Family was very important to Ancient Egyptians. Many love poems have been found that are very similar to a modern idea of love. Marriages for the commoner were not arranged. A man made his intentions known by taking gifts to the girl’s home, and then marriage arrangements followed. The average age for a girl to marry was thirteen.
An agreement was drawn up at the start of a marriage, assigning a portion of the man's wealth to the wife and any children to provide for them should a divorce occur at a later time. The woman also brought items into the marriage, but they remained her property to be passed on her children. In addition, the wife and children were protected by a law that forbade transfer of a valuable object to another person without the wife’s and the eldest son’s consent.
The literature of the day, known as “wisdom literature,” encouraged the man to treat his wife well. Egyptian marriages were monogamous, meaning the custom of being married to just one person at a time. A divorce was basically easy to attain, but it was costly. If a woman committed adultery, it was considered grounds for a divorce and could also bring a punishment of burning or stoning. . It is unclear if the same punishments were applied to men.
For people of nobility and royalty, a different set of marriage customs applied. Multiple wives were common. A pharaoh was married to a queen with a distinct title of the “Great Royal Wife.” He was also married to several minor wives that were quite often arranged for political reasons. The male heir to the throne was often married to the oldest daughter (often his sister or stepsister) of the Great Royal Wife. The Egyptians believed that a male heir was the result of a major god mating with the “Great Royal Wife.” Ths idea led to the belief that the pharaoh was a descendent of the gods.
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