Long before the Greek and Roman artists depicted and described the most intimate aspects of human behaviour the ancient Egyptians had been practising their sensual expression for centuries. Erotica flowed through all levels of society like the waters of the Nile and although the evidence is scarcer it is no less potent.
Ancient Egyptians believed that life, sexuality and rebirth were elements that went hand in hand.
Marriage seems to have been a voluntary affair and for the most part monogamous – mainly because polygamy, whilst not illegal, was expensive.
Adultery was considered a serious crime and carried severe punishments including the cutting off of the nose.
There is no doubt that prostitution flourished in ancient Egypt and that it played it’s part in the scheme of things, whether it was being carried out at one of the well established pleasure houses, or under the guidance of the temple.
During the reign of the Pharaoh Akhenaten, known as the Amarna period, the king is regularly portrayed as a woman with small breasts, narrow waist and rounded hips. And, sometimes, it is difficult to tell him apart from his beautiful wife, Nefertiti.
The reputation of Egyptians as an incestual race is not a strictly deserved one. Although there are clear cases of royal families marrying close relatives it must be understood that this was done to secure the royal blood line and preserve peace and legitimacy, rather than for debauched reasons.
Love poems and erotic texts are numerous and it is obvious that the ancient Egyptian man was not afraid of demonstrating his love. He speaks through tales of gods, poetry, dreams and wisdom books.
Egypt, like many others societies, was strong on symbolism, for example the lotus flower and the mandrake represented love.
By and large the ancient Egyptian desired a large family, partly due to the high infant mortality rate, but mainly as proof of fertility.
Cleanliness and ornamentation were all important to the Egyptians. They would wash daily and both sexes removed unwanted hair from their bodies. Women curled their hair and shadowed their eyes.
Throughout the dynastic eras evidence confirms their intensity and enjoyment of all things sensual. The ancient Egyptians were a people comfortable with their sensuality and undoubtedly loved and celebrated life to the full.
Sacred Sexuality in Ancient Egypt:
The Erotic Secrets of the Forbidden Papyri