An Egyptian Marriage Contract from 172 BC

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This is a marriage contract between a priest named Pagosh and a female named Teteimhotep, from 172 BC in Assiut, Egypt.

Ancient Egypt had some of the best marriage laws for women in the ancient world. Although children were almost always the property of the father, ancient Egyptian women were allowed to initiate divorce (a real oddity) and were entitled to compensation upon the end of a marriage.

From the papyrus catalogue page:

This example is written on papyrus in demotic script. In the contract the husband agrees to pay a stipulated amount of money within thirty days in the event of divorce. […] On the reverse of the papyrus is a list of eight witnesses to the contract.

Usually, divorce is presented today as a negative aspect of society – i.e. we wonder why there are so many.  But for as long as humans have been forming relationships with one another, we have also been trying to get out of some of those relationships.  In a time where women had much less power than men, imagine your economic survival being dependent on your husband.  Now imagine that husband wished to be married to someone else.  In ancient times this would mean you could find yourself economically destitute and you had no rights to your children.  The amount of money written in your marriage contract was a huge step forward in women’s rights.

Source: [British Museum]

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Image | This entry was posted in Ancient Egypt, Ancient Times, Civil Rights, Cool Document, Family Life, Museum Artefact, Women's History and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to An Egyptian Marriage Contract from 172 BC

  1. qerb says:

    Women would then have to wait another 2000 years before seeing such rights again, great post Nadine!

    • Thanks Alex! This is why even though I LOVE ancient Rome, I still loved teaching our 20th Century history class – I just find it so awesome that so many people get civil rights in such a short period of time after not having had them for thousands of years! How’s the history degree going? 🙂

      • qerb says:

        I totally agree! The History degree is going good, I am done in a year and then hopefully doing my masters:) Still teaching at Champlain?

      • Glad to hear university is going well. Congrats on finishing your first two years already! I’m still at Champlain – I love it here. Hopefully I’ll still be teaching here for a long time to come. 🙂

      • qerb says:

        Thank you! I also want to teach History in Cegep, you were too inspiring haha

      • Thanks so much! 🙂 You’d make an amazing Cegep teacher. The students would be lucky! It’s a tough profession to get into, because there are so few positions and lots of competition. Send me an email in the Fall if you’d like to meet some of the history teachers at Champlain to discuss what steps you can take now to make those applications in a few years go better!

      • qerb says:

        omg really that would be awesome! it would be really helpful!:)

      • No problem! We obviously have no control over hiring, but we can give you advice on applying to Cegeps in general and tell you the steps all of us had to go through. There’s high demand these days and very few positions available (like many fields after the economic downturn) so it’s always good to speak with people in your field to get advice. I did the same thing when I started out, I interviewed my Western Civ teacher about his job and how he got it. 🙂

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