Marriage In Ancient Egypt.

In many aspects marriage in ancient Egypt bore similarities to that of today. However, there were some important differences.

In modern times people usually exchange vows because they love each other and wish to commit to a lifetime together. Church weddings are performed by a priest who represents the religious beliefs of one, or both, the couple being wed.

Before the 26th Dynasty in ancient Egypt, love or religion had little to do with marriage.


The wife had little choice in her future husband. This was left up to the girls father and the future husband. This was a contractual arrangement.

As cold as that sounds though, many images show warm loving relationships in a cosy family environment.

Common misconceptions.

Because the pharaohs had such a powerful influence over the image of their nation, marriage for the common classes was often mistaken for traits that were confined to royalty only.

Some of these misconceptions are:

* Egyptian men had multiple wives- Not true. The common classes had monogamous relationships. The multiple wives-over one hundred in some cases-of certain pharaohs was more to do with producing an heir than variety of wife.

* Some Egyptians married their siblings-Not very common at all. This happened with some pharaohs, usually as a way to strengthen the family unit and fend off challenges to the throne. A well known example of this was Tutankhamun marrying his sister Ankhesenpaaten.

* A third misconception is that ceremonies of marriage in ancient Egypt was similar or the same as that of today. There does not appear to have been a legally binding ceremony. There was a celebration but it was purely a social affair.

Marrying your own kind.

If you were born into a fisherman's family in ancient Egypt, your form of employment would be that of a fisherman. And when you married in ancient Egypt you married within your class as well.

Although their was marriage between free men and servants or slaves, the wife was considered a concubine and it did not allow her entitlements or improve the social standing of her children.

Also, there was not any issue with interracial marriages. For instance Egyptian men married Nubian or Syrian girls and Egyptian women sometimes married foreign men.

So what age were they allowed to marry?

Age of marriage appears purely based on puberty in most cases. If the woman was old enough to bear a child she was ready to marry and the males were encouraged to marry young to produce an heir.

Most times the bride and groom were both young, but on occasion an older man would re-marry a younger bride if his previous wife had died.

Pre-nups. Or, taking your husband to the cleaners.

Just like other well structured elements of their society, so to was the ancient Egyptian marriage. A solid contract was worked out before hand and although the wife had little choice in her husband to be, she was looked after in the contract. She was provided with gifts, furniture and a house. In the event of a divorce she was well compensated.

So not unlike Hollywood today, it was only those with wealth who married more than once or took multiple wives. It would have been far too costly for the average man.

In all seriousness though, the evidence suggests that Egyptians held marriage as something sacred and arranged or not, the family unit was commonly a strong one.

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