February 15, 2012

Marriage in Ancient Egypt

The founding and continuation of a family line was important in ancient Egyptian society and early marriage was encouraged.
"Take a wife while you are young, that she may make a son for you. She should bear for you while you are youthful. It is proper to create people. Happy he man whose people are many, he is saluted on account of his offspring" 

Instruction of ( Papyrus of Ani )

The Vignette of the Weighing of the Heart of the Scribe Ani
A suitable age for a man to marry was twenty, according to the teaching of the scribe Onkhsheshongy, and his bride would be even younger. The stele of the lady Tjaiemhotep indicates that she was only fourteen years old when she married a future high priest of path at Memphis in the first century BC.

The Marriages in Ancient Egypt
Marriages tended to be within the same social group and even within the same family, although rarely between brother and sister once used to be thought, at least until the Ptolemaic period, The words "brother" and "sister" found in legal documents and literature were often used simply as terms of endearment. The most common family marriages were between uncle and niece or cousins. No doubt many marriages were arranged and parental consent was certainly needed, but the highly romantic tine of Egyptian live poetry indicates hat young people had fairly wide latitude in bestowing their affections: 'My brother torments my heart with his voice, he makes sickness take hold of me; he is neighbor to my mother's house, and cannot go the him! Brother, I am promised to you by the Gold of Women (Hathor)! Come to me that I may see your beauty.'

The Marriage in Ancient Egypt
Once a marriage had been agreed, a contract was drawn u[ to establish the rights of both parties to maintenance and possessions, The notable and interesting point about these documents is the equality pf women with men in there ability to own , manage and receive property, If a marriage ended in divorce the rights of the wide were equally protected, She was entitled to support from her husband, especially if she was repudiated by him through no fault of her own, The amount she received might equal her third if the marriage statement . or perhaps even more .If the woman was divorced through her own guilt. usually of adultery , she still had certain rights to maintenance from her former husband .


The marriage process seems to have been simple. One partner usually the bride moved into the household if the other; no religious or civil ceremony was required. The marriage settlement amounted only to a private legal agreement. It seems likely, however, tat there was family parties and festivities to celebrate a wedding, and Divorce was equally easy. One party simply repudiated the other, with or without their consent, and then one of them, again usually the wife, removed herself fro the conjugal home, Nevertheless, the financial impositions placed in the husband consequent to a divorce meant that he could not rid himself of his wife without some thought. This to us apparently casual attitude did mot mean that Egyptian marriages were necessarily short-lived or lacking in affection. The passage if love poetry quoted above indicates the degree of youthful passion before marriage and ancient Egyptian wisdom literature demonstrates the respect due to a wife :
Don't control; your wife in her house when you know she is efficient, Do not say to her" Where is it? ' Get it! ', when she has put it in the right place. Let you eye observe in silence, Then you recognize her skill, it is joy when your hand is with her, there are many who do not understand this, If a man desists from strife at home , her will meet its beginning. Every man who founds a household should hold back the hasty heart.

Many statues and wall painting show married couples clasping each other in obvious gestures of affection. Occasionally we find a personal testament of the love of a husband for his wife. For example, a papyrus now in Leiden contains a letter from a distraught widower to his deceased wife. The pair has married young but as the anonymous writer raised high in Pharaoh's service he had refused to put aside his wife, who was presumably low-born. The unspoken implication is than many other men in his position would have done so. Instead, he had always honored and cared for her. When she had fallen sick the vest physicians had been consulted and while traveling with the king during her illness, he had not eaten properly for worry, rushing home to her side as soon as Pharaoh returned to Memphis, In the three years since she had died, he had lived alone and not sought company, especially that of women, although it was expected of a man in his position.

Stela of Tjaiemhotep
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