Bride Auctions

Bride Auctions

The Babylonian Marriage Market…

In ancient Mesopotamia "marriage was a legal contract between the father of a girl and another man ... or, more commonly, between two families, which functioned as the foundation of a community,". One of the ways to get hitched in Mesopotamia was a bride auction. Described by the historian Herodotus as annual village events, bride auctions involved gathering all the marriageable females in a single space, where they  were surrounded by a circle of male bidders. The women deemed most beautiful would be sold first to the richest men, "while the commoners, who were not concerned about beauty, received the uglier women along with monetary compensation." After being forced into marriage, women were often forced to be faithful under penalty of death. Under the Code of Hammurabi instituted by the Babylonians, a wife who committed adultery could be thrown into the river with her paramour to drown. If a husband chose to spare his wife's life, the male lover would be saved as well.

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