecloga, the legal code of the Isaurian emperors in which the state adopted the decisions of the church councils, marriage still remained a private agreement, which was contracted, either by deed or by parol, with the consent of the future spouses and their parents24. However, for the first time in a law of the State, that is in the most official way, the Church’s part in the institution was accepted. If the couple – or rather their families – chose marriage by deed, a written contract that regulated property issues in the marriage had to be drawn in the presence of three credible witnesses. If they opted for marriage by parol, its validity was secured through the testimony of friends of the couple or the blessing of the Church.

  • 25 Novella 89, in Noailles and Dain 1944: ... καὶ τὰ συνοικέσια τῇ μαρτυρίᾳ τῆς ἱερᾶς εὐλογίας ἐῤῥῶσθα (...)
  • 26 35th Novel of Alexios Komnenos, in Zepos I. and P. 1931a, pp. 342‑343: Προστίθησι δὲ καὶ τὰς ἱερολο (...)

27The Church was established as the definitive and exclusive guarantor of the legitimacy of marriage with Leo VI’s Novel 89, which mandated that the ceremony should receive the blessing of the Church: “we also decree that marital unions be fortified with the testament of sacred blessing”25. Finally, in 1095 Alexios I Komnenos demanded that the blessing of the Church be conferred not only upon the free, but upon slaves as well, and stated that a marriage which had not been blessed by the Church was neither legal nor worthy of Christians26.

28During that same period when the Church sought to promote and reinforce the institution of marriage, in other words the end of the ninth and the beginning of the tenth century, a new type of female saint made its appearance. Saint Theophano, the first wife of Leo VI, Saint Mary the Younger and Saint Thomaïs of Lesbos attained sainthood by spending their entire lives in marriage, without ever becoming nuns.

  • 27 Laiou 1989.
  • 28 On the author of the Life, see in particular Alexakis 1995. Nikolaou 2011; Nikolaou 2003‑2004, pp.  (...)

29Although modern research had originally treated all three Lives as a single group and had thus proceeded to justify their creation27, today it has been proven that there are significant differences between them, at least with regard to the conditions and reasons surrounding their composition; furthermore, it appears that this is a new type of female sanctity, created for reasons of political expediency, as a “bargaining chip” between State and Church, that had to do with control over the institution of marriage28.

  • 29 All relative references found in Middle Byzantine hagiographic texts (mainly from the eighth to the (...)

30Byzantine textual sources, especially official historiography, are not particularly forthcoming when it comes to the type of wedding ceremony that the citizens of the empire preferred. Even hagiographical texts, a literary genre which is otherwise very valuable as a source of information for the study of all aspects of Byzantine society, are not very helpful in illuminating the issue29. Usually, saints’ Lives tend to shy away from mentioning the form of wedding ceremony that either the protagonists or their parents had gone through, since as a general rule the marriages of saints are only mentioned so as to underscore the holy person's opposition to the prospect of entering a marital union.

  • 30 Delehaye 1902a, col. 173‑174: ἔσπευδεν ἡ μάμμη αὐτῆς ἀνδρὶ εὐλαβεστάτῳ συζεῦξαι αὐτήν· ὃ καὶ πεποίη (...)
  • 31 Carras 1984, p. 212 ch. 3: οἱ γεννήτορες καὶ μὴ βουλομένην ἀλλὰ καὶ λίαν ἀπαναινομένην ἀνδρὶ βιαιοτ (...)
  • 32 Carras 1984, p. 212 ch. 4: ἐπὶ δεύτερον οι γεννήτορες συνοικέσιον ἤλασαν.
  • 33 Delehaye 1902b, col. 355 ch. 4: τὰ τοῦ γάμου αἴσια ἐπ᾿ αὐτῇ τελοῦνται.
  • 34 Nikolaou 2005, p. 82, with references to the sources.

31In the eighth century, the marriage of Saint Anna/Euphemianos was arranged by her grandmother, but we have no information on the actual ceremony30. A similar lack of information is also the case for Saint Athanasia (ninth century), who was actually married twice. The first time “the parents most forcibly married her off to a man, even though she not only did not want to, but she was extremely against it”31, while the second “the parents arranged for her a second marriage”32, with no other details being mentioned. Saint Thomaïs was forced by her parents to marry, with no further information available on how the ceremony was conducted. Saint Theodora obviously had a stately wedding, since her husband, Christopher, was the son of Emperor Constantine V; however, there is only a brief reference to it in her Life: “the nuptial blessing is conferred upon her”33. Saint Paul of Latros (†955), who was fatherless, was forced by his mother to marry. Saint Theodore of Kythera yielded to the pressures of the senior priest (protopapas) of Nauplion who had raised him34.

32Information on the wedding of minor characters is very rare in saints’ Lives, while in some case there are references to the celebrations that usually took place at the wedding.

  • 35 Latyšev 1918, p. 8 ch. 11: … καὶ εὐωχίαις τὴν ἡμερινὴν λαβόντος ἐξάνυξιν, ἡ νυκτερινὴ διεδέχετο μετ (...)
  • 36 Nikolaou 2005, p. 83, with references to the sources.

33For example the wedding of Theophanes the Confessor, who during the same ceremony received the Church's blessing, is so described by his ninth-century biographer: “and having enjoyed in full the daytime feast, this was followed in the night by the secret procession with bands of musicians and flutes and rattiling noises”35. At the age of 15, Saint Demetrianos (ninth‑tenth century) was forced to marry against his will, and his parents organized the wedding celebration, as was also the case with Saint Meletios the Younger36.

  • 37 Delehaye et alii 1910, p. 863 ch. 5: καὶ ὁ καιρὸς ἐκάλει καὶ τὰς ἐπιθαλαμίους ὑπανάπτειν ἤδη λαμπάδ (...)
  • 38 Latyšev 1914, p. 293 ch. 61: κόρην τινα τῶν ἐκ γειτόνων, σεμνὴν πάνυ καὶ ὡραίαν, τῷ ἐμῷ υἱῷ προσαγό (...)

34Agelastos, the uncle of Euphrosyne the Younger, did the same thing: he prepared her wedding and the entire resplendent ceremony to celebrate it37. Theodore the Studite was a guest at the house of Leo the hypatos when the latter was preparing his son’s wedding. After the marriage rite, the bride suddenly died of high fever and the wedding songs gave way to dirges38.

  • 39 Halkin 1988, p. 6: μετ᾿ ὀλίγας ἡμέρας ἐστέφθη ἐν τῷ τρικλινίῳ τοῦ Αὐγουσταῖος· καὶ ἀπελθοῦσα ἐν τῷ (...)
  • 40 Migne 1903, p. 252 ch. 14: τὴν εἰς αὐτοὺς στεφανικὴν ἀποστρέφεται χειροθεσίαν, και μόνον ο Ιωσήφ, ο (...)
  • 41 Kurtz 1898, p. 6 ch. 11: ἡ τῶν γαμηλίων εὐτρεπίζετο πανδαισία· καὶ τῶν θαλάμων ἀναπλεχθέντων, ὁ χρι (...)

35As has already been mentioned, the marriage rite (stephanoma) was mandatory only for imperial wedding ceremonies, even before Leo VI’s legislation made it obligatory for all Byzantine citizens. In addition to historiographical sources, the fact is also mentioned in saints’ Lives. Following her betrothal, Eirene the Athenian “after a few days she was crowned in the banquet hall of the Augusteus; and proceeding to the chapel of Saint Stephen the Protomartyr in the Daphne, she received the marital crown along with Emperor Leo, the son of Constantine surnamed Horse‑Dung”39. The refusal of Patriarch Tarasios to officiate the marriage of Constantine VI and his second wife, Theodote, is well‑known: “he refuses to perform the marriage rite for them, and only Joseph, the steward of Hagia Sophia, boldly accepts responsibility for the act, and places the marital crowns on the heads of the adulterous couple”40. Theodora and Theophilos were married by the patriarch, while the wedding of Saint Theophano and Leo VI also followed the imperial ritual. Shortly after the engagement “the magnificent wedding ceremony is prepared; and after the nuptial bedchamber is decorated, they go through the marriage rite so beloved by God”41. The wedding ceremony was followed by sumptuous dinners, celebrations in Constantinople, gifts and all kinds of gifts to the populace, acts of charity and distribution of largesse.

36From the foregoing exposition of the evidence – and with the exception of royal weddings, which had to conform to a specific imperial ritual – it appears that, until Leo VI promulgated Novel 89, the protagonists of hagiographical texts tended to avoid sacramental marriage, because according to the Church it remained perpetually binding and neither the death of a spouse nor the latter donning the monastic habit could dissolve it. Therefore, even if they had married against their will and then taken religious vows, it would have been incompatible for them to have gone through a sacramental marriage, since in the eyes of the Church they would still be considered married. Furthermore, had the union been blessed by a priest, the author of a hagiographical text would have been more than willing to mention the fact, as happened in the case of Theophanes. On the other hand, a “civil law” marriage was unacceptable in the minds of the biographers; that is why they usually gloss over how the union was legitimized.

37As far as the rest of Byzantine society was concerned, there is no evidence in hagiographical texts that its members sought the blessing of the Church when contracting a marriage. For centuries, while the Church continued its effort to force itself on social institutions, creating a new family remained a matter of concern exclusively for society and the State. The fact that the authors of hagiographical texts simply mention the decision to contract a marriage or the celebration of the event, with no further details regarding the form of the ceremony, attests to the disapproval of the prevailing customs on the part of these individuals, who were expressing the views of the Church.

38In March 1982, the Greek Parliament passed a law that made civil marriages as equally valid as religious ceremonies; the lawmakers, however, did not go as far as to make them mandatory, which is what progressive intellectuals demanded, which was a principle that had already been established in Western countries. The first civil wedding ceremony in Greece took place on July 18 of that year. Reaction on the part of the Church was significant, but the moderate stance of the then archbishop helped ease tensions. A very large part of the Greek public treated the issue with skepticism or even hostility, since they believed that the law would overturn a centuries‑old tradition, as old as the first Christian churches, or so they thought. Few people were aware of the actual history of the institution. Until the end of the ninth century, the Byzantines were following the traditional civil ways to legitimize their marriages. It was only when this option was taken away from them that they subjugated this part of their life as well to the Church. It was not a choice – it was an obligation.

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Bibliographie

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Delehaye et alii 1910 = Hippolyte Delehaye S. J. et alii (eds), “The Life of Euphrosyne the Younger”, Propylaeum ad Acta Sanctorum Novembris: Synaxarium Ecclesiae Constantinopolitanae e Codice sirmondiano, III, Paris, 1910, pp. 861‑877.

Dölger 1924 = Franz Dölger, Regesten der Kaiserurkunden des Oströmischen Reiches, : Regesten von 565‑1025, Munich, Beck, 1924.

Halkin 1988 = François Halkin, “Deux impératrices de Byzance, I: La vie de l’impératrice Sainte Irène et le second concile de Nicée en 787”, Analecta Bollandiana 106, 1988, pp. 5‑34.

Herrin 2001 = Judith Herrin, Women in Purple, London, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, 2001.

Köpstein 1980 = Helga Köpstein, “Zur Novelle des Alexios Komnenos zum Sklavenstatus (1095)”, in Actes du xve Congrès international d’Études byzantines (Athènes, Septembre 1976), IV: Histoire, Communications, Athens, 1980, pp. 160‑172.

Kurtz 1898 = Eduard Kurtz (ed.), “Zwei griechische Texte über die Hl. Theophano, die Gemahlin Kaisers Leo VI”, Mémoires de l’Académie Impériale des Sciences de St. Petersbourg, viiie siècle, vol. III, no. 2 (1898), pp. 1‑24.

Laiou 1989 = A. Laiou, “H ιστορία ενός γάμου: O βίος της αγίας Θωμαΐδος”, in Πρακτικά του A Διεθνούς Συμποσίου: “H Kαθημερινή ζωή στο Bυζάντιο. Tομές και συνέχειες στην ελληνιστική και ρωμαϊκή παράδοση”, Athens, 1989, pp. 237‑251.

Latyšev 1914 = B. Latyšev (ed.), “Vita S. Theodori Studitae in codice Mosquensi musei Rumianzoviani no 520”, Vizantijskij Vremennik 21, 1914, pp. 255‑304.

Latyšev 1918 = B. Latyšev (ed.), Methodii Patriarchae Constantinopolitani Vita S. Theophanis Confessoris e codice Mosquensi no 159, Petrograd, 1918 (Zapiski Rossijskoj Akademii Nauk, VIII).

Mango and Scott 1997 = Cyril Mango and Roger Scott, The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor: Byzantine and Near Eastern History, AD 284‑813, Oxford/New York, Clarendon Press/Oxford UP, 1997.

Markopoulos 1983 = Athanasios Markopoulos, “Βίος της αυτοκράτειρας Θεοδώρας [BHG 1731]”, Symmeikta 5, 1983, pp. 249‑285.

Marrou 1951 = Henri‑Irénée Marrou (ed.), A Diognète, Paris, Cerf, 1951 (Sources Chrétiennes 33).

Meyendorff 1990 = John Μeyendorff, “Christian Marriage in Byzantium: The Canonical and Liturgical Tradition”, Dumbarton Oaks Papers 44, 1990, pp. 99‑107.

Migne 1903 = Jacques‑Paul Migne (ed.), The Life of Theodore the Studite, Paris, 1903 (Patrologiae Cursus Completus. Series Graeca 99), pp. 233‑328.

Nikolaou 2003‑2004 = Katérina Nikolaou, “Παλινωδίες στη νομοθεσία των Μακεδόνων: Η κακοποίηση των εγγάμων γυναικών και ο Βίος της Θωμαΐδος της Λεσβίας”, Symmeikta 16, 2003‑2004, pp. 101‑113.

Nikolaou 2005 = Katérina Nikolaou, Η γυναίκα στη μέση βυζαντινή εποχή. Κοινωνικά πρότυπα και καθημερινός βίος στα αγιολογικά κείμενα, Athens, EIE, 2005 (Εθνικό ĺδρυμα Ερευνών. Μονογραφίες 6).

Nikolaou 2011 = Katérina Nikolaou, “Ο Βίος ή ο βίος της Θεοφανούς και ο πρώτος γάμος του Λέοντα Ϛ΄”, in Theodoros Korres, Polymnia Katsoni, Ioannis Leontiadis and Andreas Goutzioukostas (eds), Φιλοτιμία. Τιμητικός τόμος για την ομότιμη καθηγήτρια Αλκμήνη Σταυρίδου-Ζαφράκα, Thessaloniki, 2011, pp. 479‑500.

Noailles and Dain 1944 = Pierre Noailles and Alphonse Dain, Les Novelles de Léon VI le Sage, Paris, Les Belles Lettres, 1944.

Papadatos 1984 = St. Papadatos, Περί της μνηστείας εις το βυζαντινόν δίκαιον, Athens, 1984.

Petrinski 2015 = Gerasim Petrinski, Конкурсите за красота във византийския императорски двор: реторика, литература, пропаганда [Beauty Contests in the Byzantine Imperial Court: Rhetoric, Literature, Propaganda], Sofia, 2015.

Reiske 1829 = Johann Jacob Reiske (ed.), Constantini Porphyrogeniti imperatoris de cerimoniis aulae Byzantinae libri duo, vol. 1, Bonn, Weber, 1829 (Corpus scriptorum historiae Byzantinae).

Rydén 1985 = Lennart Rydén, “The Bride‑shows at the Byzantine Court: History or Fiction?”, Eranos 83, 1985, pp. 175‑191.

Schöll and Kroll 1985 = Rudolf Schöll and Wilhelm Kroll (eds), Corpus Juris Civilis, vol. III, Berlin, 1895 (repr. 1972).

Treadgold 2004 = Warren Treadgold, “The historicity of imperial bride‑shows”, Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik  54, 2004, pp. 39‑52.

Troianos 2014 = Spyros Troianos, Εισηγήσεις βυζαντινού δικαίου, Athens, 2014.

Wahlgren 2006 = Staffan Wahlgren (ed.), Symeonis Magistri et Logothetae Chronicon, Berlin/New York, De Gruyter, 2006 (Corpus Fontium Historiae Byzantinae, Series Berolinensis 44).

Whitby M. and M. 1986 = Michael and Mary Whitby, The History of Theophylact Simocatta. An English Translation with Introduction and Notes, Oxford, Oxford UP, 1986.

Zepos I. and P., 1931a = Ioannes and Panagiotes Zepos (eds), Jus Graecoromanum, vol. I, Athens, 1931 (repr. Aalen 1962).

Zepos I. and P., 1931b = Ioannes and Panagiotes Zepos (eds), “Procheiros Nomos”, in Ead., Jus Graecoromanum, vol. II, Athens, 1931 (repr. Aalen 1962), pp. 107‑228.

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Notes

1 Much ink has been spilled in modern historiography on the historicity of beauty contests. Some researchers claim that all contests mentioned in the sources took place, while others reject them in toto. Then there are those who accept the historicity of specific beauty contests. See for example Petrinski 2015; Treadgold 2004; Afinogenov 1997; Rydén 1985.

2 Romantic marriages include, among others, those of Justinian and Theodora, Heraclius and Martina, Leon VI and Zoe Zaoutzaina, Romanos II and Theophano, Zoe Porphyrogenita and Michael IV, Eudokia Makrembolitissa and Romanos IV. There were numerous marriages of political expediency, among them those between Constantine V, son of Leo III, and the Khazar princess Tzitzak (Çiçek, who became a Christian and was named Eirene), and Constantine VII and Helena, daughter of Romanos I Lakapenos.

3 Wahlgren 2006, pp. 216‑217 (130.2‑5). Cf. Markopoulos 1983, pp. 259‑260. The saint’s Life does not mention that Kas(s)ia was the emperor’s first choice: for obvious reasons, the protagonist of the Life could not be presented as a runner‑up.

4 Markopoulos 1983, p. 260: καὶ βασιλεύει εὐσεβῶς ἡ αὐτὴ Θεοδώρα καὶ αὐτοκράτορος σύζυγος γίνεται ἐν τῷ πανσέπτῳ καὶ σεβασμίῳ ναῷ στεφθεῖσα τοῦ ἁγίου πρωτομάρτυρος Στεφάνου τῆς Δάφνης. οὐκ ὀλίγοι δὲ τῶν τοῦ ἱερατικοῦ καὶ πολιτικοῦ καταλόγου συνεκρότουν καὶ συνέχαιρον τοῖς βασιλεῦσι ἐπὶ τῇ στεφηφορίᾳ αὐτῶν. Wahlgren 2006, pp. 216‑217 (130.4): Στέφει δὲ Θεοδώραν ἐν τῷ εὐκτηρίῳ τοῦ ἁγίου Στεφάνου, στεφθεὶς καὶ αὐτὸς ἅμα αὐτῇ ὑπὸ Ἀντωνίου πατριάρχου καὶ τῷ τοῦ γάμου καὶ τῷ τῆς βασιλείας στέφει τῇ ἁγίᾳ Πεντηκοστῇ.

5 “ΜΑ. Ὅσα δεῖ παραφυλάττειν ἐπὶ στεψίμῳ Αὐγούστης καὶ στεφανώματος”: Reiske 1829, pp. 207‑216.

6 Herrin 2001, pp. 59‑64.

7 De Boor 1883‑1885, p. 444. See the English translation by Mango and Scott 1997, p. 613.

8 Ever since the patriarchate of Nerses I the Great (363‑372/3), Armenian priests blessed the wedding crowns and placed them on the newlyweds; see Béraudy 1982, p. 55 and n. 9.

9 Gregory of Nazianzus explains in one of his letters that people gladly allowed priests to place the marriage crowns, because this was seen as being more appropriate for them than for the fathers of the betrothed. See Béraudy 1982, p. 55 and n. 10.

10 Béraudy 1982, pp. 54‑55.

11 De Boor 1887, 10.1: τὸν γὰρ ᾿Ιωάννην, τὸν τῶν ἱεραρχικῶν ἐξηγούμενον θρόνων, ἐς τὸ ἀνάκτορον εἰσκαλεσάμενος ἐν τῷ μεγάλῳ θαλάμῳ τῷ πρὸς τῇ μεγίστῃ τῶν βασιλέων αὐλῇ (Αὐγουσταῖος δ᾿ ἄρα οὗτος κατονομάζεται) ἠξίου τῆς ἐκ τοῦ κρείττονος τυχεῖν συναινέσεως διὰ τῆς πρὸς τὸ θεῖον τοῦ ἱερέως ἐντεύξεως, ὅπως αἴσια τῷ βασιλεῖ τὰ τοῦ γάμου συμβαίη ἐπίχειρα. ὁ δ᾿ ἱερεὺς τὸ βασιλικὸν ἐθεράπευσε βούλημα τῇ περὶ τὸ θεῖον ἱκετείᾳ, καὶ τῶν χειρῶν τῶν βασιλέων ἑλόμενος συνῆπτεν ἀλλήλαις εὐκτοῖς τε προσφθέγμασι τὸν τοῦ αὐτοκράτορος κατηυφήμησε γάμον· ναὶ δῆτα καὶ ταῖς κορυφαῖς τῶν βασιλέων τοὺς στεφάνους καθίδρυσε τῶν τε θεανδρικῶν μυστηρίων μετέδωκεν, ὡς σύνηθες τοῖς θρησκεύουσι τὴν παναγῆ ταύτην καὶ ἀκίβδηλον πίστιν.

12 English translation by Whitby M. and M. 1986, (10.1).

13 For a more detailed description of the evolution of marriage and the turbulent relations between Church and State with regard to control over this particular institution, see Nikolaou 2005, pp. 63‑68, with relevant literature. See also Troianos 2014, pp. 85‑101, regarding the private law of marriage; a selective bibliography on family law may be found in Troianos 2014, pp. 83‑84.

14 Μeyendorff 1990, pp. 99‑100.

15 The detailed study of Papadatos 1984, remains the key starting point for a foray into the subject of betrothal. A brief overview of the subject may be found in Nikolaou 2005, pp. 73‑79.

16 Burgmann 1983, 1.1; Zepos I. and P. 1931b, 1.8.

17 The Ecloga (Zepos I. and P. 1931b), 2.1, sets the minimum age of marriage at 15 for men and 13 for women, while in the Procheiros Nomos (Zepos I. and P. 1931b), 4.3, the limits are set at 14 for men and 12 for women.

18 Marrou 1951, 5.6; Béraudy 1982, p. 50 and n. 1.

19 Béraudy 1982, p. 50.

20 Béraudy 1982, p. 51.

21 Béraudy 1982, pp. 51‑53.

22 Béraudy 1982, p. 54.

23 Novella 117, ch. 4, in Schöll and Kroll 1985: καὶ διὰ τοῦτο κελεύομεν τοὺς μεγάλοις ἀξιώμασι κεκοσμημένους μέχρις ἰλλουστρίων μὴ ἄλλως γάμοις προσομιλεῖν εἰ μὴ προικῷα συγγράψαιεν συμβόλαια... τοὺς δὲ λοιποὺς ἅπαντας... οὐ κωλύομεν... καὶ τοὺς ἐκ μόνης διαθέσεως ἀποδεικνυμένους γάμους βεβαίους εἶναι θεσπίζομεν, καὶ τοὺς ἐξ αὐτῶν τικτομένους νομίμους εἶναι παῖδας κελεύομεν.

24 Burgmann 1983, 2.1: Συνίσταται γάμος χριστιανῶν, εἴτε ἐγγράφως εἴτε ἀγράφως, μεταξὺ ἀνδρὸς καὶ γυναικὸς τοῦ εἶναι τὴν ἡλικίαν πρὸς συνάφειαν ἡρμοσμένην, …, ἀμφοτέρων θελόντων μετὰ τῆς τῶν γονέων συναινέσεως; Burgmann 1983, 2.6: καὶ ἀγράφως συνίσταται γάμος ἀδόλῳ συναινέσει τῶν συναλλασσόντων προσώπων καὶ τῶν τούτων γονέων, εἴτε ἐν ἐκκλησίᾳ τοῦτο δι’ εὐλογίας ἢ καὶ ἐπὶ φίλων γνωρισθῇ. ἀλλὰ καὶ οἱοσδήποτε εἰσοικιζόμενος γυναῖκα ἐλευθέραν καὶ καταπιστεύων αὐτῇ τὴν τοῦ ἰδίου οἴκου διοίκησιν καὶ ταύτῃ σαρκικῶς συμπλεκόμενος ἄγραφον συναλλάσσει πρὸς αὐτὴν γάμον.

25 Novella 89, in Noailles and Dain 1944: ... καὶ τὰ συνοικέσια τῇ μαρτυρίᾳ τῆς ἱερᾶς εὐλογίας ἐῤῥῶσθαι κελεύομεν.

26 35th Novel of Alexios Komnenos, in Zepos I. and P. 1931a, pp. 342‑343: Προστίθησι δὲ καὶ τὰς ἱερολογίας μὴ μόνον παρὰ τοῖς ἐλευθέροις ἀλλὰ καὶ παρὰ τοῖς δούλοις κρατεῖν· καὶ γάμον μὴ ἄλλως ἔννομόν τε καὶ τῆς χριστιανικῆς καταστάσεως ἄξιον εἶναί τε καὶ νομίζεσθαι, εἰ μὴ καὶ ἱερολογία τοὺς συναπτομένους συνδεῖ. Dölger 1924, I, 2, no. 1177. On this, see Köpstein 1980, pp. 160‑172.

27 Laiou 1989.

28 On the author of the Life, see in particular Alexakis 1995. Nikolaou 2011; Nikolaou 2003‑2004, pp. 108‑110.

29 All relative references found in Middle Byzantine hagiographic texts (mainly from the eighth to the eleventh century) have been documented in Nikolaou 2005, pp. 81‑84.

30 Delehaye 1902a, col. 173‑174: ἔσπευδεν ἡ μάμμη αὐτῆς ἀνδρὶ εὐλαβεστάτῳ συζεῦξαι αὐτήν· ὃ καὶ πεποίηκεν.

31 Carras 1984, p. 212 ch. 3: οἱ γεννήτορες καὶ μὴ βουλομένην ἀλλὰ καὶ λίαν ἀπαναινομένην ἀνδρὶ βιαιοτάτως ὑπέζευξαν.

32 Carras 1984, p. 212 ch. 4: ἐπὶ δεύτερον οι γεννήτορες συνοικέσιον ἤλασαν.

33 Delehaye 1902b, col. 355 ch. 4: τὰ τοῦ γάμου αἴσια ἐπ᾿ αὐτῇ τελοῦνται.

34 Nikolaou 2005, p. 82, with references to the sources.

35 Latyšev 1918, p. 8 ch. 11: … καὶ εὐωχίαις τὴν ἡμερινὴν λαβόντος ἐξάνυξιν, ἡ νυκτερινὴ διεδέχετο μετὰ συμφωνιῶν μουσικῶν καὶ αὐλῶν καὶ κρότων κρυφία παραπομπή.

36 Nikolaou 2005, p. 83, with references to the sources.

37 Delehaye et alii 1910, p. 863 ch. 5: καὶ ὁ καιρὸς ἐκάλει καὶ τὰς ἐπιθαλαμίους ὑπανάπτειν ἤδη λαμπάδας, ηὐτρέπιστο δὲ ἡ παστάς. καὶ προὐχώρει μὲν ὁ ὑμέναιος, χορὸς δ’ ἐκ πάσης ἡλικίας τὴν οἰκίαν περιελάμβανε καὶ ὁ τῆς κόρης πατὴρ (θείος) λαμπρῶς εἱστία μάλα τῆς παστάδος τὸν θρίαμβον.

38 Latyšev 1914, p. 293 ch. 61: κόρην τινα τῶν ἐκ γειτόνων, σεμνὴν πάνυ καὶ ὡραίαν, τῷ ἐμῷ υἱῷ προσαγόμενος καὶ τούτῳ συνάψας αὐτήν, μήπω τοῦ θαλάμου διαλυθέντος, μηδὲ τῶν γαμηλίων ὕμνων κατασιγαθέντων.

39 Halkin 1988, p. 6: μετ᾿ ὀλίγας ἡμέρας ἐστέφθη ἐν τῷ τρικλινίῳ τοῦ Αὐγουσταῖος· καὶ ἀπελθοῦσα ἐν τῷ εὐκτηρίῳ τοῦ ἁγίου πρωτομάρτυρος Στεφάνου ἐν τῇ Δάφνῃ ἔλαβεν τὰ τοῦ γάμου στέφανα σὺν τῷ υἱῷ Κωνσταντίνου τοῦ Καβαλλίνου, Λέοντι τῷ βασιλεῖ.

40 Migne 1903, p. 252 ch. 14: τὴν εἰς αὐτοὺς στεφανικὴν ἀποστρέφεται χειροθεσίαν, και μόνον ο Ιωσήφ, οικονόμος της Μεγάλης Εκκλησίας, ἀναδέχεται τολμηρῶς τὸ ἐγχείρημα, καὶ στεφανοῖ τοὺς ἀθέσμους.

41 Kurtz 1898, p. 6 ch. 11: ἡ τῶν γαμηλίων εὐτρεπίζετο πανδαισία· καὶ τῶν θαλάμων ἀναπλεχθέντων, ὁ χριστέραστος τούτων κατεστέφετο γάμος.

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Référence électronique

Katerina Nikolaou, « The Byzantines between Civil and Sacramental Marriage », Bulletin de correspondance hellénique moderne et contemporain [En ligne], 1 | 2019, mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2019, consulté le 28 janvier 2020. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/bchmc/285

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Auteur

Katerina Nikolaou

Associate Professor of Byzantine History, Faculty of History and Archaeology National and Kapodistrian University of Athens

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Bulletin de correspondance hellénique moderne et contemporain

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