Gender Roles and Family Life in Ancient Rome and the Rise of MGTOW: Why Were Men Reluctant to Marry


When feminists talk about patriarchy they mainly speak about the Roman Empire. However, a short overview of existing gender roles as well as social status will already and immediately give us the understanding and insight that not only men weren't privileged but in fact those were Roman women that relatively had great privileges in comparison to men. Discussed in a previous discourse we have seen and traced those female privileges to the case of the Sabine Women. In ancient Rome, most men were denied the right to vote, had no realistic opportunity to hold public office, and owned little or no property. So, they had nothing to offer women nor had they an opportunity to exploit them. Additionally, Roman men were heavily conscripted into military service to extend the Empire. The exploitation of ordinary men, common throughout history, was not just a feature of Roman public life. Roman men also evidently found their family obligations toward women to be oppressive. The authority men were given over their families, especially for keeping and maintaining the Roman Empire, not only outweighed the benefits, but given the research of Susan Carol Rogers ("Female Forms of Power and the Myth of Male Dominance"), it was even not a myth created to balance the disadvantages of men in relationships but rather a tool to lure them into the trap to exploit them. The inevitable result was that by about 18 BGC large share of Roman men were reluctant to marry! Thus MGTOW – Men Going Their Own Way – was born. To encourage men to marry, Roman Emperor Augustus passed a series of laws penalizing unmarried men and rewarding men who married and had at least three children [1]. A privileged class of oppressors running away from the opportunity to exploit the oppressed ones while being in need in creating oppressive rules to oppress the oppressor to marry the victim doesn't look much like a patriarchy. It looks rather like a Gynocentric society where female privilege started to backfire and everything went out of control. Now, let's analyze and scrutinize those dynamics in further details.


First, there were the disabilities imposed on unmarried men which included social devaluations. In fact, those social devaluations of men have come and turned into a public, systemic and institutionalized, shaming of men. Unmarried men were forbidden to attend public games and banquets. They were also forced to sit in less desirable seats in the theatre [2]. These sorts of anti-male laws point to wider processes of social engineering to please female interests. Social strategies of shaming and dishonoring men have powerfully affected men’s lives throughout history [3]. It's not a new or a modern phenomenon. It's a feature and a derivative of Gynocentrism. The status of men in any society cannot be adequately understood merely by literal reading of formal law and simple demographic analysis of office-holding by cherry picking them and selectively considering the formal aspect without its inevitable counterpart of informal power sources, life and dynamics which were always controlled by women. Coercing men into marrying is not a historical aberration. In his ideal state, Cicero had state magistrates prohibit men from remaining unmarried [4]. According to Plutarch’s Parallel Lives, Lycurgus, the famous law-giver of the Spartans, penalized bachelors. Thus we read the following historical account describing the situation: "Lycurgus also put a kind of public stigma upon confirmed bachelors. They were excluded from the sight of the young men and maidens at their exercises, and in winter the magistrates ordered them to march round the market-place in their tunics only, and as they marched, they sang a certain song about themselves, and its burden was that they were justly punished for disobeying the laws. Besides this, they were deprived of the honour and gracious attentions which the young men habitually paid to their elders. [5]


In his Roman History, Cassius Dio wrote of Emperor Augustus separating the Roman aristocracy into married men and unmarried men. The married men were “much fewer in number.” Augustus praised the married men for following the examples of their fathers and perpetuating their class. Augustus also demeaned the unmarried men: "O — what shall I call you? Men!? But you are not performing any of the offices of men. Citizens!? But for all that you are doing, the city is perishing. Romans!? But you are undertaking to blot out this name altogether". Augustus described unmarried men as worse than murders and robbers. Unmarried men, according to Augustus, were immoral beasts: "You talk, indeed, about this ‘free’ and ‘untrammelled’ life that you have adopted, without wives and without children; but you are not a whit better than brigands or the most savage of beasts. For, surely, it is not your delight in a solitary existence that leads you to live without wives, or is there one of you who either eats alone or sleeps alone; no, what you want is to have full liberty for wantonness and licentiousness [6]. This narrative has not only a strong resemblance but is the one and the same that underlines current and modern pseudo-science and is widely used by governmental 0fficial to devalue men who go their own way and refuse to marry their abusers.


Furthermore, after World War II, the Soviet Union, Poland, and Romania enacted special taxes on childless persons. At least in Romania, the taxes in actual administration were paid predominantely by men. Historians have focused on why Augustus enacted laws penalizing unmarried men. Explanations put forward for those laws are to raise revenue, to promote morality, as a eugenic measure to increase the upper-class population, and as a measure to encourage the transfer of inheritances through family generations. In any case, the laws generated widespread resistance and evasion. Historians have largely regarded the laws as failures [7]. By the fifth century, the laws punishing unmarried men and favoring men with more than three children were repealed. Historians have largely ignored the question of why Roman men were reluctant to marry. Some share of Roman man undoubtedly were gay, but that share probably didn’t change much over time and probably wasn’t large enough to create the public problem of men in general being reluctant to marry.[8] If marriage were an opportunity for Roman men to exploit women, self-interested men would have been eager to marry. The situation seems to have been the reverse [9]. The Gynocentric marriage was not only mere burden to men's happiness but it has become a tool of oppression. As standing opposed to the infantile and pseudo-scientific claims of Roman men being gay that reminds us a lot of the anti MGTOW shaming tactic declaring them as being gay too, Augustus’ shaming of men suggests that Roman men were reluctant to marry because marriage deprived them of happiness, of freedom and including the sexual happiness and freedom too. Marriage could provide men with freedom to enjoy a wider range of life opportunities and freedom to have sex as much as they desire with a loving spouse. The extent to which marriage actually provides men such freedom affects men’s willingness to marry. The extent of discrimination against men in family courts also affects men’s willingness to risk entering into marriage. These issues are hardly recognized publicly in most societies today. Historians unable to recognize and discuss the reality of marriage law in the societies in which they currently live cannot credibly analyze ancient Roman family law and marriage.


Attribution: this article is based on a discourse bublished by Douglas Ghalbie on Purple Motes under CCA!

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