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Marriage in Ancient Egypt. 

  The ancient Egyptians held marriage as a sacred bond. The family was broken down into roles that each would play in order for things to run smoothly. The father was the one who would work all day. In smaller households the mother was in charge of all things pertaining to the house. Cooking, cleaning and watching the children were all her responsibilities. Egyptians seem to have taken mates in what most often appears to be lifelong monogamous relationships. marriage and a close family played an integral role in ancient Egypt.

A bride would be young, about 14 or 15 years old. Her husband could be anywhere from 17 to 20—or older if he was divorced or a widower. The ancient Egyptians were encouraged to marry young, considering that the life span at this time was relatively short.

Many marriages were arranged with parental consent needed, as they have been in all societies, especially among the upper classes. But the abundance of love poetry between young people signifies that many couples did fall in love and choose each other as mates. Women played a large role in arranging a marriage. A suitor sometimes used a female go-between to approach the girl’s mother—not her father.

Interestingly, one of the most affectionate titles you could call your love was "brother" or "sister" in ancient Egypt. This had nothing to do with sibling relations, but led many archaeologists and scholars to wrongly assume that most ancient Egyptians married their siblings. Actually, this usually occurred only among royalty—and was not a common occurrence.  

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Marriage in Ancient Egypt

 

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The Wedding Day:

The day of the marriage was really quite simple. The bride merely moved her belongings into the home of her husband. He might be living alone or with his parents.

So what did the bride wear? She probably wore a long dress or tunic made of linen, which may have been covered from head to toe with bead-net. If she owned any gold, silver or lapis, she probably adorned herself with those, too.

Even though there was no official ceremony, knowing how much the ancient Egyptians loved music, dance and food, there were bound to be family celebrations in honor of the uniting couple.

Museums are filled with statues and paintings showing husbands and wives with their arms around each other’s waists, holding hands or offering each other flowers or food. Love and affection was indeed a part of the Egyptian marriage, and our Egyptian bride could expect to be loved and respected by her husband.

Entering into a marriage was described as 'making a wife' or 'taking a wife', but it seems that the girl's father had the main say. If the girl had no father, an uncle would step in. In the absence of any preexisting agreement it seems that the girl's consent to a marriage was unimportant until the 26th dynasty, when brides also began to have a say.
 

The Marriage Contract

 Most marriages had a contract drawn up between the parties. The poorer classes probably did not do this because they probably had few possessions to consider and also the cost of a scribe would have been costly. Marriage settlements were drawn up between a woman’s father and her prospective husband, although many times the woman herself was part of the contract. The sole purpose of the contract was to establish the rights of both parties to maintenance and possessions during the marriage and after divorce if it should occur.

A standard marriage contract that had been found among the numerous records left by the ancient Egyptians. It contained:

The finished document was given to a third party for safekeeping or kept among the records of the local temple.   

A man could marry as soon as he was physically mature and had reached a point in his chosen career that ensured his ability to provide for his wife and for the children they could expect. Most Egyptians were content to have only one wife. Marriage was an expensive matter for the man, and the whole contract system provided such far-reaching safeguards for the material rights of wives and children that most men could only afford one wife at a time. 

Marriages were most often between people of the same social class, but there seems to have been little regard given to race or even nationality.  It was not unusual for a northern Egyptian to marry a Nubian, or someone even from another country.  

  Marriage contracts do not generally tell the age of the parties, but we know from other documents that marriage almost always occurred after sexual adulthood.  The average age for girls to enter puberty was 12 to 13, and around 14 for boys.  Indeed boys, who had to achieve some work abilities in order to support a wife and future children, were usually 15 or over before contemplating marriage.  If the marriage ended in divorce, the rights of the wife were equally protected. Generally, she was entitled to support from her husband, especially if she was rejected by him through no fault of her own. The amount might equal one third of the settlement or even more. If the bride ended up committing adultery (which was extremely frowned upon for both men and women), she still had certain rights to maintenance from her former husband. Monogamy, except for some of the higher classes and royalty, seemed to be the rule for most ancient Egyptian couples.

Particularly during the early periods of ancient Egypt, the future husband made a payment to the bride's father, usually amounting to about the cost of a slave.  Later, this practice was abandoned and later the practice was reversed where often the father of the bride had to compensate the future husband for her upkeep.  However, if divorce occurred, the husband was obligated to continue some support to his ex-wife, usually amounting to about one third of his earnings.  

Marriages between kin were familiar among the common folk. Step-brothers and sisters married, as did uncles and nieces quite frequently, and cousins still more so.
 Between very close blood-relations, however, it was wholly exceptional among ordinary people.

 The tradition of brother/sister or father/daughter marriages was mostly confined to the royalty of Egypt In tales from Egyptian mythology, gods marriage between brothers and sisters and fathers and daughters were common from the earliest periods, and so Egyptian kings may have felt that it was a royal thing to do.  However, there are also theories that brother/sister marriages may also have strengthened the king's claim to rule.

Divorce was as easily initiated as marriage. Divorce could be brought about by either party; it was a private matter and the government took no interest in it.

The most common reasons for a husband to divorce his wife included the inability to bear children, especially a son; the desire to marry someone else or that she simply stopped pleasing him. A woman could divorce her husband for mental or physical cruelty or adultery. In some cases, if the woman chose to divorce, she forfeited her right to communal property.  

Once divorced, both men and women could remarry as soon as they wished. And from the archives we have found, it seems that they readily did. It’s also apparent that our ancient bride, with the ease of marriage and divorce and the financial protection she generally received, had a better time of it than some brides in modern times.
 

All of this said, there are many indications that husbands and wives in ancient Egypt were often happy and in love.  There are many touching portraits and statues of families including spouses and their children that reveal marital delight and warmth within the family.  

 

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