Weddings Through the Ages

It's no secret that marriages can be tough work but when you feel the pressure is getting too much for you, cast your mind back to ancient times and be thankful you didn't end up in one of these curious arrangements...........

Polygynous marriages:

This type of marriage involved one husband and at least two wives - the only restriction on how many wives a man could have was how many he could afford. The richer you were, the more wives you could accumulate in your family home. Solomon for instance had 600 wives, Gideon had dozens, Herod the Great had nine, while Jacob had a paltry two (loser!).
Although having a large number of wives was seen as a symbol of prestige, it's unknown whether it made any of the aforementioned husbands any happier. Legend has it that the chorus of calls to cut the grass on a Saturday morning was enough to send Herod the Great off on a military expedition for two years at least...
Despite being an obvious recipe for migraine, polygynous marriages continue to the present day, courtesy of small, independent Mormon churches. Although the main Mormon Church banned polygynous marriages in the late 19th century, some splinter groups still continue the practice.

Levirate marriages:

Not a particularly nice one this. The term 'levirate' comes from the Latin term 'levir,' or 'brother-in-law.' This type of marriage took place when a woman's husband died before she could bear him a son. In such cases, the widow was then required to leave her home, marry her brother-in-law and have sexual relations with him. Bizarrely, the first-born son from such a relationship was actually considered to have been sired by her dead husband even though all he’d been doing was pushing up daisies.

A man, a woman and her slave:

It may sound like the title of a dodgy blue movie but this was in fact another type of relationship that was popular in ancient times. In such instances, a wife could give her female slave to her husband to do with as he desired. This sometimes took place when the husband and wife were having trouble conceiving, as in the case of Abram and Sarah in the Book of Genesis. In this case, Sarah gave her female slave Hagar to Abram, the result of which was a son Ishmael. Who no doubt needed years of counseling once he learned the beautiful story of his conception.

A man, his wives and his concubines:

Again, it sounds like the title of a naughty top-shelf production, but this was yet another curious type of domestic arrangement. The keeping of concubines was normal practice in biblical times and the not-so-lucky ladies included slaves, women captured during war and the daughters of fathers who taught 10 camels and a male billy-goat was a fair swap. Not content with his 600 wives, our good friend Solomon owned about 300 concubines, while Gideon had at least one. Concubines were considered of a lower status than a wife and could be dismissed when no longer wanted.

Standard heterosexual marriage:

Yes, it did exist! Predictably however, there were a number of differences from the present day. Inter-faith marriages were often forbidden and if they were allowed, the children of such relationships were often considered illegitimate. Similarly, women were expected to be virgins at the time of marriage. The penalty for failing to meet this requirement was stoning, although men faced no such penalty - typical!

by Aiden Corkery



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