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Ancient Egypt: Divorce documents
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Divorce documents

Agreement between Zois and Antipater, 13 BCE

 
To: Protarchus
From: Zois, daughter of Heraclides, along with her guardian and brother, Irenaeus, son of Heraclides; and from Antipater, son of Zenon.
Zois and Antipater agree that they have separated from one another, dissolving the union that they have formed on the basis of an agreement made through the same tribunal in Hathyr of this 17th year of Caesar. And Zois acknowledges that she has received from Antipater by hand from his house the material that he received as dowry: clothing valued at 120 drachmai and a pair of gold earrings.
The marriage agreement shall from now on be nullified; and neither Zois nor anyone acting on her behalf shall initiate proceedings against Antipater for restitution of the dowry; nor shall either person initiate proceedings against the other concerning cohabitation or any issue whatsoever up to the present. And subsequently it shall be lawful for Zois to marry another man and for Antipater to marry another woman without either of them being answerable. In addition to this agreement being valid, whoever transgresses it shall be liable both for damages and the prescribed fine.
17th year of Caesar, Pharmouthi 2.

Adapted by K.C. Hanson from Hunt & Edgar Select Papyri. Vol. 1: Non-Literary Papyri Private Affairs. Loeb Classical Library 281. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press 1932

- -guardian and brother: native Egyptian women were not represented by a guardian. Among the Greeks it was generally a close relative who performed this task.
-Hathyr: In Ptolemaic times an autumn month: September/October
-Caesar: Augustus
-Drachma: Base value of Greek currencies, divided into 6 obols. Best known is the Atheneian Tetradrachma, the Owl, weighing 17.4 grams
-The marriage agreement shall from now on be nullified: in ancient Egypt marriages were concluded between two partners without state or temple involvement. Likewise were divorces a private matter, though one would notify the tax authorities of such a change. Dowries and property which the woman had brought into the marriage were returned to her, at least among native Egyptians. She also took with her one third of the communal property. In case of the divorce being caused by unfaithfulness or other unsuitable behaviour, the guilty party had to pay a forfeit if such was stipulated in the marriage contract.
-Pharmouthi: In Ptolemaic times a spring month: February/March

 


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March 2007

 

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