My parents got divorced when I was in my early twenties. They stayed together just long enough for me to grow up (and I always wished they'd just split once the relationship turned sour, but that's beside the point). I always knew it was the very best thing for them to do and I did not mind it one bit. I know others have a different experience. I was recently asked about divorce in Hellenismos: do we have a standpoint on it? Is it allowed? And how was it for the ancient Hellenes? So, I figured I'd put a few things together.

Marriage in ancient Hellas was a family affair. The father of the son--who was often in his thirties by the time he got married--opened negotiations with the family of a bride in her teens. The two families came to an agreement about dowry, a contract was signed by the father of the groom and the father of the bride in front of witnesses, and the groom met his new wife--often for the first time--before taking her to bed.

Men married to have children, and to have someone to tend to the home while he was out, dealing with public affairs. Romance didn't counter into it. Demosthenes, a prominent statesman and orator in ancient Hellas, once said: "We have prostitutes for our pleasure, concubines for our health, and wives to bear us lawful offspring."

Something that's important to understand is that children in ancient Hellas were born with a different sentiment than children are born these days. Children, now, are born out of love and a need of the parents to create something of 'theirs'. A child is precious, irreplaceable. We tend to have few children and place all our eggs in their basket(s). In ancient Hellas, families tended to be as large as possible. Children could help out around the house, the farm or with sustaining the family any other way but they also tended to die. Children were made for the hearth, not the other way around.

So, was there divorce? Yes. These lawful offspring were so important that, if a wife had not bore a husband children by the end of the tenth year of their marriage, the man was forced to file for divorce. This was a costly affair because a divorce meant parting with the dowry that was paid to the husband upon marriage, as the ex-wife was entitled to it.

Adultery was a punishable offense. If a married woman had intercourse with a man other than her husband, she could be killed. Another option was to divorce. She was then sent back to her father. If he rejected her (and he usually did), she was left to fend for herself, which often led to a life of slavery. The man she cheated with was often worse off. He was also liable to get killed, especially if caught in the act, because the husband had the right to kill him, without getting punished for it.

So what abut this divorce? Were the Gods involved? The ancient Hellenes invited the Gods to things for which mortals needed protection and good luck. They invited Them into their homes, and invited Them into their marriages as well. A wedding was an occasion to bring the Gods into because they hoped for children in their marriage, for a partnership at least somewhat productive and enjoyable, and maybe even love.

As far as I am aware, there were no rituals involved with divorce. A divorce was a legal affair and the ancient Hellenes went to court for it. I have found no evidence the Gods were involved, which makes sense. There was no need to include the Gods, nothing to hope or pray for was involved. If and when the people involved married again, they celebrated again. I suppose it's much the same today. Divorce, I suppose, is something human which is taken care of between humans. Perhaps purification rites before partaking in ritual again as there might be a process of loss and grief, but at its foundation it's not a matter for the Gods.