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  #1  
Old 12-01-2005, 12:15 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Was Egyptian incest for royals only?

The pharoahs of ancient Egypt were famous for marrying their sisters, generation after generation -- apparently because the throne had to be inherited through the female line. But some histories I've read suggest that was not only a royal custom -- the common people also practiced brother-sister marriage. Is that true?
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  #2  
Old 12-01-2005, 12:32 PM
John Corrado John Corrado is offline
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From what I've read, the Egyptian ruling family committed incest because it was thought that the members of the family were actually divine, and therefore could not be sullied by marrying someone who was not divine (i.e., anyone outside of the family).

For this reason, Cleopatra had to 'prove' that Julius Caesar was the personification of Mars when she started... um, 'hanging out' with him.

Of course, Suetonious and others were more interested in the good story rather than the true facts, but this would indicate that it was more of a 'special circumstance' that forced the royal Egyptian line to be so inbred.
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  #3  
Old 12-01-2005, 01:08 PM
Captain Amazing Captain Amazing is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Corrado
For this reason, Cleopatra had to 'prove' that Julius Caesar was the personification of Mars when she started... um, 'hanging out' with him.

The family Julius was supposedly descended from Aeneas (which is why Virgil wrote the brownnosing poem), who was the son of Venus. I think that was Cleo's excuse.
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  #4  
Old 12-02-2005, 04:13 PM
BrainGlutton BrainGlutton is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Corrado
From what I've read, the Egyptian ruling family committed incest because it was thought that the members of the family were actually divine, and therefore could not be sullied by marrying someone who was not divine (i.e., anyone outside of the family).

For this reason, Cleopatra had to 'prove' that Julius Caesar was the personification of Mars when she started... um, 'hanging out' with him.

Of course, Suetonious and others were more interested in the good story rather than the true facts, but this would indicate that it was more of a 'special circumstance' that forced the royal Egyptian line to be so inbred.
Self-hijack: If you want a "good story," read The October Horse (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...books&v=glance), final volume of Colleen McCullough's "Masters of Rome" series. In her telling of the Caesar-and-Cleopatra story,
SPOILER:
Cleopatra, although of inbred-pure Macedonian blood, has thoroughly internalized the traditional Egyptian religion and culture. She is as convinced of Caesar's divinity as of her own. After he is assassinated, she takes up with Marc Antony because she has already had a son by Caesar (known as Ptolemy Caesar or Caesarion), but she still needs to bear a sister-bride for him; and Marc Antony is the only man around who is closely enough related to Caesar to be an acceptable sperm donor for the purpose.
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  #5  
Old 12-16-2005, 08:34 PM
Mississippienne Mississippienne is offline
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There was a number of reasons that incestuous marriages were practiced among the ancient Egyptians. Not just the royals either -- you can find brother/sister marriages in the lower levels of society too. It was a good way to keep wealth and property within the family, and in some modern-day cultures cousin marriages do basically the same thing.

For the Ptolemaic dynasty (I won't touch on the earlier dynasties, as I have not studied them in any detail) incestuous marriages were a means of declaring their divinity (as god-pharoahs their blood was too good to mix with that of the lower classes) and as a means to keep their sisters from causing havoc as sexual free agents. Of the Ptolemaic kings, Ptolemy I seems to have been the most free-wheeling, with several official wives and concubines, none of whom was related to him.

Ptolemy II married his full-sister Arsinoe II, probably not due to some intense physical attraction, but to keep her from making another potentially disastrous marriage alliance elsewhere* and to amp up his prestige after divorcing his first wife. They had no children, and it was his son from his first marriage who succeeded. Ptolemy III married a cousin, Berenike of Cyrene, because she was heiress of Cyrene and he wasn't letting the opportunity to gain control of that territory slip through his hands. The licentious Ptolemy IV married his sister, but that marriage ended with their suspicious murders. His successor, Ptolemy V, may not have been the biological son of his true queen at all, but a concubine's "cuckoo". Ptolemy V had no sisters, and being very young a marriage was arranged for him with a Syrian princess. Interestingly enough, even in cases where the queen was clearly not the king's sister (as with Ptolemy V and Kleopatra I) she is still given the honorary title of "king's sister", as though it's a synonym for queen. Their descendants continued the tightly intermarried family tree on down to Kleopatra VII, the famous Cleopatra.

Laodike of Syria, the widowed queen of Macedon, returned to the court in Syria after her husband's death. Her brother, King Demetrios I, shopped around for a husband for her, but after a few years got fed up and married her himself. Demetrios couldn't let her run free to marry whoever, and since he couldn't find a suitable alliance for her, well, there was only one thing to do.

* Arsinoe II, after the death of her first husband the king of Thrace, briefly wed her half-brother Ptolemy Keraunos, a rival of Ptolemy II. Keraunos slaughtered her children and Arsinoe fled to Ptolemy II.
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  #6  
Old 12-16-2005, 08:36 PM
lonesome loser lonesome loser is offline
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Cleopatra wasn't Egyptian. She was Greek.
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  #7  
Old 12-16-2005, 08:38 PM
Mississippienne Mississippienne is offline
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She was born in Egypt, ruled in Egypt, and spoke the Egyptian language. So far as we know, she had not a drop of Egyptian blood in her veins, but she was Egyptian culturally and politically. And her ancestors were a mix of Macedonians, Syrians, and Persians.
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  #8  
Old 12-16-2005, 08:52 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mississippienne
She was born in Egypt, ruled in Egypt, and spoke the Egyptian language.
True, but as far as we know she was the only member of her dynasty to do the last.

Quote:
So far as we know, she had not a drop of Egyptian blood in her veins, but she was Egyptian culturally and politically.
It may seem like splitting hairs, but I'd classify her as "Greco-Egyptian". The Lagids had adopted a lot of native trappings by that time, but they were still recognizably Greek culturally and politically as well. Even by that late date intermarriages among at least the upper echelons of Alexandrian society seem to have been rare ( the one half-Greek commander involved in that little contretemps between Cleopatra, Caesar and Cleo's brother/husband is notable as being singled out as such ).

Quote:
And her ancestors were a mix of Macedonians, Syrians, and Persians.
i.e. Greek, Greek, and... Greek? ( which Persians? )

It was a Hellenistic world, still ( at least in the east ).

- Tamerlane
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  #9  
Old 12-16-2005, 09:21 PM
Mississippienne Mississippienne is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tamerlane
True, but as far as we know she was the only member of her dynasty to do the last.
Plutarch says Cleopatra spoke the languages of "the Ethiopians, Troglodytes, Hebrews, Arabians, Syrians, Medes, Parthians, and many others ... which was all the more surprising because most of the kings, her predecessors, scarcely gave themselves the trouble to acquire the Egyptian tongue, and several of them quite abandoned the Macedonian."

That doesn't say to me that none of her ancestors spoke Egyptian, only that perhaps they didn't learn it fluently or well.

Quote:
i.e. Greek, Greek, and... Greek? ( which Persians? )

It was a Hellenistic world, still ( at least in the east ).

- Tamerlane
The Ptolemaic dynasty was certainly Macedonian in its roots. However, Arsinoe I (first wife of Ptolemy II and mother of Ptolemy III) was the daughter of King Lysimachos of Thrace, possibly by his Persian wife, Amestris, a niece of Darius III. Lysimachos had three wives, and Arsinoe was certainly the daughter of one of the first two, but her maternity isn't certainly known. Even if she wasn't half-Persian, Persian ancestry still comes in by way of Berenike of Cyrene, who's great-grandmother was Apama, daughter of the Persian nobleman Spitamenes (one of the last Persians to fight against Alexander the Great, he was killed in battle in 328). Apama was the matriarch of the Seleukid dynasty of Syria, and her descendants intermarried a number of times with the Ptolemaic dynasty (notably Kleopatra I, ancestress and namesake of the famous Cleopatra). King Antiochos II married a woman named Laodike, who's family were prominent lords in the kingdom and who seems to have been of at least partly native descent. Their great-grandaughter, once again, was Kleopatra I.

Whew! My head's quite hurting from trying to sort out these tangled genealogical webs.
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  #10  
Old 12-16-2005, 09:32 PM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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The Persian royal family also practiced brother-sister marriage. Darius III, the king deposed by Alexander, was married to at least two of his half-sisters, and one of his daughters was married to his half-brother. His mother was the half-sister of his father as well.

The Herodian Dynasty had a taboo against sibling marriage, but marriage to cousins and nieces was more the norm than the exception. Herod the Great was married to two of his nieces, one of his daughters was married to his brother, his sister Salome was married their uncle Joseph (among others), etc.. The Herodias who is the villain in the John the Baptist story is identified in the Bible as having been Antipas's sister-in-law stolen from his brother, but she was also the niece of both of her husbands (the daughter of their half brother Aristobulus, who was executed by their father Herod). Herodias's daughter Salome, the dancer, married yet another of Herod's sons, which made her husband her uncle and her great-uncle, and her children by him the grandchildren, great-grandchildren and great-great-grandchildren of Herod the Great.

The Herodians didn't practice incest due to any conceipt of divine lineage but as a matter of cementing alliances between a large and quarrelsome family and, in the case of Herod's descendants by his second wife (Miriam/Maryam/Mariamne- Herodias, Agrippa and Salome were all descendants of her), to give each heir as much a dose of the Maccabean/Hasmonean blood she supplied as possible to offset Herod's less than royal Israelite (in fact, less than Jewish) bloodline. (Herod had conveniently killed every other Hasmonean so his descendants were the last of the line.)
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  #11  
Old 12-16-2005, 11:01 PM
Mississippienne Mississippienne is offline
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Very interesting info, Sampiro. I wasn't familiar with the Herodians. Makes the Hapsburgs look positively third-rate in the inbreeding olympics.

The royal Epirote dynasty also practiced incestuous marriage. Olympias, the mother of Alexander the Great, was a member of this dynasty, and her daughter Cleopatra married her uncle (her mother's brother) King Alexander. Eventually the throne went to a cousin, Pyrrhos, who's children by two different wives* married one another.

*His second wife, Antigone, was a step-daughter of Ptolemy I of Egypt.
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  #12  
Old 12-16-2005, 11:20 PM
Tamerlane Tamerlane is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mississippienne

That doesn't say to me that none of her ancestors spoke Egyptian, only that perhaps they didn't learn it fluently or well.
Fair enough, but I think that still validates my point . The Lagids were, pretty much throughout their reign ( except perhaps towards the very end ), essentially a parasitic, foreign dynasty, maintained largely by foreign mercenaries ( with the notable exception of Raphia ).

Quote:
The Ptolemaic dynasty was certainly Macedonian in its roots. However, Arsinoe I (first wife of Ptolemy II and mother of Ptolemy III) was the daughter of King Lysimachos of Thrace, possibly by his Persian wife, Amestris, a niece of Darius III. Lysimachos had three wives, and Arsinoe was certainly the daughter of one of the first two, but her maternity isn't certainly known. Even if she wasn't half-Persian, Persian ancestry still comes in by way of Berenike of Cyrene, who's great-grandmother was Apama, daughter of the Persian nobleman Spitamenes (one of the last Persians to fight against Alexander the Great, he was killed in battle in 328). Apama was the matriarch of the Seleukid dynasty of Syria, and her descendants intermarried a number of times with the Ptolemaic dynasty (notably Kleopatra I, ancestress and namesake of the famous Cleopatra). King Antiochos II married a woman named Laodike, who's family were prominent lords in the kingdom and who seems to have been of at least partly native descent. Their great-grandaughter, once again, was Kleopatra I.
Good post - I had forgotten about Apama/e ( I think Amestris is considered dubious though, considering the brevity of her marriage to Lysimachus ).

Still, while I'll conceed you were technically correct in your statement ( at least for the Persians ), those dribs and drabs of foreign blood are pretty attenuated compared to the Greek/Greco-Macedonian predominance ( even everyone mentioned above was at least half-Greek ). I still feel comfortable ( stubborn ) referring to them as being overwhelmingly Greek in culture and politics.

- Tamerlane
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  #13  
Old 12-17-2005, 12:45 AM
Mississippienne Mississippienne is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tamerlane
Fair enough, but I think that still validates my point . The Lagids were, pretty much throughout their reign ( except perhaps towards the very end ), essentially a parasitic, foreign dynasty, maintained largely by foreign mercenaries ( with the notable exception of Raphia ).
You could say the same about a lot of dynasties, my friend.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Tamerlane
Good post - I had forgotten about Apama/e ( I think Amestris is considered dubious though, considering the brevity of her marriage to Lysimachus ).

Still, while I'll conceed you were technically correct in your statement ( at least for the Persians ), those dribs and drabs of foreign blood are pretty attenuated compared to the Greek/Greco-Macedonian predominance ( even everyone mentioned above was at least half-Greek ). I still feel comfortable ( stubborn ) referring to them as being overwhelmingly Greek in culture and politics.

- Tamerlane
Lysimachos of Thrace had three wives: Nikaia, Amestris, and Arsinoe II of Egypt*. Of these, Arsinoe II can be excluded due to various factors. I tend to lean towards Amestris because she fits the timeline better -- a daughter of hers could've been born 302-300, which is a good fit for Arsinoe, who married probably in 282. If Arsinoe was Nikaia's daughter, she would've been about ten to fifteen years younger than Nikaia's other children. Not impossible, but not likely to my mind.

*She who married her brother Ptolemy II, and thusly replaced her stepdaughter, Arsinoe I. Yeah yeah I know, soap opera.
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  #14  
Old 12-17-2005, 01:09 AM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mississippienne
and as a means to keep their sisters from causing havoc as sexual free agents.
So to keep other men away from his sister, he took her himself. That's just eeewww and reminds me of Scarface.

"You're the only thing that's pure in his life."

Thomas Mann, in Joseph und Seine Brüder (Joseph and His Brothers), imagined not only royalty, but other Egyptian aristocracy too as practicing this custom. Mann had Potiphar's parents being brother and sister. He wrote a scene of Joseph waiting on the two old people while they chatted that maybe it hadn't been such a good idea for them to get married, considering the son they had, maybe he was the result of too much inbreeding.

This is the only example I've ever heard of with non-royalty doing it, and it's fiction.
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  #15  
Old 12-17-2005, 01:39 AM
Helen's Eidolon Helen's Eidolon is offline
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Another thing that has contributed to the confusion is that the word for 'sister' was used as a term of endearment in love poetry without implying any familial relationship.

As far as I was aware, the brother-sister marriages were indeed limited to the royal family, and were often half-siblings rather than full siblings. I haven't done any formal research on the subject, however.
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  #16  
Old 12-17-2005, 09:22 PM
Mississippienne Mississippienne is offline
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Originally Posted by Helen's Eidolon
As far as I was aware, the brother-sister marriages were indeed limited to the royal family, and were often half-siblings rather than full siblings. I haven't done any formal research on the subject, however.
Which relatives were allowed for incestuous marriage varied from dynasty to dynasty, and from time period to time period. The Ptolemies, for example, married their sisters (full and half), nieces, and cousins, but never mothers or daughters. The earlier Egyptian pharaohs, such as Akhenaten, sometimes married their daughters. King Phraates V of Parthia married his own mother. Takes all kinds, I suppose.
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  #17  
Old 12-18-2005, 02:02 AM
Sampiro Sampiro is offline
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In some legends Semiramis, the legendary Babylonian queen-deity who was probably based on an actual person, married her own son, who is often associated with Nimrod of Genesis (Tower of Babel) fame. She was of divine origin (daughter of a fish goddess or the sea or some such) and as such had to preserve her bloodline. I've wondered if this was the original basis of the earliest version of the Oedipus myth. She's also conflated with Isis and Nimrod with Osiris.
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  #18  
Old 12-19-2005, 03:46 AM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Sampiro
She was of divine origin (daughter of a fish goddess or the sea or some such) and as such had to preserve her bloodline.
Now just hold on a second there. Logically, how'd she get a son in the first place? With someone not of her bloodline? That doesn't add up.
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  #19  
Old 12-19-2005, 12:27 PM
saoirse saoirse is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Johanna
Now just hold on a second there. Logically, how'd she get a son in the first place? With someone not of her bloodline? That doesn't add up.
Presumably she had to keep her descendants more than 1/2 divine.
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  #20  
Old 12-19-2005, 02:08 PM
Johanna Johanna is offline
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OK, so the rules are a bit more complicated than I'd thought. Is it like Highlander?
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