[British Museum, Sources: Wikimedia Commons, British Museum]
In a cum manu marriage, the bride legally became part of her husband’s family and came under the guardianship of either her husband or, if he was still under his father’s guardianship, her father-in-law. Any property she acquired during the marriage belonged to her husband, with the exception of her dowry, which was supposedly held in common. She was emancipated and became sui iuris (came under her own guardianship) on the death of her husband.
A woman could enter a cum manu marriage in one of three ways: through confarreatio, coemptio, or usus. The first of these, confarreatio, involved a special sacrifice to Jupiter and was restricted to the Roman elite since it required the presence of certain high officials. Priests of Jupiter, Mars, and Quirinus were required not only to be born of such marriages, but also to enter into them themselves. A coemptio marriage was the fictitious sale of the bride and gave her the legal status and rights of a daughter in her husband’s house.* However, by the 2nd century CE a woman in this sort of marriage could force her husband to emancipate her so that she could divorce him. A marriage by usus was essentially the equivalent of a modern common-law marriage. The couple simply had to live together for a year.
In a sine manu marriage, the bride remained part of the family she was born or adopted into as a child and stayed under her father’s guardianship. Her property remained her own, again with the exception of her dowry, and she became sui iuris on the death of her father. As this type of marriage became more common it became difficult to find candidates for priesthood. The solution was to treat priests’ wives as being under the guardianship of their husbands only during rituals. The rest of the time they were considered to be married sine manu. By the 1st century BCE, this was the predominant form of marriage in Ancient Rome.
*A woman could also contract a coemptio with someone she didn’t marry for the purposes of getting a different guardian from the one she already had or to gain the right to make a will.
On Marital Subordination - Diotima/WLGR (Gaius, Institutes 1.108-118, 136-137a)
Consent as the basis of marriage - Diotima/WLGR (excerpts from Modestinus, Julianus, Celcus, Ulpian, and Paul)
Pronouncement of the emperors Diocletian and Maximian - found in hardcopy of WLGR (Lefkowitz & Fant), no link available
A funeral eulogy, ILS 8393, 1st century CE - Diotima/WLGR
Marriage in Ancient Rome - Wikipedia
Manus Marriage - Wikipedia