Marriage Practices - Part II

New Kingdom

We now turn to later evidence among the ancient Egyptians. Unfortunately there is much mixing of myth with reality. As one commentator put it:


The practice of social inbreeding, known as endogamy, is not uncommon among royal houses; to a lesser degree it is practiced among royalty today.  . . . In the case of the Egyptian royal house, however, the practice was carried to the extreme, and frequently included the marriage of the pharaoh to his own daughters.  In Egypt, at least, the practice seems to have stemmed from a motive more noble than simply the preservation of property.  The Egyptian priesthood was determined that the divine bloodline of Horus should remain pure in the royal house.  . . . There was also a religious precedent: Osiris was married to his sister, Isis, and the product of that union was Horus, the alleged ancestor of the Pharaoh.  Certainly the ability to claim direct blood descent from a god enhanced the pharaoh's prestige . . .

Though there is little conclusive genetic evidence, contrary to expectations the eighteenth dynasty was sustained for two and a half centuries by incestuous marriages, and the products of those marriages seem to have possessed unusual physical and mental health.

Osiris and Isis, of course, take the place of Adam and Eve. This is a confusion of Michael and the Universe Mother Spirit, who have a son named Melchizedek, and he is found in the ancient Egyptian myths as Horus. (The name Horus is Greek. In Egyptian it is Oru. Refer to http://egyptorigins.org/horus.htm.)

These practices continued on down through the generations. As stated on the TourEgypt web site:


The prevalence of brother-sister marriages within the New Kingdom royal family, a custom in obvious contrast to contemporary non-royal marriage patterns, appears to have been an attempt to reinforce the links between the royal family and the gods who themselves frequently indulged in brother-sister unions.

However, matters were not all that clear.


In the royal family it had been almost mandatory since time immemorial for marriages to be solemnized between the closest kin, the notional prototype evidently being the mythological sibling-spouses Osiris and Isis, who had come into this world to raise humans from savagery, teach them the elements of civilization and proclaim the wisdom and omnipotence of the gods. As the king saw himself as a god-incarnate he hoped to pass on his exclusive divine status to his successor. Accordingly he had no hesitation in taking as wife his sister or step-sister (as did Seqenenre Tao II, Ahmose I, Amenophis I, Tuthmosis I, Tuthmosis IV, Ramesses II, Merenptah and Siptah), his daughter (Amenophis II, Akhenaten and Ramesses II who went so far as to marry three of his daughters) or even his aunt (Sethos II). Ptolemy II and his successors all married one of their sisters. These last were kings of Greek blood, but they took care to adhere strictly to old Egyptian practice in their marriage policy as in everything else. Interestingly enough, investigation of the many kin-marriages in the 18th, 19th and Ptolemaic dynasties by Marc Armand Ruffer has revealed no evidence of degeneration resulting from persistent inbreeding.

We can see the same theme time and again. Plato spoke of how the gods tended us, their flock. The role of Adam and Eve and the gods is displayed in this remnant myth, who had come into this world to raise humans from savagery, teach them the elements of civilization and proclaim the wisdom and omnipotence of the gods.

Interestingly enough, genetic defects seem not yet to have entered this blood line. This is the reason they continued close inbreeding without hesitation. And yet there was a prohibition against close inbreeding among non-royals. As the royal blood became more diluted it no longer could withstand degeneracy. Moses warned against close family inbreeding among the people. See the Book of Leviticus.

Marriages between kin were familiar among the common folk. Step-brothers and sisters married, as did uncles and nieces quite frequently, and cousins still more so. Marriages between cousins are indeed a regular occurrence in Egypt, and particularly in Nubia, to this day. Between very close blood-relations, however, it was wholly exceptional among ordinary people. Jaroslav Cerny investigated 490 marriages from the First Intermediate Period up to the 18th dynasty and found only two cases where the partners were brother and sister. After the time of Tuthmosis III it is hard to prove the occurrence of close-kin marriages since it was now becoming normal to call a wife or girlfriend 'sister'. One sibling marriage is attested by the stele of Ptah, the 22nd-dynasty high priest of Memphis. Here both parents had the same family lineage. But the father was a commander of Libyan mercenaries and may have been deliberately adopting the customs of the Egyptian court.

Of course, the last remark is strictly speculation.

Royal marriage among close kin is noted by the following:

Ahhotep I was the daughter of Sekenenre Tao I and Queen Tetisheri. She was the wife of the 17th Dynasty king Sekenenre Tao II, who was also her brother. She had two sons, Kamose and Ahmose, who succeeded their father after he was killed in a battle against the Hyksos. Sekenenre Tao II had been the king of only Upper Egypt. His sons managed to unite Upper and Lower Egypt. They assumed full power over the country. Kamose died before they were able to defeat the Hyksos, but Ahmose ruled as Pharaoh. Ahhotep lived until she was about 90 years old and was buried beside Kamose at Thebes.

Ahhotep II was the daughter of Ahmose I and Ahmose-Nefertari and was the wife of the 18th Dynasty king Amenhotep I who ruled from 1525 - 1504 BC. She was the sister of Amenhotep and was his ranking consort throughout her life. The records listed her as "King's Daughter, King's Wife, King's Mother".

Consider the Ramessid Pharaohs. I have borrowed from


Ramesses I was the founder of the 19th Dynasty and the grandfather of the great and famous pharaoh, Ramesses II. He started as vizier under the last king of the 18th Dynasty, Horemheb. The manner in which he became king is unclear. Some believe it was by appointment of Horemheb. However, his reign was at a low point in the affairs of the kingdom. The pharaohs had lost much power and influence.

We should note the change in dynastic rule that occurred in the 18th Dynasty, the era of Akhenaten. It started apparently with black people in the ruling class. See


This era saw great religious changes, the casting away of the old retinue of the gods, the introduction of monotheism, and the building of a new kingship center at Amarna. Great controversy existed among the people and the priests. Unfortunately, we do not know enough about this period to define how relationships existed among the people. With Ramesses I Egypt returned to the customs of old.

 Though he began a Dynasty that would actually see several powerful kings, his reign was really somewhat of a low point during the New Kingdom. A vizier under the last king of the , Ramesses I appears to have come to the throne as an appointment of his predecessor, who seems to have produced no heir. 

Horemheb's selection of Ramesses as his successor seems to have been well thought out, for Ramesses I chose the Golden Horus name of "He who confirms Ma'at throughout the Two Lands", indicating his desire to carry on the work of Horemheb in re-establishing religious order after the heretic rule of Akhenaten. His names and titles also stresses the privileged nature of his relationship with Ra, the sun god.

Ramesses was not of royal blood, but rather a career army officer who was the son of a troop commander and judge named Seti. His mother is unknown. His family came from the north-eastern Delta area of Avaris (probably modern Tell el-Dab'a), which had been the capital of the Hyksos invaders some 400 years earlier. We do know of one of his wives named Sitre, who's parentage is unknown but who was probably the daughter of another army officer. Together, Ramesses I and Sitre had one son, Seti I, who held the titles vizier and Troop Commander under his father prior to succeeding him. He also may have served as a co-regent with his father. 

Ramesses I probably only ruled Egypt for about two years, which hardly gave him the time needed to make his mark in Egyptian history. This is evidenced by the fact that Ramesses I's son, and perhaps even his grandson had been borne before his accession. However, there were a few reliefs added to the Second Pylon in the Temple of Amun at Karnak that was completed by Ramesses I during his reign, and a stele dated early in his second regnal year found at Wadi Halfa. Otherwise, he focused mot of his building efforts on the construction of a chapel and a temple at Abydos, which had to be finished by Seti I after Ramesses I's death. 

I disagree with the statement that Ramesses I was not of royal blood. He possessed all the genetic features of the prior ruling classes, who had now fallen is disfavor, to be supplanted by the class of black rulers. When he resumed kingship he was returning Egypt to its former status. Unfortunately, this history is not discussed in the literature.

When Pharaoh Ramesses II, circa 1250 BC, became king he resorted to the earlier incestuous relationships. Perhaps he was stirred by the loss of kingship in the prior royal line, and was attempting to reinforce that line. Here we have strong illustration of fathers siring children through their daughters.

Nefertari was most likely Ramesses II's first wife when the prince was only fifteen. She provided him with his first male heir, Amun-her-khepseshef (Amun Is with His Strong Arm), even prior to his ascending the throne of Egypt. In addition, Ramesses II also fathered at least three more sons and two daughters by Nefertari. In fact, her oldest daughter, Meryetamun probably later also married Ramesses II, possibly after the death of her mother, apparently when Nefertari was in her early forties.

Merit-Amun (Meryetamun, Merytamun), was the oldest daughter of Nefertari and we believe the fourth daughter of Ramesses II. A statue of her is in the open air museum at Sohag. She is also shown at Abu Simbel, where she accompanied her parents for the temple's dedication and there was a bust of her found at the Ramesseum. She apparently also married Ramesses II after the death of her mother, but probably also did not outlive her father and husband. 

Tia, who was a princess of the 19th Dynasty, was the sister of Ramesses II (c. 1290-1224 B.C.) and the daughter of Seti I. Princess Tia married an official named Tia, who was a royal scribe. They were buried together at Saqqara, in a tomb near the mortuary complex of Horemhab.

We really do not know for certain who became the Chief King's Wife after Nefertari, but it may well have been one of his daughters. The most suitable wife for a king of Egypt was the daughter of a king of Egypt, and Ramesses II was a stickler for tradition. He ended up marrying no less than four of his daughters (that we know of). They were Bintanath, Meritamen, Nebettawi and the relatively unknown Hentmire. In defence of these incestuous relationships of Ramesses II to our modern eyes, this was an ancient pharaonic custom among kings well established long before Ramesses II's lifetime.

However, it is has also been suggested that Nefertari could have been a daughter of Seti I, making her a half sister of Ramesses II.

Bent'anta (Bintanath, Bint-Anath, Bintanat) is buried in tomb 71 in the Valley of the Queens. Queen Bent'anta may have become one of Ramesses II's consorts, perhaps after the death's of the king's principal wives and specifically, the death of her mother who was probably Istnofret.

Merit-Amun (Meryetamun, Merytamun), was the oldest daughter of Nefertari and we believe the forth daughter of Ramesses II.

Hentmire (Henutmire, Henutmira) may have been a daughter of either Ramesses II or Seti I, his father, though we believe it was Seti I, making her Ramesses II's sister. She apparently also married Ramesses II.

Other major wives included Istnofret (Iset-Nofret), Bent'anta (Bintanath), Merit-Amun (Meritamen), Nebttaui, Hentmire, Maathomeferure and perhaps, others. Several of these queens, such as Merit-Amun, were also his daughters.


This chart of the 18th Dynasty genealogy is proposed by Luciano P. R. Santiago, a Psychiatrist working at the Sheppard and Enoch Pratt Hospitals in Baltimore, Maryland. See The Children of Oepidus, Libra Publishers, Roslyn Heights, New York, 1973. You can easily see the full brother-sister marriages.