tablets reveal three different terms of reference for women, mutu, irti
and duksis. The first one is always applied to ordinary women while the
other two were used for royal women. In one document Artazostre, a daughter
of king Darius is referred to as Mardunuya iriti sunki parki meaning 'the
wife of Mardonius, daughter of the king'. Such use of terminology shows
the significance of the women's marital status and her relationship to
the king. The royal women are also named individually in many documents.
of Darius I; is mentioned frequently in the documents along with Parysatis
the wife of Darius II. Both are mentioned in many Neo-Babylonian documents
as major landowners in Persia Media Babylonia and Syria. They leased their
estates to fief-holders whose rents were collected by their bailiffs and
other agents. Artystone had three estates and so far 38 letters with her
personal seal have been identified. The letters confirm a massive workforce
based at each estate with storage facilities for grain and other produce.
A steward who received direct orders from the queen administered each estate.
In some instances the king and the queen use the same officials and at
occasions they have their own agents.
reveal that royal women traveled extensively visited their estates and
administered their wealth individually and at times with help from their
husbands. Travel rations identify their travel partners, guards servants
cooks etc. Both the queens are mentioned traveling to Babylonia overseeing
tax payments and rental collections. We read about a judge belonging
to the house of Parysatis". Persians had their own judicial system in the
conquered territories and presumably the queen had her own judge looking
after her affairs. She owned many villages in Babylonia, the residents
were free subjects and did not belong to the queen as slaves, but they
had to pay taxes in form of wine agricultural products, livestock etc.
Lavish parties were given by female royals, huge amounts of wine meat and
other food products are ordered for special occasions with or without the
king's sealed orders. They participated in royal festivities and
banquets in addition to organizing their own feasts. For instance in one
document Darius himself orders delivery of wine to his wife Irtahduna,
while in other documents the ladies themselves order wine and grain for
Families were patriarchal,
polygamy and concubines existed; marriage with close relatives even brothers
and sisters was practiced. Such marriages normally occur when matrilineal
inheritance is an issue. In such systems daughters receive a large inheritance
and since dowries should also be paid one practical solution for keeping
the wealth in the family is to marry close relatives. So far we know nothing
about the inheritance system in Achaemenid times. Therefore it is not possible
to make any conclusion as how family members inherited or why they practiced
such marriages. We do know that the king's mother, wife and daughters owned
large properties but whether they acquired their property through inheritance
or other means is not clear. The same family and marriage patterns are
found amongst the nobles and wealthy citizens throughout the empire.
With respect to
royal concubines they existed and are normally referred to as 'women of
the king'. They had personal attendants and were not exclusive to the kings.
They are found in the palaces of the satraps and Persian nobles. There
is not enough information about their status to make concrete conclusions.
Some would have been captives and from foreign origins. They are found
together with the other women in the king's or the noble's entourage. They
were present in the banquets and on royal hunts. The kings and the nobles
would normally marry into the Persian royalty and aristocracy so it is
very unlikely that they were ever married and gained the status of a wife
in such households. There are scattered references to individual concubines
favored by certain kings but such evidence is scant and not substantiated.
amongst Persian and non-Persians also existed but. The royal children were
often used in marriages to create alliances between different groups and
even nations. Darius married off her daughters to military leaders throughout
the empire. He himself married the daughters of nobles Gorbryas, Otanes,
his own niece and daughters of the Cyrus II, Cambyses II and Bardiya.
Darius's marriages are very unusual. Matrilineal descent might have been
important at this time and his reason for marrying all the royal women
of the previous kings might have been an attempt to eliminate any contestants
to the throne. In his inscriptions Darius claims descent from the house
of Achaemenid, however the historical evidence does not support such a
claim and marriages in this manner would have safeguarded his claim to
the throne if indeed he did not belong to the Cyrus's lineage.
We know divorce
existed but have no information on details. Amestris a niece of Darius
is mentioned several times in the texts. She was married to a man called
Craterus but was soon abandoned by him and after her divorce was remarried
to Dionysius, a local ruler. They produced three children and after her
husbands' death in 306 BC she acted as regent. She reigned as queen for
a while but was finally murdered by her sons. We do not have much information
about the marriage ceremonies. The only direct account is Alexander's wedding
at Susa with the Iranian princess Stateira a daughter of the defeated king
Darius III. As reported by the Greek historians the wedding was carried
out in Persian tradition. "The bride entered the room and sat beside the
bridegroom. He took her hands and kissed them. The two ate from the same
loaf of bread sliced in two parts by a sword and drank some wine. After
the ceremony her husband took the bride home".
in Babylonia and other territories under Achaemenid shed some light on
the legal side of the marriage alliances of ordinary couples. We have no
evidence that the practices described in these documents would be identical
to those in Persia however similarities existed and the information is
revealing. Forty-five such marriage contracts are discovered in Babylonia.
The contracts are always between the husband and members of the bride's
family. They begin with the husband's pledge to be given the woman in marriage
and gifts to be presented to the bride and her family
If the husband
decides to take a second wife he is to give the first wife a specified
sum of money, and she may return to her home. The women's dowry could include
land, household equipment, jewelry, money and slaves. In the case
of wife's adultery the punishment is normally death. The contracts were
sealed in front of several witnesses who were also named in the agreements.
in Babylonia (also Elam and Egypt) show that women owned properties, which
they could sell or lease. After the death of her husband, the widowed wife
inherited from the deceased even if she did not have children. A woman
could not act as a witness in the drawing up of contracts, but she could
act as a contracting party and have her own seal. If there were children
from two wives, the children of the first wife inherited two thirds and
the others one third only. It is not clear what would be the case if a
man had more than two wives. If a woman died childless, the dowry was returned
to the house of her father.