Advertisement

Monogamy? Exoticizing a 3,000-Year-Old Pre-Christian Western Tradition

  • Dominique Legros
Chapter
Part of the SpringerBriefs in Anthropology book series (BRIEFSANTHRO, volume 2)

Abstract

The difficulty of grasping the peculiarity of one’s culture from within is overcome by taking a cultural distance. David Maillu, a Kenyan author, deciphers for us imposed Western monogamy from the viewpoint of a polygynous culture. He shows that the secretive wife-plus-mistress system is in the West a concealed equivalent of African polygyny, except that in the wife-plus-mistress model, the mistress’ children are bastards deprived of their birth-status rights, and their mothers are judged as disreputable women. Each year, large numbers of children are made social pariahs for life. Where polygyny is allowed, such social evils do not exist. All children are born legitimate, their mothers respected as official spouses. This chapter then explores the origins of imposed monogamy. It is not an idea from Jesus or the first Christian converts, who were diasporic Jews for the most part. It is hypothesized that it was imposed by second- to third-century Gentile converts safeguarding a core value of the Greco-Roman and Indo-European Pagan religion. While late Rome allowed for a monogamous marriage to be combined with legal concubinage, the Christian Church gradually delegitimized all possibilities of concubinage in addition to marriage, and by the 1500s even monogamous concubinage. Thus arose the wife and secret mistresses practices. Maillu’s critique of that system’s evils is further detailed. His exotopy makes monogamy look abnormal, not to be taken for granted. Nonetheless, Maillu’s analysis is now dated. Starting in the 1970s, granting equal birth-status rights to all illegitimate children has inadvertently made true polygamy possible in many parts of the West, alongside monogamy.

Keywords

Jewish Community Serial Monogamy Illegitimate Child Polygamous Marriage Polygynous Marriage 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

References

  1. Ariès, P. (1982). Le mariage indissoluble. Communications, 35(35), 123–137.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Armstrong, K. (1991). The Gospel according to woman: Christianity’s creation of the sex war in the west. New York: Anchor Books.Google Scholar
  3. Bauman, Chief Justice. (2011). Reasons for judgment, British Columbia supreme court 1588. Reference re: Section 293 of the criminal code of Canada [Concerning the Prohibition of Polygamy], p. 246.11 Google Scholar
  4. Beckert, J. (2008). Inherited wealth. (trans: Dunlap, T.). Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  5. Berger, A. (2002). Encyclopedic dictionary of Roman law. Transactions of the American Philosophical Society [Philadelphia], New Series, 43(2), [ii], 333–808, 1953. Reprinted in 2002, Clark, NJ: The Lawbook Exchange, Ltd.12 Google Scholar
  6. Blum, Edwin ed. (2009). Holman Christian Standard Bible. Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers.Google Scholar
  7. Duby, G. (1983). The knight, the lady and the priest: The making of modern marriage in Medieval France. (trans: Barbara, B.). New York: Pantheon Books.Google Scholar
  8. Dumézil, G. (1979). Mariages indo-européens, suivi de quinze questions romaines. Paris: Payot.Google Scholar
  9. Ferrière, C.-J. de (1762). Dictionnaire de Droit et de Pratique. Paris: chez Savoye, 2 tomes.Google Scholar
  10. Fortunato, L. (2011). Reconstructing the history of marriage strategies in Indo-European-speaking societies: Monogamy and polygyny. Human Biology, 83(1), 87–105. PubMed PMID: 21453006.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fox, E. (1990). Genesis and Exodus: A new English rendition [of the Hebrew Bible] with commentary and notes. New York: Schocken Books.Google Scholar
  12. Fustel de Coulanges, N. D. (1956). The ancient city: A study on the religion, laws, and institutions of Greece and Rome. Garden City: Doubleday Anchor Books A76 [original 1864].Google Scholar
  13. Goody, J. (1985). L’évolution de la famille et du mariage en Europe. Préface de George Duby. Paris: Armand Colin.Google Scholar
  14. Hill, G. B. (Ed.) (1934). Boswell’s life of Johnson. (edition revised by Powell, L. F.). Oxford: Clarendon Press, 6 Vols.Google Scholar
  15. Julien, C., & Julien, F. (2001). Aux temps des disciples des apôtres. Les sabbatiens d’Édesse. Revue de l’histoire des religions, 218(2), 155–170.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Karras, R. M. (2006). The history of marriage and the myth of Friedelehe. Early Medieval Europe, 14, 119–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Lasch, C. (1978). The culture of Narcissism: American life in an age of diminishing expectations. New York: Norton.Google Scholar
  18. Le Jan, R. (1995). Famille et pouvoir dans le monde franc (VIIe-Xe siècle): Essai d’anthropologie sociale. Paris: Publications de la Sorbonne.Google Scholar
  19. Lévi-Strauss, C. (1956). The family. In H. L. Shapiro (Ed.), Man, culture and society (pp. 333–357). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Maillu, D. G. (1988). Our kind of polygamy. Nairobi: Heineman Kenya.Google Scholar
  21. Mendelsohn, D. (2007). The lost: A search for six of six millions. New York: Harper Perennial.Google Scholar
  22. Miles, J. (2002). Christ: A crisis in the life of god. New York: Knopf Doubleday.Google Scholar
  23. Moffat, M. (1992). Ethnographic writing about American culture. Annual Review of Anthropology, 21, 205–229.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat, baron de (1721). Lettres persanes. Amsterdam.Google Scholar
  25. Montesquieu, Charles de Secondat, baron de (1817). In L’esprit des lois (Livres I–XXII). In Œuvres de Montesquieu. Paris: Belin13 [original 1748].Google Scholar
  26. Rabinow, P. (1986). Representations are social facts: Modernity and post-modernity in anthropology. In J. Clifford & G. Marcus (Eds.), Writing culture: The poetics and politics of ethnography (pp. 234–261). Berkeley: University of California Press.Google Scholar
  27. Reinach, T. (1873/1919). Judaei. In C. Daremberg and E. Saglio (Ed.), Dictionnaire des Antiquités Grecques et Romaines d’après les textes et les monuments, contenant l’explication des termes qui se rapportent aux mœurs, aux institutions, à la religion, aux arts, aux sciences, au costume, au mobilier, à la guerre, à la marine, aux métiers, aux monnaies, poids et mesures, etc., et en général à la vie publique et privée des anciens . tome 3, Vol 1. (pp. 619–632). Paris: Hachette.Google Scholar
  28. Rey, A. (Ed.) (1998). Le Robert: Dictionnaire historique de la langue française. Paris: Dictionnaires le Robert, 3 tomes.Google Scholar
  29. Rich, A. (1890). A dictionary of Roman and Greek antiquities. London: Longmans, Green.Google Scholar
  30. Sand, Shlomo (2009). The invention of the Jewish people (translated from the Hebrew by Yael Lotan). London: Verso Books.Google Scholar
  31. Scheidel, W. (2009). A peculiar institution? Greco-Roman monogamy in global context. History of the Family, 14, 280–291.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Scheidel, W. (2011). Monogamy and polygyny. In B. Rawson (Ed.), A companion to families in the Greek and Roman worlds (pp. 108–115). Malden: Wiley-Blackwell.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Sohn, A.-M. (2006). Concubinage et illégitimité. Revised Web version of Concubinage and Illegitimacy. In Encyclopedia of European social history Vol. 4, (pp. 259–267), 2001.14 Google Scholar
  34. Tacitus, C. (1999). Germania (Clarendon ancient history series). Oxford: Oxford University Press [Latin original 98 CE].Google Scholar
  35. Todorov, T. (1984). Mikhail Bakhtin: The dialogical principle (trans: Wlad, G.). Theory and History of Literature, Vol. 13. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.Google Scholar
  36. Weill, A., & Terré, F. (1983). Droit civil: Les personnes, la famille, les incapacités (Jurisprudence Générale Dalloz). Paris: Dalloz.Google Scholar
  37. Zalewski, V. (2004). Familles, devoirs et gratuité (Collection Logiques Juridiques). Paris: L’Harmattan.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dominique Legros
    • 1
  1. 1.Concordia UniversityMontrealCanada

Personalised recommendations