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7 Too Close for Comfort? A Critical View of an Ancient Legacy

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Chapter Summary

Cousin marriage derives from a culture of incest. Our understanding of Samaritan (and generally Middle Eastern) cousin marriage will be more complete when one turns to a generic rather than a relativist view of incest, and to the toleration of incest instead of its taboo. This perspective makes us realize the historical depth of close marriage in general as well as, in particular, its durability and plasticity in the face of all its weaknesses and complications, which will be the subject of this chapter. The most extreme known example of general close-kin marriage is represented by the so-called khwetodah marriages of Imperial Persia. In the Sassanian Period at the latest, when Zoroastrianism became the state religion and exerted a powerful influence on civil law, the khwetodah became a binding value that was practiced throughout the entire population, to be stopped only some time after the Islamic conquest.

Keywords: close-kin marriage; Samaritan family; Sassanian Period

10.1163/9789004274259_009
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