Marriage, known as kyrazyrion in Ephyra, is an institution of near peerless value and importance to the very concept of Ephyral culture and their state. The organisation of citizens around the concept of the family, established by a formal and legal marriage between a man and a woman and the production and raising of their children, forms the core of Ephyal society and ideas of honour and custom. These unions are in part the root of more Western marital arrangements but in the modern day diverge significantly in their meaning, arrangement, and status. The right of kyrazyrion, held only by citizens of Ephyral and Lykosian status, is considered a defining privilege in being truly civilised, for it permits the formation of a family which helps to comprise the state.
I. Conventions of Ephyral marriage
... - Public and familial interest
...... - Arranged marriage
......... - Selection of a spouse and suitor
... - Laws of marriage
...... - Right to marriage
...... - Age of marriage
......... - Child marriage controversy
...... - Incest and adoption
...... - Children, inheritance, and status
......... - Heiresses
...... - Elopement and abduction
Public and familial interest
Modern Ephyral perceptions of the institution of marriage, much in accordance with the ideas prevalent at the founding of the Freehold which themselves date back to before even the Classical Period of ancient Selia, prioritise the arrangement as a union of a man and woman for non-individual reasons. Serving as both the means to facilitate alliance between two families and producing children to inherit names, legacies, and estates; and to produce legitimate citizens to carry the name of Ephyra after the deaths of those who produced them, marriage is regarded as the bedrock of society for its formation of a family by assigning a man and a woman the role of husband and wife respectively, and through cohabitation the production of children. In essence, marriage is the regulated institutionalisation of natural sexual libido to produce a net benefit result for the families that comprise the state and the state itself.
In stark contrast to many of its contemporaries therefore, emotional or even philosophical ideas of love hold far less importance to the culture of the Ephyral; so long as the duties of the husband and wife are fulfilled and the future of family and state guaranteed, the existence of love between a couple in marriage is considered the result of said responsibilities, something to be achieved through marriage as opposed to being the prerequisite for it. The secondary importance of the individual to the institution of marriage, with its purpose and interests subordinate to the state and the state-like families that comprise it, results in penalisation for male citizens who remain unwed typically proportional to their income, an effective tax on those who do not fulfil their patriotic duty to Ephyra of ensuring a strong next generation to succeed themselves.
Individual wishes in marriage are commonly subordinate to the family necessity. This is more true for women marrying for the first time than for men, although the level of freedom either a man or woman has in exercising choice can easily vary both geographically due to prevailing sub-regional social norms and by each individual family. Ever defensive of their members however, this general lack of concern for happiness in marriage in no way means there is tolerance for the abuse or mistreatment of a family member in marriage; the betrayal of the alliance a family forges through the marriage of its family members is a guaranteed way to ensure familial hostility for generations.
As would fit the perceptions on marriage, matches in the Freehold between citizens and others holding the right are arranged by the families involved. This can take place via a number of means including negotiation or contest, and is usually an affair seen to by the father of any marriageable woman and the men considered as suitors. However, the family of the prospective groom often takes a dominating interest in his pursuit of a wife, especially his mother. Fathers can and do arrange the potential for betrothals for their sons, but this is less binding than upon a daughter. In this way, a prospective groom possesses more freedom of choice than the prospective bride, who while able to voice preference in the case of many suitors or propose men to be considered, exercises no actual decision in the betrothal with the exception of being able to avert marriage if her suitor is proven bad of character.
Betrothal is the legal contract for forming an official marriage and alliance between the families. It is an agreement of the father of a woman that he shall give her in cohabitation to a man who will in effect become a client to his own authority. This alliance between father-in-law and son-in-law as kin through marriage is typically cemented through the giving and receiving of other gifts and offerings prior to the marriage celebration itself, and form a key part of this betrothal, proving that the bride is not being sold or disposed of, as the practice of bridewealth is regarded with severe distaste by the Ephyral. Considerations for the arrangement of a marriage range from the socioeconomic to the political, and to many other spheres of concern. It is the case however that prospective grooms favour in intended wives physical beauty and inferred fertility for the fathering of children more than the dowry her family can provide as part of the arrangement.
Selection of a spouse and suitor
Alongside the dowry her family is able to provide, a prospective bride wins the attention of suitors through domestic skills and abilities, expected fertility, physical beauty, youth, and her virginity upon marriage. Marriageable women proficient and abundant in all of these qualities can at times receive well over a dozen suitors, with this number rising with her family's sociopolitical significance. The eligible daughters of the dominant political families are often referred to by lower class citizens as a "king's prize", due to the wealth of their families and their marriage desirability even in a republican model reaching that of a royal princess. Young women are considered marriageable from the age of fourteen, although marriage is rarely organised before the age of sixteen. Suitors are typically only received however once the eligible young woman is declared by her father as open to suitors. This process of multi-party negotiation can vary in its length of time, with either purposeful or circumstantial delays prolonging the period of a young woman's bachelorette status.
A woman's husband will be selected based on qualities expected of men in society, including his financial independence and stability, as well as personal and familial factors including reputation, character, background, order of birth, as well as physical health and strength, with the expectation that a physically fit man should be able to both protect his wife and the children he sires on her. In contrast to their brides, men are uncommonly considered suitors until having reached their mid-twenties, although earlier marriage is not unheard of. This state of affairs exists despite the legality of his marriage to a woman from sixteen. This allows a man time to, in the belligerent fashion of male youth, pursue honour and social capital and build his reputation and status as a man in Ephyral society, to earn the privilege of being considered a worthwhile son-in-law. A man's persistence in the pursuit of a bride is also considered a quality demonstrating mental strength, ambition, and determination, making him a worthwhile partner for enterprise for the father of the eligible woman. Both this quality and that of physical strength are put to trial in contests that may be held for the winning of a bride's hand in the event of many suitors. Though this may seem to eliminate the bride's fathers decision-making, it is broadly held that whichever man emerges triumphant is the most deserving of the prize; and indeed, the vetting for which men may compete will have already been performed. This process may be skipped however should the marriage be of major political significance.
Laws of marriage
Ephyral marriage like other institutions is subject to legal examination as well as social convention, although where one ends and the other begins is often a matter of debate. As Ephyra derives its concept of a constitution from the precedent of ancestral custom, around which the statues of civil law are formulated, it is a matter of great complexity to separate the point of view obtained by legality from culture. Marriage laws are no exception, but in totality are fairly easily understood.
Right to marriage
Where the validity of a marital arrangement is in many countries subject to primarily religious doctrine over state, Ephyra's concept of marriage is a right restricted by default to only two classes of resident; full Ephyral citizens who by default possess the right of kyrazyrion, legal Ephyral marriage, and Lykosian citizens, who possess the right to enter kyrazyrion with a citizen, and if male, assume the responsibilities of the master of the household as if a citizen and leave property to legitimate heirs. Lykosians cohabiting with other Lykosians, foreigners and their descendants, and provincials are all denied the right of kyrazyrion. As a social convention, Lykosian families are considered to have greater legal legitimacy than their lower counterparts, and are often referred to as living in de facto concubinage through mutual cohabitation (as opposed to the distinct legal arrangement of concubinage), and these families often enforce - through practice if not law - a structure not dissimilar from that of Ephyral families.
Long-term cohabitation between a man and woman is regarded as being a form of common 'marriage' but lacking official status. Despite this, when it comes to matters of adultery and similar issues, if a man of non-citizen status can prove that a woman has been cohabiting with him in the role of marriage, then she may be regarded in law as being 'his woman' and a charge against her and an intruding male validated, although with consequences and implications far lesser and removed from the nature of citizen cases concerning legal and official spouses.
The right of kyrazyrion has been bestowed to individuals on a case-by-case basis or en masse for various reasons. The most prominent of these have been soldiers on campaign in foreign lands, who outside of claiming women as spoils of war, may have formed a romantic and sexual bond to women on a consensual basis whilst garrisoned. Though not in every case, it has been known for soldiers leaving said duty to be free to 'claim' this woman as a legal wife, for which she is granted citizenship. Compared to naturally-born or otherwise naturalised female citizens however, the nature of the marriage is inherently unequal. Ephyral law requiring a citizen woman to have a guardian, and her receiving of citizenship impacting none of her blood, produce the rare marital circumstance of a husband possessing legal authority over his wife as her sole guardian. Her citizenship is also liable to be removed should divorce occur, with her status reduced to that of metic and preventing her from re-marrying, although free to enter concubinage with a citizen. The nature of these 'war marriages' as they are sometimes called share more in common with concubinage in practice than they do with Ephyral marriage, and even when this war marriage right is not issued, soldiers often do successfully name these foreign women as concubines for much the same purpose and eventual status. These are sometimes remarked to be (typically by outside sources) the only love-born marriages in the Freehold, as they are not arranged by families but are mutual and consensual. They are however routinely disapproved of, particularly if the foreign bride is of an enemy population or poorly integrates.
Age of marriage
The age at which marriage is legal for males and females, as well as the ages at which marriages are performed, have attracted significant attention from the outside world as to their peculiarity and morality. Particularly of note is the often wide age gap between a husband and wife even when both individuals are first-time wed, as the difference can grow massively if a divorced or widowed man re-marries. The disparity, as well as the ages at which marriage becomes legal and common, are the result of cultural norms and beliefs; emphasising in women primarily physical attributes such as beauty and fertility, traits which peak at a young age before entering a steady decline and reinforcing a tradition of early marriage, whereas for men, the traits and qualities increasing their worth as a husband are largely rooted in social status, financial stability, and reputation of character and honour, qualities perceived as being accumulated and honed over time, resulting in a later age of marriage for men.
Under Ephyral law, females of any social class are permitted to be married or enter concubinage (as well as cohabitation for non-citizens) from fourteen. This age, allowing for the flowering of girls into maidens through menarche, is not however an age at which marriage occurs with any notably frequency, and though beginning the process of suitor examination may begin from this point, the average age of first-time marriage for Ephyral women is nineteen, a full five years after reaching the legal marriageable age, and three years after reaching full age majority. This delay exists for a number of reasons, not least of which is concern for the safety of the woman in childbirth. The Ephyral have long noted a correlation between the younger age of a woman and the likelihood she and her child had of dying in the labour of birth. Where in ancient Selia, many females would be married by fourteen, it is only at fourteen they can begin to be married, with significant delay out of interest for her health and life. By delaying marriage, the family of a prospective bride can also spend more time amassing the finances for a more substantial dowry and in effect increase her desirability through that avenue. Other social factors at work prior to the modern age was the higher risk of abduction, rape, or murder faced by Ephyral particularly in poorer areas in cities, or in isolated rural regions, which motivated the early marriage of newly flowered women both to remove another mouth to feed and to place her in the protection of a husband before her honour or life could be violated. As crime rates have lowered and this risk becomes less significant, the motivation to marry early has slowly subsided.
Though the average age of marriage for these women is about nineteen, variation exists both up and down from this number. Few women marry later than age twenty-three, although it is only beyond the age of twenty-five that a woman remaining unmarried is regarded as having been 'voted' undesirable by the men available. Such women may still find marriage prospects in men who are re-marrying, but are less likely to do so in men marrying for the first time. Outside of this, concubinage is often regarded as an honourable recourse. On the other end of the scale, marriages before the age of nineteen do occur with decreasing frequency as the age lowers and as time passes. It is expected that by 1970, the average age of marriage will have shifted to twenty-one. Marriages of sixteen to eighteen are the most common below nineteen, and occur with greater probability amongst higher economic classes, further supported by the physical beauty of the prospective bride. Marriages from fourteen are increasingly rare and highly unusual, even amongst the aristocracy. They are known to take place however, and in an inverse to their elder counterparts, their extreme end of legal youth in marriage is regarded as the greatest indicator of desirability.
Prior to the age of fourteen, a girl is recognised as a child. She is protected in law, both civil and in religious ideals, from any sexual pursuit or predation on pain of death. A similar concept exists for males, however across all classes this protection exists until twelve. From twelve until majority at sixteen, a male occupies a status of adolescence, where he will be treated as a man so long as he demonstrates himself to be one. The right of a man to enter marriage however does not arise until that majority at sixteen, when if of citizen birth, is enrolled as a citizen of the Freehold and honoured by his family as a man in his own right. No man however marries at such a young age, and between then and the age he will marry, sexual desires are exercised upon prostitutes, slaves, and other accessible partners.
The average age of marriage for a male citizen is twenty-eight years old. This delay is due to the aforementioned qualities expected in a man; his status, financial stability, and character. These are accumulated and developed with age, and it is from about twenty-five that men are typically considered old enough to be suitors, although men younger than this do qualify for assessment by the father of an eligible woman on a case by case basis, especially from the upper classes. Whilst some men can and do marry prior to twenty-eight, others marry later into their early thirties. If reaching thirty-five and having never married, a man is subject to taxation penalties proportionate to income which increase if he reaches forty with no marital change. This exists to draw compensation for the social loss suffered by his failure to produce legitimate children. Unlike female age, the average male age has not shifted drastically as much of the social factors relevant to them have remained unchanged. This produces an average nine year gap in the age difference between a man and a woman when marrying, however this could be as little as two-to-three years or as wide as twenty in some circumstances. The actual size of the gap in age is not regarded with any great concern by the Ephyral as a negative or a positive, for when men re-marry after divorce or death of a wife, or take a concubine so to not disrupt the claims of existing heirs, their preference is typically for a woman of the same qualities they initially married (although such men are also more open to older women who are themselves widowed or divorced, particularly if of proven fertility if they have no children themselves). This could easily increase the gap to thirty years or even more, although these older men may find themselves just as unfavourable as older women, passed up for younger, fitter men.
Though benign to the Ephyral, these age gaps and the matter of the ages themselves evoke much curiosity in Ephyra's contemporaries, a curiosity which may encompass feelings of distaste.
Child marriage controversy
Both the ages at which marriage becomes a legal option for males and females, alongside for females the age at which it takes place, has led to some international controversy and allegations of state-sanctioned child marriage, usually framed with an outside perspective of the age of majority being eighteen. Within the Freehold, child marriage or the attempt to marry a child is recognised as a crime when the female partner is below the age of fourteen years old. From fourteen, a female is recognised as no longer a child, reaching full majority at sixteen, and adopting the mantle of womanhood upon her legitimate marriage to a man.
The dispute in essence comes down solely to the matter of semantics and definitions, for the Ephyral recognition of what a child is does not align to foreign recognition, nor does its recognition of age landmarks in the life of males and females.
Incest and adoption
The right of kyrazyrion is not just something held or prohibited based on class but also by relation. The most notable application of this regards relation by blood and relation by law. Selian practises have long approved the wedding of men and women of distant or even some close blood-relation statuses, as close as full siblings. Between a man and his sister exists the right of kyrazyrion, and these types of marriages are often subject in greater part to paternal authority. Sibling marriages however and indeed other types of consanguinity are typically only performed by citizens of Selian stock due to genetic resistance to the deleterious effects brought on by inbreeding. Between those made kin by adoption can also exist a right of kyrazyrion, however this depends on the relationship established. Marriages to in-laws can also be obtained but again subject to relationship established.
In total, a man possesses full right of kyrazyrion with the following women of related status by blood or law, to be inverted for female right of kyrazyrion; sisters (full sisters, half-sisters, step-sisters, adopted sisters, and sisters of the spouses of his siblings (excluding if the sister of the spouse of his sibling is his own daughter)), cousins (parallel cousins, cross-cousins, cousins of any relationship degree regardless of removal, half-cousins, step-cousins, adopted-cousins), aunts (full aunts, half-aunts, cousin-aunts, adopted aunts), and nieces (full niece, half-niece, adopted nieces). This excludes relation by direct ascent, and no kyrazyrion exists between a man and his mother, grandmother (etc), daughter, granddaughter (etc), or any such status achieved through marriage such as step-mother, step-daughter, mother-in-law, or daughter-in-law.
Sexual liaisons between related individuals with kyrazyrion but who are not actually married, are subject to the same laws on adultery and seduction as if the partner is unrelated such as a man and his sister or half-sister, or a woman and her cousin or uncle. The same applies to sexual liaisons between individuals without kyrazyrion, but where the prohibition is by law not blood such as a man and mother-in-law or daughter-in-law, or a woman and her step-father or step-son; these types of sexual union are however regarded with a greater degree of distaste though the act is not illegal beyond the matter of criminal seduction and adultery. Where the act of sex is itself a crime due to proximity is where it concerns blood; sexual congress between individuals of direct ascent is considered not only a crime but a transgression of religious morality and an undermining of social order and structure.
Though externally complex, children of Ephyra are typically cognisant of who is and who is not amongst their family a potential future spouse by the time they are legally old enough to be wed.
Children, inheritance, and status
With the primary goal of marriage for both the families involved and the state being that of procreation, strong emphasis is given to the legitimacy and status of the child, which in a circular manner is the essential origin for marriage; to ensure that children born are legitimate through permitted conception. Legitimacy is tracked through patrilineal descent, with the status of the father of the child being transferred onto the child regardless of the status of his mother presuming their relationship is one of legal recognition; i.e marriage or concubinage. In marriage, the inherited status of being a citizen is conjoined with inheritance rights to property. This is lacking in children born to concubines, who are granted the social status of their father but no claim to his estate. Daughters of concubinage are given on average half the dowry of a wife-born daughter when marrying.
The requirement for legitimacy is an informal ritual after the child's birth. Customarily, the father is not present for the birth of the child, and enters the birthing room afterwards to be presented with the child. If he takes the child, it is an acknowledgement of paternity and thus legitimacy, and the child will be recognised as a citizen (Ephyral or Lykosian depending on father's status), and if the union between the father and mother was one of marriage, acknowledged to have inheritance rights. However, if he does not take the child, legitimacy is rejected. Historically there were a multitude of reasons for this, including the child being deemed sickly and weak and unlikely to live. A merciful death through exposure was preferred to wasting precious resources, although it's believed many such abandoned children survived through abduction or adoption by those unable to conceive, those who have lost children, or less fortunately for the child, slavers.
Child abandonment is no longer practised in Ephyra, and the reason of weakness has been offset by a trend of decreasing child mortality. Consequently the only reason a child is not acknowledged by its father is the suspicion that he is not. As a result of this, the child is not a legitimate heir to this man's property, and inherits the status of his or her mother. If this mother is a citizen then social status is retained, and if Lykosian has only a minor decrease. This reflects an attitude of non-blame towards the illegitimate child, allowing it to inherit its mother status but also recognising her partner's lack of obligation towards its future. Where infidelity on the part of the woman has occurred, divorce typically follows, and the illegitimate child may be adopted by a male relative of the mother, placing it back into the family system though still deprived of inheritance. On rare occasions, a man might opt to raise the child as his own but subsequently divorce its mother and returning her to her father. A citizen man's illegitimate child with a woman who he is not married to or has the rights of concubinage to similarly inherits her status as foreigner or provincial subject, statuses of far less prestige and prosperity. The child of a slave woman becomes the automatic property of the owner of the woman, who in many cases is also the child's father. Where legitimacy is absent, the mother's status passes down.
These women of lower social class however, provincials and foreigners, can offset their child's reduced status if they are able to become the concubine of their citizen lover. Though this does not elevate their own class, the legitimate relationship they share will ensure her children are granted the social status of their father even if bereft of inheritance. Concubinage is often sought by men who are divorced or widowed, but have substantial heirs to their estate, for this exact reason of non-inheritance.
As inheritance of estate depends on the ability to leave a will, which is contingent upon citizenship in the first place, the offspring of non-citizen partners likewise have none.