Who Controlled Dowry in Ancient Greece?

In Ancient Greece, the practice of dowry played a significant role in marriage arrangements. Dowry, which refers to the wealth or property given by the bride’s family to the groom upon marriage, was a complex and multifaceted aspect of Greek society. It served various purposes and was controlled by different individuals or entities.

Dowry in Ancient Greece

Dowry in Ancient Greece was not just a simple exchange of goods; it held symbolic and social significance. It represented the transfer of a woman from her natal family to her husband’s family, solidifying the union between two families. The dowry could include land, livestock, money, jewelry, household items, or even slaves.

Controlled by the Father

In most cases, it was the father of the bride who controlled the dowry. He had the responsibility of providing his daughter with a suitable dowry that would enhance her chances of finding an eligible husband. The father’s social status and financial standing often determined the size and value of the dowry he could provide.

It is important to note that not all women had access to a dowry. In cases where families were impoverished or unable to provide one, women without dowries faced greater challenges in finding suitable partners.

Negotiations and Legal Aspects

The negotiation process for a dowry involved discussions between the father and potential suitors or their families. These negotiations aimed to determine the value and composition of the dowry. The groom’s family would evaluate how beneficial it would be for them to accept the proposed dowry.

The terms of these agreements were often legally binding. In some city-states like Athens, there were specific laws governing dowries known as “epigamia.”

These laws regulated issues related to dowries, marriage, and inheritance. They aimed to protect the interests of both parties involved.

Impact on Marriage and Social Status

The dowry had a significant impact on a woman’s marriage prospects and social status. A substantial dowry could attract more suitors, indicating the family’s wealth and social standing. It also provided financial security to the bride in case of unforeseen circumstances such as divorce or widowhood.

However, reliance on dowries also had its drawbacks. Women who brought insufficient dowries often faced discrimination and were considered less desirable as wives.


In Ancient Greece, the control of dowry was primarily in the hands of the father of the bride. The dowry played a crucial role in marriage arrangements, symbolizing the transfer of a woman from her natal family to her husband’s family. Negotiations and legal aspects governed this practice, while the size and composition of the dowry impacted a woman’s marriage prospects and social status.

It is essential to examine ancient practices like dowry through a historical lens while acknowledging their limitations and impact on women’s lives.