After Lavinia: A literary history of premodern marriage diplomacy

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In the fourteenth century BCE, Kadashman- Enlil I of Babylon berated Amenhotep III for not sending him an Egyptian princess as a token of their alliance. From the Babylonian perspective, the Egyptian custom that prevented a pharaoh from marrying his daughters to anyone outside their own family seemed strange. But Kadashman-Enlil still sent Amenhotep a Babylonian princess and asked for a hefty bride price in lieu of an Egyptian bride. In the third century BCE, the Han emperors of China stabilized their northern border by intermarrying with the powerful Xiongnu confederation. Heqin, or "peace through kinship," became a familiar feature of subsequent relations between China and its neighbors. Writers honored heqin brides for their patriotic willingness to marry barbarians. The mais, the rulers of the Kanem-Bornu Empire around Lake Chad, formed alliances by marrying their daughters to elite men of surrounding states. On the other side of the globe, the Incas cultivated a caste of select women, the aqllakuna, who performed special duties in the imperial court and in religious centers. The Incan king bestowed many of them on provincial rulers as rewards for their loyalty to the central regime. These transprovincial marriages fostered a common imperial culture that lessened the hold of older, potentially subversive territorial identities. In Mesoamerica, Mexica rulers like Huitzilihuitl of Tenochtitlán used similar marriage alliances to build the vast Aztec Empire. Hawaiian polygamy, which allowed both men and women to have multiple spouses, created an opportunity for multiple marriages between rival dynasties to resolve conflicts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
PublisherCornell University Press
Number of pages274
ISBN (Electronic)9781501708527
ISBN (Print)9781501707575
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

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© 2017 by Cornell University. All rights reserved.


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