The ancient Egyptians had a varied sexual life, which was not only practised but socially accepted in special circumstances. Egyptians, Romans, Greeks and Spartans accepted homosexuality, even encouraging it among soldiers at times. Homosexuality between women is sparsely documented; however between men, the evidence is apparent in paintings and hieroglyphs.
The Egyptian God Min represented fertility, sexual procreativity (reproduction), rain, the desert, miners and travellers. He was also considered a God of regeneration, which is believed to symbolise the forceful renewal of the sovereignty of the Pharaoh. Min was honoured in the coronation rites of new Pharaohs to ensure their sexual vigour and the production of a male heir. Min was depicted as a human male with one arm, one leg and a long phallus.
Homosexuality was not unknown in ancient Egypt by any means; for evidence of this fact, one need look no further than the humorous encounter of the Gods Horus and Seth, which led to a male pregnancy shocking the other Egyptian Gods.
When the tomb of the Two Brothers was excavated in 1964, it created quite a buzz amongst Egyptians. Questions have since been raised concerning the main portrait of the boys Khnumhotep and Niankhkhnum, showing the two nose to nose in a close embrace. They were buried together in 2400 BC, not unlike a married couple would have been.
From evidence of close family relationships in ancient myths, the Egyptians did not appear to consider incest a taboo subject; in fact it was thought to have been rife in ancient Egypt. There were also likely to have been some brother and sister partnerships, with the royal family having known incestuous marriages. They believed that royal blood ran through females and not males, so to become a Pharaoh a man had to marry a royal princess who would be his sister or half- sister.
Rumours were created by means of the ancient Egyptian practise of dead bodies being turned into mummies; evidence suggests that embalmers abused the corpses of the most beautiful women. It was generally believed that a deceased person retained their sexual powers, as Osiris king of the dead had done; being able to produce an heir after his death. The sexual power of the dead was a significant factor not to be ignored.
The concept of marriage in ancient Egypt is not a straightforward one, as polygamy does not seem to have ever been in fashion. Man is known to have had several wives, yet from the 13th dynasty (1795-1650 BC), polygamy between kings was said to have been practised.
Sexuality in ancient Egypt was open and untainted by guilt; sex was an important part of life, from birth to death and again in rebirth. Single people and married couples made love, and the Gods were earthy enough to copulate. The Egyptians even believed in sex during the afterlife. Sex was not a forbidden subject; even religion in ancient Egypt was filled with tales of adultery, incest and homosexuality – with indications of necrophilia!