Diplomatic Marriage versus Every Day Marriage in Babylonia
Both common and royal marriages were essential to Babylonian society, though they differed in their purpose and design. The central purpose of marriage between commoners was to hold the population together, serving as a mechanism to hold men accountable for their actions and ensuring that all families were provided for financially. On the other hand, the main purpose of royal marriages established an interdependence between Babylonia and Egypt, a strategic alliance shaped by political motivations and dynastic concerns. Royal marriages usually consisted of a pharaoh marrying one of a Babylonian prince’s close relatives. As evidenced by the Amarna letters, this connection allowed Babylonian kings to have contact with Egyptian pharaohs so as to learn from their cultural ideas and more closely bind the two nations together. Marriage within Babylonian society had a few purposes, all of which strengthened and grew the community. One purpose was to propagate. In a society that relied on manual labor, marriage promoted population growth and thus supported economic activity. Culturally, families prided themselves on the number of children produced, fulfilling their social and civic responsibilities. Because polygamy led to more offspring, the practice found widespread support. A number of laws in the Code of Hammurabi facilitated marriage. Paragraph 138 of the code, for example, advocated women to find a second husband if the first one died or if he was captured. If the husband returned, however, the woman must return to him. When the man’s wife died, he usually remarried immediately, which indicates the value of staying married. In a way, all the laws regarding marriage in the Code of Hammurabi led to men having many children with multiple wives, which was vital in increasing the population. Marriage resulted in an inheritance, as stated in the code, which assured that all couple had the...
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