Family Celebrations. Though there was no official state marriage license and religious ceremony, the ancient Egyptians celebrated the beginning of a marriage. The Late Period (664-332 b.c.e.) text called The Story of Setne Khaemwast narrates the marriage of Ahwere, a daughter of Ramesses II (circa 1279-1213 b.c.e.), and Naneferkaptah, her brother. The story was written long after the actual lifetime of Ramesses II and his children, and probably reflects elite marriage customs of the period after 664 b.c.e., as well as the belief—even among Egyptians—that brothers and sisters married in earlier times.
Marriage in the Story. Ahwere and Naneferkaptah fell in love and their parents, in this case Pharaoh, arranged the marriage. The bride went to the groom’s house, where she received presents. Her own father gave the largest present. The couple had a party, retired to consummate the marriage, and lived together after that. The marriage meant that they would live together and establish a household.
ADVICE ON MARRIAGE
The sage Any, Dynasty 18 (circa 1539-1295/1292 B.C.E.), counseled prospective grooms:
Take a wife while you’re young,
That she might make a son for you;
She should bear for you while you’re youthful,
It is proper to make people.
Happy the man whose people are many,
He is saluted on account of his progeny.
Source: “The Instructions of Any,” translated by Miriam Lichtheirn, in Ancient Egyptian Literature, edited by Lichtheim (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1973), p. 136.
Miriam Stead, Egyptian Life (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 1986).
Barbara Watterson, Women in Ancient Egypt (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991).