The Melammu Project

Herodotus on a Babylonian marriage custom (1)

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12 Assyrian Identity

03 Religious festivals, cults, rituals and practices

10 Judiciary and legislature

5th century BCE
Greek Classical Age
Greek philosophers and scholars

Herodotus 1.196:
Once a year in every village all the maidens as they came to marriageable age were collected and brought together into one place, with a crowd of men standing round. Then a crier would display and offer them for sale one by one, first the fairest of all; and then when she had fetched a great price he put up for sale the next comeliest, selling all the maidens as lawful wives. Rich men of Assyria who desired to marry would outbid each other for the fairest; the commonalty, who desired to marry and cared nothing for beauty could take the ill-favoured damsels and money therewith; for when the crier had sold all the comeliest, he would put up her that was least beautiful, or crippled, and offer her to whosoever would take her to wife for the least sum, till she fell to him who promised to accept least; the money came from the sale of the comely damsels, and so they paid the dowry of the ill-favoured and the cripples. But a man might not give his daughter in marriage to whomsoever he would, nor might he that brought the girl take her away without giving security that he would indeed make her his wife. And if the two could not agree, it was a law that the money be returned. Men might also come from other villages to buy if they so desired.

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Herodotus 1.196

Godley 1960, I 248-249Godley, A. D. Herodotus. 4 Vols. Loeb Classical Library. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press, London: Heinemann 1960.

Links (external links will open in a new browser window)
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Amar Annus

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Fig. 1: Babylonian Marriage Market by Edwin Long (1875).
The Melammu Project