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date: 08 December 2022



  • Mark Golden


Incest, sexual intercourse or marriage with close kin, was restricted throughout classical antiquity. However, terminology and the particular relations prohibited varied with place and time. Though μητροκοίτης, ‘mother's bedmate’, occurs in *Hipponax, most of the Greek words referring to specific close-kin unions are much later in date and no general word for incest is found before the Byzantine period. Incestum, attested as a Latin technical term from the late republic, carries connotations of impurity absent from the Greek vocabulary. Sexual relations involving parent and child were forbidden everywhere we have evidence; their occurrence in Greek myth generally evokes horror, yet the participants are sometimes marked as numinous by their transgression of the usual limits of human conduct. Siblings of the same father could marry at *Athens, of the same mother at *Sparta. Even marriages between full siblings were recognized among the Greeks of Hellenistic and Roman *Egypt, an unusual practice perhaps intended to preserve the ethnic identity of a small and isolated settler élite and the privileges to which it provided access.


  • Greek Law

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