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Ancient Egypt: Marriage contracts
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Marriage contracts

A Twenty-Seventh Dynasty Marriage Contract from Saqqara

 
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Year 11, 4th month of the peret-season of the pharaoh Darius.
The woman Smith[is], daughter of Pediese, her mother being Ashsedjemes, is speaking to the
wab-priest of Bastet Tjaisopedenimu, son of Horur///, his mother being Naenesbastet:
You have made me (your) wife. You have given me 1 silver
deben in pieces of sterling silver as my bride money. If I leave you I shall give you 5 silver deben in pieces of sterling. But if you should dismiss me as (your) wife, you shall give me 1 silver deben in pieces of sterling apart from the silver deben in pieces of sterling which you have already given me, together 2 silver deben in pieces of sterling, while the woman Ashsedjemes, daughter of Ankhpsamtek, [her mother being] Teteyris, [her] mother being present, saying: "Write (and) do everything as it is (written) above."
My heart is content with it.
Written by Tjaihepe[nimu, son of ///]rh (?).
Saq. H5-DP 486
After the transliteration and German translation on the Thesaurus Linguae Aegyptiae web site
- Year 11: 510 BCE
- Darius: Darius I, son of Cambyses II who had conquered Egypt
- in pieces of sterling: coined money was introduced in the 5th century BCE.
- bride money: lit. silver for becoming a wife.
 

Contract between Heraclides and Demetria, 311 BCE

In the 7th year of the reign of Alexander son of Alexander, the 14th year of the satrapship of Ptolemy, in the month Dius. Marriage contract of Heraclides and Demetria. Heraclides takes as his lawful wife Demetria, Coan, both being freeborn, from her father Leptines, Coan , and her mother Philotis, bringing clothing and ornaments to the value of 1000 drachmae, and Heraclides shall supply to Demetria all that is proper for a freeborn wife, and we shall live together wherever it seems best to Leptines and Heraclides consulting in common.
If Demetria is discovered doing any evil to the shame of her husband Heraclides, she shall be deprived of all that she brought, but Heraclides shall prove whatever he alleges against Demetria before three men whom they both accept.
It shall not be lawful for Heraclides to bring home another wife in insult of Demetria nor to have children by another woman nor to do any evil against Demetria on any pretext. If Heraclides is discovered doing any of these things and Demetria proves it before three men whom they both accept, Heraclides shall give back to Demetria the dowry of 1000 drachmae which she brought and shall moreover forfeit 1000 drachmae of the silver coinage of Alexander. Demetria and those aiding Demetria to exact payment shall have the right of execution, as if derived from a legally decided action, upon the person of Heraclides and upon all the property of Heraclides both on land and on water.
This contract shall be valid in every respect, wherever Heraclides may produce it against Demetria, or Demetria and those aiding Demetria to exact payment may produce it against Heraclides, as if the agreement had been made in that place.
Heraclides and Demetria shall have the right to keep the contracts severally in their own custody and to produce them against each other.
Witnesses Cleon, Gelan; Anticrates, Temnian; Lysis, Temnian; Dionysius, Temnian; Aristomachus, Cyrenaean; Aristodicus, Coan.

311 BCE
Loeb Select Papyri I

 

Contract between Patma and Taoutem, 251 BCE

- Coan: his family was originally from Cos
- it seems best to Leptines and Heraclides consulting in common: The father of the wife is to act as his daughter's representative, perhaps he was to be involved only in the choice of the initial domicile of the newly-wed couple and he lost his standing as guardian of his daughter after her wedding in case of a conflict between the two spouses.
- Demetria is discovered doing any evil to the shame: The contract is remarkably fair but for this stipulation which seems to prohibit any shameful act - i.e. adultery - to the woman, while the husband's only onus is not to take another wife.
- before three men whom they both accept: Any quarrel is to be settled out of court. But the wife and not her representative has to agree to the appointment of the arbiters.
- Demetria and those aiding Demetria: Apparently representatives appointed by Demetria herself.
- Gelan: citizen of Gela, a Greek colony on Sicily
- Cyrenaean: from Cyrene in northern Africa
- Temnos: City in Asia Minor
The year 33, Khoiakh, of the King Ptolemy, the god, beings Aetus, son of Apollonius, Priest of Alexander and of the gods brothers, being Dimetria, daughter of Dionysos, Canephoros before Arsinoe Philadelpha, the Pastophore of Ammon Api of the Western, region, of Thebes.
Patma, son of Pchelchons, whose mother is Tahet, says to the woman Ta-outem, daughter of Relou, whose mother is Tanetem: I have accepted thee for wife, I have given thee one argenteus, in shekels 5, one argenteus in all for thy woman's gift. I must give thee 6 oboli, their half is 3, to-day 6, by the month 3, by the double month 6, 36 for a year: equal to one argenteus and one fifth, in shekels 6, one argenteus and one fifth in all for thy toilet during a year. Lastly, a tenth of an argenteus, in shekels one half, one argenteus one tenth for thy pin money by the month, which, makes one argenteus and one fifth, in shekels 6, one argenteus and one fifth for thy pin money for the year. Thy pin money for one year is apart from thy toilet money. I must give it to thee each year, and it is thy right to exact the payment of thy toilet money, and thy pin money, which are to be placed to my account. I must give it to thee.
Thy eldest son, my eldest son, shall be the heir of all my property, present and future.
I will establish thee as wife.
In case I should despise thee, in case I should take another wife than thee, I will give thee 20 argenteus, in shekels 100, 20 argenteus in all.
The entire of the property which is mine, and which I shall possess, is security of all the above words, until I have accomplished them according to their tenor. I have no more to allege, any other matter, any other word ////// with thee. The writings which the woman Tahet, daughter of Teos, my mother, has made to me concerning one half of the entire of the property which belonged to Pchelchons, son of Pana, my father, and the rest of the contracts coming from her, and which are in my hand, belong to thee, as well as the rights resulting from it. For thee all that, as well as that which I shall justify in their name.
Son, daughter, coming from me, who shall annoy thee on this subject will give thee 20 argenteus, in shekels 100, 20 argenteus in all. He will deliver them up to thee entirely without any opposition, the writer of this act is ...... the Priest of Ammon Horpneter, son of Smin.

E. Revillout Contract of Marriage in the Reign of Ptolemy Philadelphus
S. Birch, ed. Records of the Past, Vol. X, S.Bagster and Sons, London, 1878

 

Contract between Pa-igesh and Ta-ti-Iyemhotep, 170 BCE
Papyrus BM 10593

Written in demotic
Native Egyptian women had no need for representation by a male relative. (cf. also the Contract between Pa-igesh and Ta-ti-Iyemhotep)
 
- Ptolemy: Ptolemy Philadelphus (284-246)
- Canephoros: Carrier of the basket containing the sacrificial round cake, the chaplet of flowers and the knife used to slay the victim.
- Pastophore: Young women carrying a peplus (shawl) displaying symbolical or mythological figures. Generally used for priests of Isis and Osiris, here for priests of Amen Apis.
[Image: Patma's family tree
- argenteus, in shekels 5 Five shekels to an argenteus, six obols to a shekel.
- pin money: pocket money
Year 9, 4th month of Inundation, day 17 of Pharaoh Ptolemy (VI) .... The lector-priest of the necropolis of the great town of Shtam(?), Pa-igesh, son of Pay-bes, whose mother is Ta-ti-Isis, said to the woman Ta-ti-Iyemhotep, daughter of Pa-ti-Atum, her mother being Tawa:
I have made you (my) wife. Here is the list of the property which you brought to my house: 1 veil(?) (valued) at 50 silver pieces, a cloak(?) at 10 silver pieces, 1 ... at 5 silver pieces, 1 ... at 25 silver pieces, making 90 silver pieces. I will give you 20 silver pieces as your bridal gift besides the 90 silver pieces which you brought to my house, making 110 silver pieces ....
If I abandon you as wife or if you abandon me, I shall give them to you on the day of your asking them from me, which you shall do on 1 day in 30 days, the day of asking the 110 silver pieces aforesaid from me which you shall do. If I do not give it to you on 1 day in 30 days, here is the specification of the food and clothing (allowance) which I will give to you each month until I have paid in full your silver pieces aforesaid: I shall give you 1 artaba of wheat, 1 hin of oil and 5 pieces of refined silver monthly until I have paid in full your silver pieces aforesaid, making 12 (artabas of) wheat, 12 hin of oil and 60 silver pieces for your food and clothing for 1 year at the house which you prefer .... You are the one who is entitled to the remainder of your food and clothing which is my responsibility. I will give them to you without being able to say "I have given you the food and clothing and everything whatsoever" without a legal receipt and without being able to dispute it with you with respect thereto while the above deed remains in your possession. Everything that I possess and shall acquire is security for your money, your food and clothing as aforesaid, until I pay you them in full. The property which you take away from my house, I will reckon it to you among the said money.
Pay-bes the younger, son of Pa-ti-Isis, whose mother is Nakht-Isis, said:
Write: Accept the aforesaid deed by Pa-igesh, son of Pay-bes the younger, my eldest son aforesaid; my heart is satisfied with everything aforesaid. Let him act accordingly to you at all times.
Written by Hor-Anubis, the son of Amon-nakht, who writes (in) the great town and its suburbs.
 
Year 9, 2nd month of Summer, day 17 of Pharaoh Ptolemy (VI) .... The lector-priest of the necropolis of the great town of ...Pa-igesh, son of Pay-bes, whose mother is Ta-ti-Isis, said to the woman Ta-ti-Iyemhotep, daughter of Pa-ti-Atum, her mother being Tawa:
You have satisfied my heart with 21 silver pieces of the Treasury of Ptah, refined, .... I will give them to you on the day of (your) asking them from me which you shall determine, the day of asking the said 21 silver pieces of the Treasury of Ptah, refined, from me which you shall determine. If I do not give them to you on it, I will give you 52½ (artabas of)... barley... and 1 silver piece refined of the Treasury of Ptah and 24 hin of oil for your food and clothing yearly (delivered) at the house that you prefer .... Your are the one who is entitled to the remainder of your food and clothing which is my responsibility and I will give them to you without being able to say "I have given you the food and clothing and everything whatsoever" without a legal receipt and without being able to dispute it(?) with you with respect thereto, the above deed remaining in your possession. Everything that I possess and shall acquire is a pledge for your money, your food and clothing aforesaid, until I pay you them in full, without any "assertion of title"(?) or any other dealing against you.
Written by Hor-Anubis, son of Amon-nakht, who writes in the great town and its suburbs.

Sir Herbert Thompson, A Family Archive from Siut from Papyri in the British Museum, including an Account of a Trial before the Laocritae in the year B.C. 170 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1934) pp. 67-70 and pp. 1-33

Contract between Apollonius and Thermion, 13 BCE

- If I abandon you as wife or if you abandon me: Unlike the Greek marriage contract above the Egyptian one does not speak of guilty parties which have to be punished. It rather sets out provisions to protect the economically weaker partner, the wife, in case of the dissolution of the marriage.
- Artaba: Dry measure, by Ptolemaic times about 27 litres.
- Hin: About half a litre
- Written by Hor-Anubis: The lector priest was certainly literate, but in order to give validity to his promises he had the document drafted by another scribe.
To: Protarchus
From: Thermion, daughter of Apion, along with her guardian Apollonius, son of Chaereas; and from Apollonius, son of Ptolemaeus
Thermion and Apollonius, son of Ptolemaeus agree that they have come together to share a common life. And the said Apollonius, son of Ptolemaeus, acknowledges that he has received from Thermion by hand from the house a dowry of a pair of gold earrings weighing three quarters and [- - -] silver drachmai.
And from now on, Apollonius, son of Ptolemaeus, shall provide Thermion as his wife all necessaries and clothing in proportion to his means and shall not mistreat her, nor throw her out, nor bring in another wife, or he shall directly forfeit the dowry increased by half with right of execution upon both the person of Apollonius, son of Ptolemaeus, and all his property as if by legal decision.
And Thermion shall fulfill her duties towards her husband and their common life and shall not leave the house for a night or a day without the consent of Apollonius, son of Ptolemaeus, nor dishonor, nor injure their common home, nor consort with another man, or she - if guilty of any of these deeds - shall after trial, forfeit the dowry, and in addition the guilty party shall be liable to the prescribed fine.
17th year of Caesar, Pharmouthi 20.

Adapted by K.C. Hanson from Hunt & Edgar Select Papyri. Vol. 1: Non-Literary Papyri Private Affairs. Loeb Classical Library 281. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press1932

Some Greeks had traditions which were much stricter where the woman's freedom and autonomy were concerned than the Egyptians had:
- her guardian Apollonius: Among the Greek women could generally not act on their own in the public sphere and had to be represented by a male relative, by their husband or even a grown son.
- Thermion ... shall not leave the house for a night or a day without the consent of Apollonius: An efficient means for male domination in Greece and many eastern societies.
 
- Caesar: Augustus

 


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-Ancient Egypt Marriages: Quite Modern by Jennifer Viegas, Discovery News
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February 2004
Update: February 2007
April 2005

 

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