Achaemenid Marriage Tablets
Three tablets in the Lewis Collection, FLP 628, 1457, and 1473, document blood marriage contracts within a closed group, or inter-family marriages. Caroline Waerzeggers of Ghent published and translated these tablets in a study she made in Mining the Archives: Festschrift for Christopher Walker on the Occasion of his 60th Birthday. (Dresden 2002), 319-342, (C. Wunsch, ed.). Although evidence of this kind of interfamily marriage (nieces to uncles, for example) among the lower to middle classes is scarce, it is probable that it was significantly more widespread than is documented. There is abundant evidence of these kinds of marriage among members of royalty, but the small amount of evidence among other classes is only to be found in private family archives.
These tablets are part of the family archive of Mashtuk, in which five generations are represented. There are 42 other documents from this archive in libraries around the world. The vast majority of them were written around Sippar, in present-day Tell Abu Habbah, Iraq. They are from the Neo-Babylonian and Achaemenid periods (ca. 600-480 B.C.E.), and range in age from the eighth year of the reign of Nabopolassar (ca. 658-605 B.C.E.) to the thirteenth year of the reign of Darius I of Persia (ca. 550-486 B.C.E.).
Three tablets are displayed here. FLP 1473 attests to the marriage of Tablut to her maternal uncle. Tablut then married her paternal uncle after her husband’s death. Tablut’s new husband (her paternal uncle) then married his daughter to Tablut’s brother in FLP 628. Of the three tablets, FLP 1457 is the only one that does not document a marriage between related persons: Tablut’s sister marries a well-connected man in Sippar. The motives for these marriages were probably financial. Tablut brings a great dowry with her to her second marriage (to her paternal uncle), balancing out a debt to her father’s family. She may have had to borrow money from this side of the family prior to this marriage.