The number of marriages that ended with the death of a spouse in battle, childbirth, or disease was not small, while, among the upper classes especially, divorce was not uncommon, especially for political reasons, but also for moral ones. For men there was the simple expectation that marrying again would provide political advantages, largely in terms of gaining and holding political allies. Pompey the Great’s third marriage, to Julia Caesaris, bound him to her father, Julius Caesar. Her death seriously weakened their alliance, the breaking of which led to civil war.
For women, the ideal of the univira competed with economic and political necessity sometimes combined with pressure from relatives to remarry. Unless she already controlled her inheritance, as Cornelia Africana did, it would be difficult for her to survive on her own. If she was still in her father’s power, he might well urge her to remarry or simply arrange another politically beneficial marriage for her. By the 1st century BCE, the Augustan marriage laws made remarriage an even more attractive option by demanding higher taxes from the unmarried than from the married.
Some divorces, namely those for adultery, made it less likely that a woman would find a new spouse afterwards. Others happened specifically so that one partner could marry someone else. Livia Drusilla’s divorce from her first husband, for example, was immediately followed by her marriage to Octavian in 38 BCE. Aside from those few women who took on the ideal of the univira in their widowhood or could not find a second husband, remarriage was encouraged.
*For whom, as usual, we have the most evidence.
Bradley, K. R. "Remarriage and the Structure of the Upper-Class Roman Family." In Marriage, Divorce, and Children in Ancient Rome, edited by Beryl Rawson, 79-98. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Corbier, Mireille. "Divorce and Adoption as Roman Familial Strategies. In Marriage, Divorce, and Children in Ancient Rome, edited by Beryl Rawson, 47-78. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.
Pomeroy, Sarah. Goddesses, Whores, Wives, and Slaves: Women in Classical Antiquity. New York: Pantheon Books, 1995.