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Article

Семья и брак у эфиопских царей

Family and marriage customs in the élite of medieval Ethiopia traditionally
went beyond the general Christian canons. They included a special form of polygamy
practiced by the Christians of the country at which one wife was usually married by
the Church ritual (wedding), while the others were not. In general the quantity of
wives was not limited. The authors of the Royal Chronicles, the bearers of traditional
Church education, usually called them “concubines” in their offi cial compilations. The
tendency towards polygamy was not widespread all over the country, but proceed to be
attested rather frequently at the Royal Court and among the élite of the country. Due to
both political and economic interests and to other reasons the polygamy was constantly
widespread. The emergence and development of this custom had a long history of
formation. Most likely, it originated from the African pagan usage of inheriting of
the late king’s wife and was linked with the sacred status of the “leader”, who deifi ed
himself through obtaining several wives. In the frame of the present research we
make an attempt to enlighten the history of formation and existence of the tradition
of polygamy among Christian population of Ethiopia. Some particular details can be
traced through the texts of Royal, Princely and monastic chronicles of the 14th –18th
centuries AD. Curious details of practice of polygamy in diff erent social levels can be
found inside the texts. Some diff erences, reasons and consequences are linked to the
changings in the historical context. Of a special interest is the reaction of the clergy to
the violation of church canons and its dependence on both the care about the purity of
faith and economic reasons.