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Marriage and divorce in Ancient Egypt

Marriage in Ancient Egypt

Marriage and close family relationship played an important role in the life of ancient Egyptians who portrayed this by paintings found on temple walls and letters written by grieved widowers to their deceased  mates.

A bride would be young about 14 or 15 years old. Her husband could be anywhere from 17 to 20 or older in case he was divorced or a widower. Ancient Egyptians were encouraged to marry young.

Many marriages were arranged with parental consent especially among the upper classes but many couples did fall in love and choose each other as mates.

One of the most affectionate titles you could call your was "brother" or "sister" . This has nothing to do with sibling relations, but led many archeologists 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.

Museums are filled with statues and paintings of husbands and wives showing love and affection.

The Marriage settlement

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 prohibitive.
Marriage settlements were drawn up between a woman's father and her prospective husband with the purpose of establishing the rights of both parties to maintenance and possessions during the marriage and after divorce if it should occur.

A standard marriage contract contained :

  • The date (the year of the reign of the ruling monarch).
  • The contractors (future husband and wife).
  • The names of parents.
  • Husband's profession.
  • The scribe who drew up the contract.
  • The names of the witnesses.
  • The details of the settlement.

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

The wedding day was really simple, the bride merely moved her belongings into the home of her husband whether living alone or with his parents. The bride wore a long dress of tunic made of linen, which may have been covered from head to toe with bead-net. If she owned any gold, silver or lapis , who probably adorned herself with those, too.
There were family celebrations  in honor of the uniting couple with music, dance and food served.


If it didn't work, divorce could be brought by either party, it was a private matter and the government took no interest in it. 
The common reasons for a man to divorce his wife included the inability of wife to bear children, the desire of the husband to marry someone else.
A woman could divorce her husband for mental or physical cruelty or adultery. In some cases if a woman chose to divorce, she forfeited her  right to communal property.

Once divorced both men and women could marry as soon as they wished.


Other related articles :

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