Friday, January 27, 2012

Traditional Marriage in Egypt

Stephanie Dray, a writer of historical fiction and fantasy, repeated some commonly repeated fiction when she wrote…

There are a whole slew of fantastically good reasons why incest is illegal and taboo, including the lasting psychological damage it does, and the dysfunctional family dynamics it creates.

This is fiction if we’re talking about consensual incest. But let’s get past that to take a closer look at her great essay, “Keeping it in the (Ptolemaic) Family: When Incest is Best.”

She cites Cleopatra’s relationships with Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, then writes…

Today, we would rightly question the ethics of these love affairs, but given the way women were treated in the ancient world–and even until recently–her relationships with these men seems positively enlightened. Especially when you contrast them with the sexual relationships she was supposed to have as the Queen of Egypt.

To wit, she was not only expected to marry her brother, but to have children by him.

In general, there’s not necessarily anything wrong with that. What bothers me most is someone being pressured to marry someone against their will. It used to be more common, especially for women, and I’m glad that is becoming a part of the past for more and more regions of the world rather than continuing into the future.

So, how did this come to pass?

Go read her essay for the details as to how and why.

You might assume that the Ptolemaic gene pool would produce a lot of inbred drooling abominations, but aside from a tendency towards weight-gain and buggy eyes, the Ptolemies don’t appear to have suffered any genetic abnormalities.

So much for the often repeated myth that consanguineous parentage always results in birth defects.

So was it worth it?

Consanguinamory is its own reward as it is. However, she’s talking about politically…

Well, the evidence tells us that it was. The Ptolemies ruled Egypt for almost three hundred years. And if the Battle of Actium had gone the other way, Egyptian culture would have dominated western civilization.

Very interesting.

There were come comments when I read the piece.

Christi Barth…

You bet it was worth it! And the modern version still rolls on. Look at Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip – they are cousins (albeit several times removed). The Hawaiian royal family did it. The current King of Thailand is married to his 1st cousin, and his parents were half-siblings!

It’s always been a part of human relations.
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