Relationships

A Brief Account of Marriage
By Jenny Cromwell
Marriage in Egyptian villages was a pretty informal affair. Few legal documents were written concerning marriage, and few texts discuss particulars – unless something goes wrong. Read more here.

A Confirmed Bachelor Wishes to Marry
By Jelle Bruning
“My first words to you are those of a tradition on the authority the Prophet—God bless him and grant him peace—, which relates that …” With these quite unusual words begins P.Khalili I 18, an Arabic letter written on papyrus in the late ninth century CE. Read more here.

A Coptic Mother-in-Law’s Curse
By Ágnes Mihálykó
Adam and Eve were the luckiest couple in the world: neither of them had a mother-in-law! Many of us would heartily agree with this joke – not just in our times, but also in antiquity. Yet, among the many harpies of mother-in-laws, few are as mean as the unnamed Coptic woman who cast a particularly malevolent curse against Tnoute … Read more here.

A Runaway Child Bride
By Jenny Cromwell
How early was too early to marry in the ancient world? If the answer is connected to being an adult, then what is an adult? And does that question differ for men and women? Read more here.

An Abandoned Wife and Unpaid Alimony
By Jenny Cromwell
It’s a story that resonates throughout the ages: a man abandons his wife and their children for another woman. The story could be of a woman abandoning her husband and kids, but the story on this 7th century AD papyrus is of a man who leaves his wife. Read more here.

Ancient Same Sex Love Spells
By Jenny Cromwell
Magic in the ancient world provided one means to help people deal with what life threw at them, whether health, money, or love, among the whole gambit of human day-to-day experiences. Read more here.

Birthday Parties on the Roman Frontier
By Jenny Cromwell
The Roman fort Vindolanda is located just south of Hadrian’s Wall in northern England. Occupied approximately from 85–370 CE, the fort guarded the Stanegate, the Roman road that ran from the River Tyne to the Solway Firth. In addition to the archaeological remains of the site, a large number of Latin texts written on postcard-sized thin wooden boards provide snapshots of daily life on the Roman frontier. While Vindolanda was a military outpost, the tablets don’t just talk about military affairs. Read more here.

Mob Rule and Personal Relations in an Egyptian Village
By Jenny Cromwell
One night, an angry mob marched across the Egyptian village Deir el-Medina with the intention of beating up a woman. The woman’s crime? She had been sleeping with a married man for the past eight months. Read more here.

Potential Paternity Problems
By Jenny Cromwell
Go Jerry! Go Jerry! But without a Jerry Springer, Maury Povich, Jeremy Kyle (or your country’s equivalent) where could you turn when you had a serious family scandal to talk about? Read more here.

Spell to Attract a Woman
By Jenny Cromwell
“For a woman’s love: a really effective charm.
You should write these things on a tin sheet.”
So begins the text of a Coptic magical spell from the 6th/7th century. Read more here.