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Did Romans wear rings as sign of love?

This post is also available in: Polish (polski)

Roman ring showing connected hands
Roman ring donated to celebrate the wedding | The British Museum

In the Roman world, there was no distinction between the wedding ring and the engagement ring. Roman on the occasion of the wedding was donating a ring to his chosen woman. However, this was not proof of love, but rather a subordination of a woman and recognition of her as property. In this way, the future husband clearly stated that the woman he married belongs only to him. It is brutal, but this is what the paternalistic Roman society looked like.

It is believed that the custom after donating his beloved ring appeared first among the Sabines, where the gift was usually made of precious materials. Then this custom passed to Roman society. The rings symbolized durability and immutability. The choice of the ring assumed, like today, the nearest finger from the little finger on the left hand. Why did you wear a present on that finger? Apparently, it was believed that just from the cordial finger of the left hand, straight to the heart leads a “vein of love” (vena amoris)1.

The ring was called Anulus Pronubus and was usually made of iron, sometimes with engravings. Pliny the Elder claims that they have not been decorated with precious stones. Tertullian claims that in later times it was accepted to make gold rings.

It can not be ruled out that the ring could be donated in the other direction, from the wife to the future husband. Sometimes the image of hands was placed on the rings, which was supposed to be a symbol of marriage.

  1. Aulus Gellius, Attic Nights

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