more ethiopia notes

just a short note/thought about the “generation counting” in ethiopia.

the ethiopian law code, the fetha negest, which includes this prohibition against marrying anybody closer than a sixth cousin, was adopted in ethiopia in the mid-1400s (or maybe the 1500s). it was the work of an egyptian copt, ‘abul fada’il ibn al-‘assal, who compiled it in 1240 (i guess it was used by the copts in egypt during that time?).

my guess is that ibn al-‘assal adapted current roman catholic ideas on marriage into his law code. well, kinda current. the roman catholic church had banned (as well as they could) up to sixth cousin marriage in the eleventh century, but reversed this at the fourth latern council in 1215 (back to only a ban up to third cousins). ibn al-‘assal may not have been aware of this at the time of writing — or maybe he was and thought the old regulations were better.

in any case, my guess (again) is that this practice of “generation counting” and marrying beyond sixth cousins by several ethiopian groups was not an indigenous practice but was introduced from egypt in the 1400-1500s. and the egyptians got their ideas from rome. this is just my guess, tho. i’ll be keepin’ my eye out for a confirmation (or not!) of my guess.

previously: ethiopia notes

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