Sexual Morality in Ancient Egyptian Literature

Sexual Morality in Ancient Egyptian Literature

Walsh, James (Brown University)

Vexillum: The Undergraduate Journal of Classical and Medieval Studies, Volume 2 (2012)


Ancient Egyptian literature often incorporates sexual ethics that are not fully explained or comprehensively explored within the works. It is often difficult for a modern reader to understand these sexual ethics. Generally, the ancient Egyptian literary corpus assumes a cultural context with which ancient Egyptian readers were familiar. In this paper, I argue that the religious and cultural practices of ancient Egypt were inseparable from common customs, including sexual, reproductive, and erotic customs. I appeal to archaeological and other historical records to illuminate some of the more confusing sexual elements of numerous literary works. Throughout, I try to remain mindful of the differences in sexual morality in ancient Egyptian society between commoners and royalty, between the indigenous population and Greek or Roman immigrants, and between inhabitants of the civilization at different time periods.

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