Gusarova Ekaterina

Ethiopian kings’ family and marriage

Gusarova Ekaterina (2018) "Ethiopian kings’ family and marriage ", Vestnik Pravoslavnogo Sviato-Tikhonovskogo gumanitarnogo universiteta. Seriia III : Filologiia, 2018, vol. 57, pp. 37-47 (in Russian).

DOI of the paper: 10.15382/sturIII201857.37-47


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 differences, 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.


Ethiopian Church, Christian marriage, wives, concubines, polygamy, Ethiopian Christian monarchy, Ethiopian history, king of kings, the tribal leader, the sacred status


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Information about the author

Gusarova Ekaterina

Academic Degree: Candidate of Sciences* in History;
Place of work: Institute of Oriental Manuscripts, Russian Academy of Sciences; 18 Dvortsovaya nab., St. Petersburg, 191186, Russian Federation;
ORCID: 0000-0003-2170-0244;
Email: ekater-ina@mail.ru.

*According to the International Standard Classification of Education (ISCED) 2011, the degree of Candidate of Sciences (Cand.Sc.) belongs to ISCED level 8 — "doctoral or equivalent", together with PhD, DPhil, D.Lit, D.Sc, LL.D, Doctorate or similar.