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Egyptian Family Life

The Temple of Karnak
The Temple of Karnak

The position occupied by woman was quite extraordinary. In the household there was usually only one wife, though there might be several concubines or female slaves. Actual polygamy was infrequent, though the royal harem often contained 200 women. Private persons also maintained harems, the number of inmates depending on the financial ability of the individual. Inheritance and genealogy were reckoned by the mother, not the father, and while a man's possessions might descend to his sons, the line might also pass through the daughter to her sons.

Isis and Osiris
Isis and Osiris

Sometimes marriages were contracted upon these considerations. It was a father's ambition to hand down his official position to his sons, and the title of "hereditary prince" is often found.

The practice of marriage with a sister is met in early periods, but under the Ptolemies it was quite the rule, and the marriage contracts specified the amounts which the husband engaged to give annually to his wife for family purposes.

See also Daily Life in Ancient Egypt

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