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Full text of "The Legacy Of Egypt"

382               The Legacy to Modern Egypt
The local circulation centres in the local market, which, like
so much else, retains a great deal of its ancient character simpli-
fied. It has not quite the same range as on the reliefs at Saqqara.
That is an inevitable consequence of extreme centralization
which impoverishes country life, as we can see happening in
Europe. In ancient reliefs the men dominate the market. Now
in Lower Egypt it has passed almost entirely into the hands of
the women, but south of Minya the men still retain it, because
they disapprove of their women selling in public.
Where the sphere of trade is restricted the sphere of marriage
tends to be restricted also. The peasant, and still more his wife,
do not like their daughters to pass out of easy range. A girl who
marries at what is for us a short distance is cut off from her
family. In Upper Egypt it is even more a matter of kin than
of distance: it is a shame to marry one who is not kin, even if
he lives in the village. The proper marriage everywhere is that
of agnatic first cousins. This is only a little less exclusive than
the ancient custom. Kings used to marry their sisters. The
wives of the common people are often described as sisters; but
we do not know how far the term we so translate has the same
meaning as our own word, or how far it does not include, besides
sisters, other female agnates of the same generation. Many, if*
not all, the 'sister marriages' recorded among the common
people may be unions with cousins. In that case no change has
occurred beyond condemning the closer union which was cer-
tainly encouraged in high circles, if not in lower ones.1
Islam has, unlike Christianity, absorbed very little of the
1 In technical parlance ft all turns on the question whether the ancient
kinship system of Egypt was classificatory or genealogical. There can be no
doubt that it was derived from a classificatory system, if not itself classificatory.
Kinship terms are still used at the present day in the same manner as in
classificatory systems; e.g. paternal uncles may be addressed as fathers, at least
among the peasantry. See Hocart, T&e Progress of Man (London, 1933), chap,
sxi, and 'Kinship Systems*, Antbropos^ xxxii (1937), 545.