The Origin of the Family, Private

The Origin of the Family, Private

Property and the State — The Family

Friedrich Engels

Exported from Wikisource on May 3, 2021






Morgan, who spent the greater part of his life among the Iroquois in the State of New York and who had been adopted into one of their tribes, the Senecas, found among them a system of relationship that was in contradiction with their actual family relations. Among them existed what Morgan terms the syndyasmian or pairing family, a monogamous state easily dissolved by either side. The offspring of such a couple was identified and acknowledged by all the world. There could be no doubt to whom to apply the terms father, mother, son, daughter, brother, sister. But the actual use of these words was not in keeping with their fundamental meaning. For the Iroquois addresses as sons and daughters not only his own children, but also those of his brothers; and he is called father by all of them. But the children of his sisters he calls nephews and nieces, and they call him uncle. Vice versa, an Iroquois woman calls her own children as well as those of her sisters sons and daughters and is addressed as mother by them. But the children of her brothers are called nephews and nieces, and they call her aunt. In the same way, the children of brothers call one another brothers and sisters, and so do the children of sisters. But the children of a sister call those of her




brother cousins, and vice versa. And these are not simply meaningless terms, but the expressions of actually existing conceptions of proximity and remoteness, equality or inequality of consanguinity.

These conceptions serve as the fundament of a perfectly elaborated system of relationship, capable of expressing several hundred different relations of a single individual. More still, this system is not only fully accepted by all American Indians—no exception has been found so far— but it is also in use with hardly any modifications among the original inhabitants of India, among the Dravidian tribes of the Dekan and the Gaura tribes of Hindostan.

The terms of relationship used by the Tamils of Southern India and by the Seneca-Iroquois of New York State are to this day identical for more than two hundred different family relations. And among these East Indian tribes also, as among all American Indians, the relations arising out of the prevailing form of the family are not in keeping with the system of kinship.

How can this be explained? In view of the important role played by kinship in the social order of all the savage and barbarian races, the significance of such a widespread system cannot be obliterated by phrases.

A system that is generally accepted in America, that also exists in Asia among people of entirely different races, that




is frequently found in a more or less modified form all over Africa and Australia, such a system requires a historical explanation and cannot be talked down, as was attempted, e.g., by McLennan. The terms father, child, brother, sister are more than mere honorary titles; they carry in their wake certain well defined and very serious obligations, the aggregate of which comprises a very essential part of the social constitution of those nations. And the explanation was found. In the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) there existed up to the first half of the nineteenth century a family form producing just such fathers and mothers, brothers and sisters, uncles and aunts, nephews and nieces, as the old Indo-American system of kinship. But how remarkable! The Hawaiian system of kinship again did not agree with the family form actually prevailing there. For there all the children of brothers and sisters, without any exception, are considered brothers and sisters, and regarded as the common children not only of their mother or her sisters, or their father and his brothers, but of all the brothers and sisters of their parents without distinction. While thus the American system of kinship presupposes an obsolete primitive form of the family, which is still actually existing in Hawaii, the Hawaiian system on the other hand points to a still more primitive form of the family, the actual existence of which cannot be proved any more, but which must have existed, because otherwise such a system of kinship could not have arisen. According to Morgan, the family is the active element; it is never stationary, but in progression from a lower to a higher form in the same




measure in which society develops from a lower to a higher stage. But the systems of kinship are passive. Only in long intervals they register the progress made by the family in course of time, and only then are they radically changed, when the family has done so. “And,” adds Marx, “it is the same with political, juridical, religious and philosophical systems in general.” While the family keeps on growing, the system of kinship becomes ossified. The latter continues in this state and the family grows beyond it. With the same certainty which enabled Cuvier to conclude from some bones of Marsupialia found near Paris that extinct marsupialia had lived there, with this same certainty may we conclude from a system of kinship transmitted by history that the extinct form of the family corresponding to this system was once in existence.

The systems of kinship and forms of the family just mentioned differ from the present systems in that every child has several fathers and mothers. Under the American system to which the Hawaiian system corresponds, brother and sister cannot be father and mother of the same child; but the Hawaiian system presupposes a family, in which, on the contrary, this was the rule. We are here confronted by a series of family forms that are in direct contradiction with those that were currently regarded as alone prevailing. The conventional conception knows only monogamy, furthermore polygamy of one man, eventually also polyandry of one woman. But it passes in silence, as is meet for a moralizing philistine, that the practice silently but




without compunction supersedes these barriers sanctioned officially by society. The study of primeval history, however, shows us conditions, where men practiced polygamy and women at the same time polyandry, so that their children were considered common to all; conditions that up to their final transition into monogamy underwent a whole series of modifications. These modifications slowly and gradually contract the circle comprised by the common tie of marriage until only the single couple remains which prevails to-day.

In thus constructing backward the history of the family, Morgan, in harmony with the majority of his colleagues, arrives at a primeval condition, where unrestricted sexual intercourse existed within a tribe, so that every woman belonged to every man, and vice versa.

Much has been said about this primeval state of affairs since the eighteenth century, but only in general commonplaces. It is one of Bachofen’s great merits to have taken the subject seriously and to have searched for traces of this state in historical and religious traditions. To-day we know that these traces, found by him, do not lead back to a stage of unlimited sexual intercourse, but to a much later form, the group marriage. The primeval stage, if it really ever existed, belongs to so remote a period, that we can hardly expect to find direct proofs of its former existence among these social fossils, backward savages. Bachofen’s merit consists in having brought this question to the fore.[1]




It has lately become a fashion to deny the existence of this early stage of human sex life, in order to spare us this “shame.” Apart from the absence of all direct proof, the example of the rest of animal life is involved. From the latter, Letourneau (Evolution du mariage et de la famille, 1888) quoted numerous facts, alleged to prove that among animals also an absolutely unlimited sexual intercourse belongs to a lower stage. But I can only conclude from all these facts that they prove absolutely nothing for man and the primeval conditions of his life. The mating of vertebrates for a lengthy term is sufficiently explained by physiological causes, e.g., among birds by the helplessness of the female during brooding time. Examples of faithful monogamy among birds do not furnish any proofs for men, for we are not descended from birds.

And if strict monogamy is the height of virtue, then the palm belongs to the tapeworm that carries a complete male and female sexual apparatus in each of its 50 to 200 sections and passes its whole lifetime in fertilizing itself in every one of its sections. But if we confine ourselves to mammals, we find all forms of sexual intercourse, license, suggestions of group marriage, polygamy and monogamy. Only polyandry is missing;[Translator’s note 1] that could be accomplished by men only. Even our next relations, the quadrumana, exhibit all possible differences in the grouping of males and females. And if we draw the line still closer and consider only the four anthropoid apes, Letourneau can only tell us, that they are now monogamous, now




polygamous; while Saussure contends according to Giraud- Teulon that they are monogamous. The recent contentions of Westermarck[Translator’s note 2] in regard to monogamy among anthropoid apes are far from proving anything. In short, the information is such that honest Letourneau admits: “There exists no strict relation at all between the degree of intellectual development and the form of sexual intercourse among mammals.” and Espinas says frankly: [Translator’s note 3] “The herd is the highest social group found among animals. It seems to be composed of families, but from the outset the family and the herd are antagonistic; they develop in directly opposite ratio.”

It is evident from the above that we know next to nothing of the family and other social groups of anthropoid apes; the reports are directly contradictory. How full of contradiction, how much in need of critical scrutiny and research are the reports even on savage human tribes! But monkey tribes are far more difficult to observe than human tribes. For the present, therefore, we must decline all final conclusions from such absolutely unreliable reports.

The quotation from Espinas, however, offers a better clue. Among higher animals, the herd and family are not supplements of one another, but antitheses. Espinas demonstrates very nicely, how the jealousy of the males loosens or temporarily dissolves every herd during mating time. “Where the family is closely organized, herds are formed only in exceptional cases. But wherever free sexual




intercourse or polygamy are existing, the herd appears almost spontaneously.… In order that a herd may form, family ties must be loosened and the individual be free. For this reason we so rarely find organized herds among birds. … Among mammals, however, we find groups organized after a fashion, just because here the individual is not merged in the family.… The rising sense of cohesion in a herd cannot, therefore, have a greater enemy than the consciousness of family ties. Let us not shrink from pronouncing it: the development of a higher form of society than the family can be due only to the fact that it admitted families which had undergone a thorough change. This does not exclude the possibility that these same families were thus enabled to reorganize later on under infinitely more favorable circumstances.”[2]

It becomes apparent from this, that animal societies may indeed have a certain value in drawing conclusions in regard to human life—but only negatively. The higher vertebrate knows, so far as we may ascertain, only two forms of the family: polygamy or pairs. In both of them there is only one grown male, only one husband. The jealousy of the male, at the same time tie and limit of the family, creates an opposition between the animal family and the herd. The latter, a higher social form, is here rendered impossible, there loosened or dissolved during mating time, and at best hindered in its development by the jealousy or the male. This in itself is sufficient proof that the animal family and primeval human society are irreconcilable; that




ancient man, struggling upward from the animal stage, either had no family at all or at the most one that does not exist among animals. A being so defenceless as evolving man might well survive in small numbers though living in an isolated state, the highest social form of which is that of pairs such as Westermarck, relying on hunter’s reports, attributes to the gorilla and the chimpanzee. Another element is necessary for the elevation out of the animal stage, for the realization of the highest progress found in nature: the replacing of the defencelessness of the single individual by the united strength and co-operation of the whole herd. The transition from beast to man out of conditions of the sort under which the anthropoid apes are living to-day would be absolutely unexplainable. These apes rather give the impression of stray sidelines gradually approaching extinction, and at all events in process of decline. This alone is sufficient to reject all parallels between their family forms and those of primeval man. But mutual tolerance of the grown males, freedom from jealousy, was the first condition for the formation of such large and permanent groups, within which alone the transformation from beast to man could be accomplished. And indeed, what do we find to be the most ancient and original form of the family, undeniably traceable by history and even found to-day here and there? The group marriage, that form in which whole groups of men and whole groups of women mutually belong to one another, leaving only small scope for jealousy. And furthermore we find at a later stage the exceptional form of polyandry which still more




supersedes all sentiments of jealousy and hence is unknown to animals.

But all the forms of the group marriage known to us are accompanied by such peculiarly complicated circumstances that they of necessity point to a preceding simpler form of sexual intercourse and, hence, in the last instance to a period of unrestricted sexual intercourse corresponding to a transition from the animal to man. Therefore the references to animal marriages lead us back to precisely that point, from which they were intended to remove us forever.

What does the term “unrestricted sexual intercourse” mean? Simply, that the restrictions in force now were not observed formerly. We have already seen the barrier of jealousy falling, if anything is certain, it is that jealousy is developed at a comparatively late stage. The same is true of incest. Not only brother and sister were originally man and wife, but also the sexual intercourse between parents and children is permitted to this day among many nations. Bancroft testifies to the truth of this among the Kaviats of the Behring Strait, the Kadiaks of Alaska, the Tinnehs in the interior of British North America; Letourneau compiled reports of the same fact in regard to the Chippeway Indians, the Coocoos in Chile, the Caribeans, the Carens in Indo- China, not to mention the tales of ancient Greeks and Romans about the Parthians, Persians, Scythians, Huns and so forth. Before incest was invented (and it is an invention, a really valuable one indeed), sexual intercourse between




parents and children could not be any more repulsive than between other persons belonging to different generations, which takes place even in our day among the most narrow- minded nations without causing any horror. Even old “maids” of more than sixty years sometimes, if they are rich enough, marry young men of about thirty. Eliminating from the primeval forms of the family known to us those conceptions of incest—conceptions totally different from ours and often enough in direct contradiction with them— we arrive at a form of sexual intercourse that can only be designated as unrestricted. Unrestricted in the sense that the barriers drawn later on by custom did not yet exist. This in no way necessarily implies for practical purposes an injudicious pell-mell intercourse. The separate existence of pairs for a limited time is not out of the question, and even comprises the majority of cases in the group marriage of our days. And if the latest repudiator of such a primeval state, Westermarck, designates as marriage every case, where both sexes remain mated until the birth of the offspring, then this is equivalent to saying that this kind of marriage may well exist during a stage of unrestricted intercourse without contradicting license, i. e., absence of barriers drawn by custom for sexual intercourse, Westermarck bases himself on the opinion that “license includes the suppression of individual affections” so that “prostitution is its most genuine form.” To me it rather seems that any understanding of primeval conditions is impossible as long as we look at them through brothel




spectacles. We shall return to this point in the group marriage.

According to Morgan, the following forms developed from this primeval state at an apparently early stage:


The Consanguine Family is the first step toward the family. Here the marriage groups are arranged by generations: all the grand-fathers and grand-mothers within a certain family are mutually husbands and wives; and equally their children, the fathers and mothers, whose children form a third cycle of mutual mates. The children of these again, the great-grandchildren of the first cycle, will form a fourth. In this form of the family, then, only ancestors and descendants are excluded from what we would call the rights and duties of marriage. Brothers and sisters, male and female cousins of the first, second and more remote grades, are all mutually brothers and sisters and for this reason mutual husbands and wives. The relation of brother and sister quite naturally includes at this stage the practice of sexual intercourse.[3]

The typical form of such a family would consist of the offspring of one pair, representing again the descendants of each grade as mutual brothers and sisters and, therefore, mutual husbands and wives. The consanguine family is extinct. Even the crudest nations of history do not furnish




any proofs of it. But the Hawaiian system of kinship, in force to this day in all Polynesia, compels us to acknowledge its former existence, for it exhibits grades of kinship that could only originate in this form of the family. And the whole subsequent development of the family compels us to admit this form as a necessary step.


While the first step of organization consisted in excluding parents and children from mutual sexual intercourse, the second was the erection of a barrier between brother and sister. This progress was much more important on account of the greater equality in the ages of the parties concerned, but also far more difficult. It was accomplished gradually, probably beginning with the exclusion of the natural sister (i.e., on the mother’s side) from sexual intercourse, first in single cases, then becoming more and more the rule (in Hawaii exceptions were still noted during the nineteenth century), and finally ending with the prohibition of marriage even among collateral brothers and sisters, i.e., what we now term brother’s and sister’s children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren. This progress offers, according to Morgan, an excellent illustration how the principle of natural selection works. Without question, the tribes limiting inbreeding by this progress developed faster and more completely than those retaining the marriage between brothers and sisters as a rule and law. And how powerfully the influence of this progress was felt,




is shown by the institution of the gens, directly attributable to it and passing far beyond the goal. The gens is the foundation of the social order of most, if not all, barbarian nations, and in Greece and Rome we step immediately from it to civilization.

Every primeval family necessarily had to divide after a few generations. The originally communistic and collective household existing far into the middle stage of barbarism, involved a certain maximum size of the family, variable according to conditions, but still limited in a degree. As soon as the conception of the impropriety of sexual intercourse between children of the same mother arose, it naturally became effective on such occasions as the division of old and the foundation of new household communities (which, however, did not necessarily coincide with the family group). One or more series of sisters became the center of one group, their natural brothers that of another. In this or a similar manner that form which Morgan styles the Punaluan family developed from the consanguine family. According to Hawaiian custom, a number of sisters, natural or more remote (i.e., cousins of the first, second and more remote degrees) were the mutual wives of their mutual husbands, their natural brothers excepted. These men now no longer addressed one another as “brother”—which they no longer had to be—but as “Punalua,” i.e., intimate companion, associate as it were. Likewise a series of natural or more remote brothers lived in mutual marriage with a number of women, not their natural sisters, and these




women referred to each other as “Punalua.” This is the classical form of a family, which later admitted of certain variations. Its fundamental characteristic was mutual community of husbands and wives within a given family with the exclusion of the natural brothers (or sisters) first, and of the more remote grades later.

This form of the family, now, furnishes with complete accuracy the degrees of kinship expressed by American system: The children of the sisters of my mother still are her children; likewise the children of the brothers of my father still his children; and all of them are my brothers and sisters. But the children of the brothers of my mother are now her nephews and nieces, the children of the sisters of my father his nephew and nieces, and they are all my cousins. For while the husbands of the sisters of my mother are still her husbands, and likewise the wives of the brothers of my father still his wives—legally, if not always in fact— the social proscription of sexual intercourse between brothers and sisters has now divided those relatives who were formerly regarded without distinction as brothers and sisters, into two classes. In one category are those who remain (more remote) brothers and sisters as before; in the other the children of the brother on one hand or the sister on the opposite, who can be brothers and sisters no longer. The latter have mutual parents no more, neither father nor mother nor both together. And for this reason the class of nephews and nieces, male and female cousins, here becomes necessary for the first time. Under the former




family order this would have been absurd. The American system of kinship, which appears absolutely paradoxical in any family form founded on monogamy, is rationally explained and naturally confirmed in its most minute details by the Punaluan family. Wherever this system of kinship was in force, there the Punaluan family or at least a form akin to it must also have existed.

This family form, the existence of which in Hawaii was actually demonstrated, would have been transmitted probably by all Polynesia, if the pious missionaries, similar to the Spanish monks in America, could have looked upon such anti-Christian relations as being something more than simply a “horror.”[4]Cesar’s report to the effect that the Britons, who then were in the middle stage of barbarism, “have ten or twelve women in common, mostly brothers with brothers and parents with children,” is best explained by group marriage. Barbarian mothers have not ten or twelve sons old enough to keep women in common, but the American system of kinship corresponding to the Punaluan family furnishes many brothers, because all near and remote cousins of a certain man are his brothers. The term “parents with children” may arise from a wrong conception of Cesar, but this system does not absolutely exclude the existence of father and son, mother or daughter in the same group. It does exclude, however, father and daughter or mother and son. This or a similar form of group marriage also furnishes the easiest explanation of the reports of Herodotus and other ancient writers concerning community of women among




savage and barbarian nations. This is true, furthermore, of Watson’s and Kaye’s[5] tale about the Tikurs of Audh (north of the Ganges): “They live together (i.e., sexually) almost indiscriminately in large communities, and though two persons may be considered as being married, still the tie is only nominal.”

The institution of the gens seems to have its origin in the majority of cases in the Punaluan family. True, the Australian class system also offers a starting point for it; the Austrialians have gentes, but not yet a Punaluan family, only a cruder form of group marriage.[6]

In all forms of the group family it is uncertain who is the father of a child, but certain, who is its mother. Although she calls all the children of the aggregate family her children and has the duties of a mother toward them, still she knows her natural children from others. It is also obvious that, as far as group marriage exists, descent can only be traced on the mother’s side and, hence, only female lineage be acknowledged. This is actually the case among all savage tribes and those in the lower stage of barbarism. To have discovered this first is the second great merit of Bachofen. He designates this exclusive recognition of descent from the female line and the hereditary relations resulting therefrom in course of time as “maternal law.” I retain this term for the sake of brevity, although it is distorted; for at this social stage there is no sign yet of any law in the juridic sense.




If we now take one of the two standard groups of a Punaluan family, namely that of a series of natural and remote sisters (i.e., first, second and more remote descendants of natural sisters), their children and their natural or remote brothers on the mother’s side (who according to our supposition are not their husbands), we have exactly that circle of persons who later appear as members of a gens, in the original form of this institution. They all have a common ancestress, by virtue of the descent that makes the different female generations sisters. But the husbands of these sisters cannot be chosen among their brothers any more, can no longer come from the same ancestress, and do not therefore, belong to the consanguineous group of relatives, the gens of a later time. The children of these same sisters, however, do belong to this group, because descent from the female line alone is conclusive, alone is positive. As soon as the proscription of sexual intercourse between all relatives on the mother’s side, even the most remote of them, is an accomplished fact, the above named group has become a gens, i.e., constitutes a definite circle of consanguineous relatives of female lineage who are not permitted to marry one another. Henceforth this circle is more and more fortified by other mutual institutions of a social or religious character and thus distinguished from other gentes of the same tribe. Of this more anon.

Finding, as we do, that the gens not only necessarily, but also as a matter of course, develops from the Punaluan




family, it becomes obvious to us to assume as almost practically demonstrated the prior existence of this family form among all those nations where such gentes are traceable, i.e., nearly all barbarian and civilized nations.

When Morgan wrote his book, our knowledge of group marriage was very limited. We knew very little about the group marriages of the Australians organized in classes, and furthermore Morgan had published as early as 1871 the information he had received about the Punaluan family of Hawaii. This family on one hand furnished a complete explanation of the system of kinship in force among the American Indians, which had been the point of departure for all the studies of Morgan. On the other hand it formed a ready means for the deduction of the maternal law gens. And finally it represented a far higher stage of development than the Australian classes.

It is, therefore, easy to understand how Morgan could regard this form as the stage necessarily preceding the pairing family and attribute general extension in former times to it. Since then we have learned of several other forms of the group marriage, and we know that Morgan went too far in this respect. But it was nevertheless his good fortune to encounter in his Punaluan family the highest, the classical, form of group marriage, that form which gave the simplest clue for the transition to a higher stage.




The most essential contribution to our knowledge of the group matiage we owe to the English missionary, Lorimer Fison, who studied this form of the family for years on its classical ground, Australia. He found the lowest stage of development among the Papuans near Mount Gambler in South Australia. Here the whole tribe is divided into two great classes, Krokl and Kumite.[7] Sexual intercourse within each of these classes is strictly prohibited. But every man of one class is by birth the husband of every woman of the other class, and vice versa. Not the individuals are married to one another, but the whole groups, class to class. And mark well, no caution is made anywhere on account of difference of age or special consanguinity, unless it is resulting from the division into two exogamous classes. A Krokl has for his wife every Kumite woman. And as his own daughter, be- ing the daughter of a Kumite woman, is also Kumite according to maternal law, she is therefore the born wife of every Kroki, including her father. At least, the class organization, as we know it, does not exclude this possibility. Hence this organization either arose at a time when, in spite of all dim endeavor to limit inbreeding, sexual intercourse between parents and children was not yet regarded with any particular horror; in this case the class system would be directly evolved from a condition of unrestricted sexual relations. Or the Intercourse between parents and children was already proscribed by custom, when the classes were formed; and in this case the present condition points back to the consanguine family and is the first step out of it. The latter case is the more probable. So




far as I know no mention is made of any sexual intercourse between parents and children in Australia. Even the later form of exogamy, the maternal law gens, as a rule silently presupposes that the prohibition of this intercourse was an accomplished fact at the time of its institution.

The system of two classes is not only found near Mount Gambler in South Australia, but also farther east along Darling River, and in the northeast of Queensland. It is, consequently, widespread. It excludes only marriage between brothers and sisters, between brothers’ children and between sisters’ children of the mother’s side, because these belong to the same class; but the children of a sister can marry those of a brother and vice versa. A further step for preventing inbreeding is found among the Kamilaroi on the Darling River in New South Wales, where the two original classes are split into four, and every one of these is married as a whole to a certain other class. The first two classes are husbands and wives by birth. According to the place of the mother in the first or second class, the children belong to the third and fourth. The children of these two classes, who are also married to one another, again belong to the first and second class. So that a certain generation belongs to the first and second class, the next to the third and fourth and the following again to the first and second. Hence the children of natural brothers and sisters (on the mother’s side) cannot marry one another, but their grandchildren can do so. This peculiarly complicated order of things is still more entangled by the inoculation—evidently at a later stage—




with maternal law gentes But we cannot discuss this further. Enough, the desire to prevent inbreeding again and again demands recognition, but feeling its way quite spontaneously, without a clear conception of the goal.

The group marriage is represented in Australia by class marriage, i.e., mass marriage of a whole class of men frequently scattered over the whole breadth of the continent to an equally widespread class of women. A close view of this group marriage does not offer quite such a horrible spectacle as the philistine imagination accustomed to brothel conditions generally pictures to itself. On the contrary, long years passed, before its existence was even suspected, and quite recently it is once more denied. To the casual observer it makes the impression of a loose monogamy and in certain places of polygamy, with occasional breach of faith. Years are required before one can discover, like Fison and Howitt, the law regulating these marital conditions that rather appeal in their practicability to the average European; the law e nabling the strange Papuan, thousands of miles from his home and among people whose language he does not understand, to find frequently, from camp to camp and from tribe to tribe, women who will without resistance and guilelessly surrender to him; the law according to which a man with several women offers one to his guest for the night. Where the European sees immorality and lawlessness, there in reality a strict law is observed. The women belong to the marriage class of the stranger and, therefore, they are his




wives by birth. The same moral law assigning both to one another forbids under penalty of proscription all sexual intercourse outside of the two marriage classes. Even when women are abducted, as is frequently the case in certain regions, the class law is carefully respected.

In the abduction of women, by the way, a trace of transition to monogamy is found even here, at least in the form of the pairing family. If a young man has abducted a girl with the help of his friends, they hold sexual intercourse with her one after another. But after that the girl is regarded as the wife of the young man who planned the abduction. And again, if an abducted woman deserts her husband and is caught by another man, she becomes the wife of the latter and the first has lost his privilege. Alongside of and within the generally existing group marriage such exclusive relations are formed, pairing for a shorter or longer term by the side of polygamy, so that here also group marriage is declining. The question is only which will first disappear under the pres- sure of European influence: group marriage or the Papuans addicted to it.

The marriage in whole classes, such as is in force in Australia, is no doubt a very low and primitive form of group marriage, while the Punaluan family, so far as we know, is its highest stage of delevopment. The former seems to be corresponding to the social stage of roving savages, the latter requires relatively settled communistic bodies and leads directly to the next higher stage of




development. Between these two, we shall no doubt find many an intermediate stage. Here lies a barely opened, hardly entered field of investigation.[8]


A certain pairing for a longer or shorter term took place even during the group marriage or still earlier. A man had his principal wife (one can hardly call it favorite wife as yet) among many women, and he was to her the principal husband among others. This fact in no small degree contributed to the confusion among missionaries, who regarded group marriage now as a disorderly community of women, now as an arbitrary adultery. Such a habitual pairing would gain ground the more the gens developed and the more numerous the classes of “brothers” and “sisters” became who were not permitted to marry one another. The impulse to prevent marriage of consanguineous relatives started by the gens went still further. Thus we find that among the Iroquois and

most of the Indians in the lower stage of barbarism marriage is prohibited between all the relatives of their system of kinship, and this comprises several hundred kinds. By this increasing complication of marriage restrictions, group marriage became more and more impossible; it was displaced by the pairing family. At this




stage one man lives with one woman, but in such a manner that polygamy, and occasional adultery, remain privileges of men, although the former occurs rarely for economic reasons. Women, however, are generally expected to be strictly faithful during the time of living together, and adultery on their part is cruelly punished. But the marriage- tie may be easily broken by either party, and the children belong to the mother alone, as formerly.

In this ever more extending restriction of marriage between consanguineous relations, natural selection also remains effective. As Morgan expresses it: “Marriages between gentes that were not consanguineous produced a more vigorous race, pbysically and mentally; two progressive tribes intermarried and the new skulls and brains naturally expanded until they comprised the faculties of both.” Thus tribes composed of gentes necessarily either gained the supremacy over the backward ones or, by their example, carried them along in their wake.

The development of the family, then, is founded on the continual contraction of the circle, originally comprising the whole tribe, within which marital intercourse between both sexes was general. By the

continual exclusion, first of near, then of ever remoter




relatives, including finally even those who were simply related legally, all group marriage becomes practically impossible. At last only one couple, temporarily and loosely united, remains; that molecule, the dissolution of which absolutely puts an end to marriage. Even from this we may infer how little the sexual love of the individual in the modern sense of the word had to do with the origin of monogamy. The practice of all nations of that stage still more proves this. While in the previous form of the family the men were never embarrassed for women, but rather had more than enough of them, women now became scarce and were sought after. With the pairing family, therefore, the abduction and barter of women began—widespread symptoms, and nothing but that, of a new and much more profound change. The pedantic Scot, McLennan, however, transmuted these symptoms, mere methods of obtaining women, into separate classes of the family under the head of “marriage by capture” and “marriage by barter.” Moreover among American Indians and other nations in the same stage, the marriage agreement is not the business of the parties most concerned, who often are not even asked, but of their mothers. Frequently two persons entirely unknown to one another are thus engaged to be married and receive no information of the closing of the bargain, until the time for the marriage ceremony approaches. Before the wedding, the bridegroom brings gifts to the maternal relatives of the bride (not to her father or his relatives) as an equivalent for ceding the girl to him. Either of the married parties may dissolve the marriage at will. But among many




tribes, as, e.g., the Iroquois, public opinion has gradually become averse to such separations. In case of domestic differences the gentile relatives of both parties endeavor to bring about a reconciliation, and not until they are unsuccessful a separation takes place. In this case the woman keeps the children, and both parties are free to marry again.

The pairing family, being too weak and too unstable to make an independent household necessary or even desirable, in no way dissolves the traditional communistic way of housekeeping. But household communism implies supremacy of women in the house as surely as exclusive recognition of a natural mother and the consequent impossibility of identifying the natural father signify high esteem for women, i.e., mothers. It is one of the most absurd notions derived from eighteenth century enlightenment, that in the beginning of society woman was the slave of man. Among all savages and barbarians of the lower and middle stages, sometimes even of the higher stage, women not only have freedom, but are held in high esteem. What they were even in the pairing family, let Arthur Wright, for many years a missionary among the Seneca Iroquois, testify: “As to their families, at a time when they still lived in their old long houses (communistic households of several families) … a certain clan (gens) always reigned, so that the women choose their husbands from other clans (gentes).… The female part generally ruled the house; the provisions were held in common; but woe to




the luckless husband or lover who was too indolent or too clumsy to contribute his share to the common stock. No matter how many children or how much private property he had in the house, he was liable at any moment to receive a hint to gather up hls belongings and get out. And he could not dare to venture any resistance; the house was made too hot for him and he had no other choice, but to return to his own clan (gens) or, as was mostly the case, to look for another wife in some other clan. The women were the dominating power in the clans (gentes) and everywhere else. Occasionally they did not hesitate to dethrone a chief and degrade him to a common warrior.”

The communistic household, in which most or all the women belong to one and the same gens, while the husband come £rnm different gentes, is the cause and foundation of the general and widespread supremacy of women in primeval times. The discovery of this fact is the third merit of Bachofen.

By way of supplement I wish to state that the reports of travelers and missionaries concerning the overburdening of women among savages and barbarians do not in the least contradict the above statements. The division of labor between both sexes is caused by other reasons than the social condition of women. Nations, where women have to work much harder than is proper for them in our opinion, often respect women more highly than Europeans do. The lady of civilized countries, surrounded with sham homage




and a stranger to all real work stands on a far lower social level than a hard-working barbarian woman, regarded as a real lady (frown-lady-mistress) and having the character of such.

Whether or not the pairing family has in our time entirely supplanted group marriage in America, can be decided only by closer investigations among those nations of northwestern and especially of southern America that are still in the higher stage of savagery. About the latter so many reports of sexual license are current that the assumption of a complete cessation of the ancient group marriage is hardly warranted. Evidently all traces of it have not yet disappeared. In at least forty North American tribes the man marrying an elder sister has the right to make all her sisters his wives as soon as they are of age, a survival of the community of men for the whole series of sisters. And Bancroft relates that the Indians of the Californian peninsula celebrate certain festivities uniting several “tribes” for the purpose of unrestricted sexual intercourse. These are evidently gentes that have preserved in these festivities a vague recollection of the time when the women of one gens had for their common husbands all the men of another gens, and vice versa. The same custom is still observed in Australia. Among certain nations it sometimes happens that the older men, the chief and sorcerer-priests, exploit the community of women for their own benefits and monopolize all the women. But in their turn they must restore the old community during certain festivities and




great assemblies, permitting their wives to enjoy themselves with the young men. A whole series of examples of such periodical saturnalia restoring for a short time the ancient sexual freedom is quoted by Westermarck:[9] among the Hos, the Santals, the Punjas and Kotars in India, among some African nations, etc. Curiously enough Westermarck concludes that this is a survival, not of group marriage, the existence of which he denies, but of a rutting season which primitive man had in common with other animals.

Here we touch Bachofen’s fourth great discovery: the widespread form of transition from group marriage to pairing family. What Bachofen represents as a penance for violating the old divine laws—the penalty with which a woman redeems her right to chastity, is in fact only a mystical expression for the penalty paid by a woman for becoming exempt from the ancient community of men and acquiring the right of surrendering to one man only. This penalty consists in a limited surrender: Babylonian women had to surrender once a year in the temple of Mylitta; other nations of Western Asia sent their young women for years to the temple of Anaitis, where they had to practice free love with favorites of their own choice before they were allowed to marry. Similar customs in a religious disguise are common to nearly all Asiatic nations between the Mediterranean and the Ganges. The penalty for exemption becomes gradually lighter in course of time, as Bachofen remarks: “The annually repeated surrender gives place to a single sacrifice; the hetaerism of the matrons is followed by




that of the maidens, the promiscuous intercourse during marriage to that before wedding, the indiscriminate intercourse with all to that with certain individuals.”[10]

Among some nations the religious disguise is missing. Among others—Thracians, Celts, etc., in classic times, many primitive inhabitants of India, Malay nations, South Sea Islanders and many American Indians to this day—the girls enjoy absolute sexual freedom before marriage. This is especially true almost everywhere in South America, as everybody can confirm who penetrates a little into the interior. Agassiz, e.g., relates[11] an anecdote of a wealthy family of Indian descent. On being introduced to the daughter he asked something about her father, presuming him to be her mother’s husband, who was in the war against Paraguay. But the mother replied, smiling: “Nao tem pai, he filha da fortuna”—she hasn’t any father; she is the daughter of chance. “It is the way the Indian or half-breed women here always speak of their illegitimate children; and though they say it without an intonation of sadness or of blame, apparently as unconscious of any wrong or shame as if they said the father was absent or dead, it has the most melancholy significance; it seems to speak of such absolute desertion. So far is this from being an unusual case, that among the common people the opposite seems the exception. Children are frequently quite ignorant of their parentage. They know about their mother, for all the care and responsibility falls upon her, but they have no knowledge of their father; nor does it seem to occur to the




woman that she or her children have any claim upon him.” What seems so strange to the civilized man, is simply the rule of maternal law and group marriage.

Again, among other nations the friends and relatives of the bridegroom or the wedding guests claim their traditional right to the bride, and the bridegroom comes last. This custom prevailed in ancient times on the Baleares and among the African Augilers; it is observed to this day by the Bareas in Abyssinia. In still other cases, an official person—the chief of a tribe or a gens, the cazique, shamane, priest, prince or whatever may be his title—represents the community and exercises the right of the first night. All modern romantic whitewashing notwithstanding, this jus primae noctis, is still in force among most of the natives of Alaska,[12] among the Tahus of northern Mexico[13] and some other nations. And during the whole of the- middle ages it was practised at least in originally Celtic countries, where it was directly transmitted by group marriage, e.g. in Aragonia. While in Castilia the peasant was never a serf, the most disgraceful serfdom existed in Aragonia, until abolished by the decision of Ferdinand the Catholic in 1486. In this document we read: “We decide and declare that the aforesaid ‘senyors’ (barons) … shall neither sleep the first night with the wife of a peasant nor shall they in the first night after the wedding, when the woman has gone to bed, step over said woman or bed as a sign of their authority. Neither shall the aforesaid senyors use the daughter or the son of any peasant, with or without pay,




against their will.” (Quoted in the Catalonlan original by Sugenheim, “Serfdom,” Petersburg, 1861, page 35.)

Bachofen, furthermore, is perfectly right in contending that the transition from what he calls “hetaerism” or “incestuous generation” to monogamy was brought about mainly by women. The more in the course of economic development, undermining the old communism and increasing the density of population, the traditional sexual relations lost their innocent character suited to the primitive forest, the more debasing and oppressive they naturally appeared to women; and the more they consequently longed for relief by the right of chastity, of temporary or permanent marriage with one man. This progress could not be due to men for the simple reason that they never, even to this day, had the least intention of renouncing the pleasures of actual group marriage. Not until the women had accomplished the transition to the pairing family could the men introduce strict monogamy—true, only for women.

The pairing family arose on the boundary line between savagery and barbarism, generally in the higher stage of savagery, here and there in the lower stage of barbarism. It is the form of the family characteristic for barbarism, as group marriage is for savage and monogamy for civilization. In order to develop it into established monogamy, other causes than those active hitherto were required. In the pairing family the group was already reduced to its last unit, its bi-atomic molecule: one man and




one woman. Natural selection had accomplished its purpose by a continually increasing restriction of sexual intercourse. Nothing remained to be done in this direction. Unless new social forces became active, there was no reason why a new form of the family should develop out of the pairing family. But these forces did become active.

We now leave America, the classic soil of the pairing family. No sign permits the conclusion that a higher form of the family was developed here, that any established form of monogamy ever existed anywhere in the New World before the discovery and conquest. Not so in the Old World.

In the latter, the domestication of animals and the breeding of flocks had developed a hitherto unknown source of wealth and created entirely new social conditions. Up to the lower stage of baxbarism, fixed wealth was almost exclusively represented by houses, clothing, rough ornaments and the tools for obtaining and preparing food: boats, weapons and household articles of the simplest kind. Nourishment had to be secured afresh day by day. But now, with their herds of horses, camels, donkeys, cattle, sheep, goats and hogs, the advancing nomadic nations—the Aryans in the Indian Punjab, in the region of the Ganges and the steppes of the Oxus and Jaxartes, then still more rich in water-veins than now; the Semites on the Euphrates and Tigris—had acquired possessions demanding only the most crude attention and care in order to propagate themselves in ever increasing numbers and yield the most




abundant store of milk and meat. All former means of obtaining food were, now forced to the background. Hunting, once a necessity, now became a sport.

But who was the owner of this new wealth? Doubtless it was originally the gens. However, private ownership of flocks must have had an early beginning. It is difficult to say whether to the author of the so-called first book of Moses Father Abraham appeared as the owner of his flocks by virtue of his privilege as head of a communistic family or of his capacity as gentile chief by actual descent. So much is certain: we must not regard him as a proprietor in the modern sense of the word. It is furthermore certain that everywhere on the threshold of documentary history we find the flocks in the separate possession of chiefs of families, exactly like the productions of barbarian art, such as metal ware, articles of luxury and, finally, the human cattle—the slaves.

For now slavery was also invented.—To the barbarian of the lower stage a slave was of no use. The American Indians, therefore, treated their vanquished enemies in quite a different way from nations of a higher stage. The men were tortured or adopted as brothers into the tribe of the victors. The women were married or likewise adopted with their surviving children. The human labor power at this stage does not yet produce a considerable amount over and above its cost of subsistence. But the introduction of cattle raising, metal industry, weaving and finally agriculture




wrought a change. Just as the once easily obtainable wives now had an exchange value and were bought, so labor power was now procured, especially since the flocks had definitely become private property. The family did not increase as rapidly as the cattle. More people were needed for superintending; for this purpose the captured enemy was available and, besides, he could be increased by breeding like the cattle.

Such riches, once they had become the private property of certain families and augmented rapidly, gave a powerful impulse to society founded on the pairing family and the maternal gens. The pairing family had introduced a new element. By the side of the natural mother it had placed the authentic natural father who probably was better authenticated than many a “father” of our day. According to the division of labor in those times, the task of obtaining food and the tools necessary for this purpose fell to the share of the man; hence he owned the latter and kept them in case of a separation, as the women did the household goods. According to the social custom of that time, the man was also the owner of the new source of existence, the cattle, and later on of the new labor power, the slaves. But according to the same custom, his children could not inherit his property, for the following reasons: By maternal law, i.e. while descent was traced only along the female line, and by the original custom of inheriting in the gens, the gentile relatives inherited the property of their deceased gentile relative. The wealth had to remain in the gens. In view of




the insignificance of the objects, the property may have gone in practice to the closest gentile relatives, i.e., the consanguine relatives on the mother’s side. The children of the dead man, however did not belong to his gens, but to that of their mother. They inherited first together with the other consanguine relatives of the mother, later on perhaps in preference to the others. But they could not inherit from their father, because they did not belong to his gens, where his property had to remain. Hence, after the death of a cattle owner, the cattle would fall to his brothers, sisters and the children of his sisters, or to the offspring of the sisters of his mother. His own children were disinherited.

In the measure of the increasing wealth man’s position in the family became superior to that of woman, and the desire arose to use this fortified position for the purpose of overthrowing the traditional law of inheritance in favor of his children. But this was not feasible as long as maternal law was valid. This law had to be abolished, and it was. This was by no means as difficult as it appears to us to-day. For this revolution—one of the most radical ever experienced by humanity—did not have to touch a single living member of the gens. All its members could remain what they had always been. TJie simple resolution was sufficient, that henceforth the offspring of the male members should belong to the gens, while the children of the female members should be excluded by transferring the^ to the gens of their father. This abolished the tracing of descent by female lineage and the maternal right of




inheritance, and instituted descent by male lineage and the paternal right of inheritance. How and when this revolution was accomplished by the nations of the earth, we do not know. It belongs entirely to prehistoric times. That it was accomplished is proven more than satisfactorily by the copious traces of maternal law collected especially by Bachofen. How easily it is accomplished we may observe in a whole series of Indian tribes, that recently passed through or are still engaged in it, partly under the influence of increasing wealth and changed modes of living (transfer from forests to the prairie), partly through the moral pressure of civilization and missionaries. Six out of eight Missouri tribes have male descent and inheritance, while only two retain female descent and inheritance. The Shawnees, Miamis and Delawares follow the custom of placing their children into the male gens by giving them a gentile name belonging to the father’s gens, so that they may be entitled to inherit. “Innate casuistry of man, to change the objects by changing their names, and to find loopholes for breaking tradition inside of tradition where a direct interest was a sufficient motive.” (Marx.) This made confusion worse confounded, which could be and partially was remedied alone by paternal law. “This seems to be the most natural transition.” (Marx.) As to the opinion of the comparative jurists, how this transition took place among the civilized nations of the old world—although only in hypotheses—compare M. Kovalevsky, Tableau des origines et de l’évolution de la famille et de la propriéte, Stockholm, 1890.




The downfall of maternal law was the historic defeat of the female sex. The men seized the reins also in the house, the women were stripped of their dignity, enslaved, tools of men’s lust and mere machines for the generation of children. This degrading position of women, especially conspicuous among the Greeks of heroic and still more of classic times, was gradually glossed over and disguised or even clad in a milder form. But it is by no means obliterated.

The first effect of the established supremacy of men became now visible in the reappearance of the intermediate form of the patriarchal family. Its most significant feature is not polygamy, of which more anon, but “the organization of a certain number of free and unfree persons into one family under the paternal authority of the head of the family. In the Semitic form this head of the family lives in polygamy, the unfree members have wife and children, and the purpose of the whole organization is the tending of herds in a limited territory.” The essential points are the assimilation of the unfree element and the paternal authority. Hence the ideal type of this form of the family is the Roman family. The word familia did not originally signify the composite ideal of sentimentality and domestic strife in the present day Philistine mind. Among the Romans it did not even apply in the beginning to the leading couple and its children, but to the slaves alone. Famulus means domestic slave, and familia is the aggregate number of slaves belonging to one man. At the time of Gajus, the familia, id est patrimonium




(i.e., paternal legacy), was still bequeathed by testament. The expression was invented by the Romans in order to designate a new social organism, the head of which had a wife, children and a number of slaves under his paternal authority and according to Roman law the right of life and death over all of them. “The word is, therefore, not older than the ironclad family system of the Latin tribes, which arose after the introduction of agriculture and of lawful slavery, and after the separation of the Aryan Itali from the Greeks.” Marx adds: “The modern family contains the germ not only of slavery (servitus), but also of serfdom, because it has from the start a relation to agricultural service. It comprises in miniature all those contrasts that later on develop more broadly in society and the state.”

Such a form of the family shows the transition from the pairing family to monogamy. In order to secure the faithfulness of the wife, and hence the reliability of paternal lineage, the women are delivered absolutely into the power of the men: in killing his wife, the husband simply exercices his right.

With the patriarchal family we enter the domain of written history, a field in which comparative law can render considerable assistance. And here it has brought about considerable progress indeed. We owe to Maxim Kovalevsky (Tableau etc. de la famille et de la propriété, Stockholm, 1890, p. 60-100) the proof, that the patriarchal household community, found to this day among Serbians




and Bulgarians under the names of Zadruga (friendly bond) and Bratstvo (fraternity), and in a modified form among oriental nations, formed the stage of transition between the maternal family derived from group marriage and the monogamous family of the modern world. This seems at least established for the historic nations of the old world, for Aryans and Semites.

The Zadruga of southern Slavonia offers the best still existing illustration of such a family communism. It comprises several generations of the father’s descendants, together with their wives, all living together on the same farm, tilling their fields in common, living and clothing themselves from the same stock, and possessing collectively the surplus of their earnings. The community is managed by the master of the house (domácin), who acts as its representative, may sell inferior objects, has charge of the treasury and is responsible for it as well as for a proper business administration. He is chosen by vote and is not necessarily the oldest man. The women and their work are directed by the mistress of the house (domácica), who is generally the wife of the domácin. She also has an important, and often final, voice in choosing a husband for the girls. But the highest authority is vested in the family council, the assembly of all grown companions, male and female. The domácin is responsible to this council. It takes all important resolutions, sits in judgment on the members of the household, decides the question of important purchases and sales, especially of land, etc.




It is only about ten years since the existence of such family communism in the Russia of to-day was proven. At present it is generally acknowledged to be rooted in popular Russian custom quite as much as the obscina or village community.

It is found in the oldest Russian code, the Pravda of Jaroslav, under the same name (vervj) as in the Dalmatian code, and may also be traced in Polish and Czech historical records.

Likewise among Germans, the economic unit according to Heussler (Institutions of German law) is not originally the single family, but the “collective household,” comprising several generations or single families and, besides, often enough unfree individuals. The Roman family is also traced to this type, and hence the absolute authority of the master of the house and the defenselessness of the other members in regard to him is strongly questioned of late. Similar communities are furthermore said to have existed among the Celts of Ireland. In France they were preserved up to the time of the Revolution in Nivernais under the name of “parçonneries,” and in the Franche Comté they are not quite extinct yet. In the region of Louhans (Saône et Loire) we find large farmhouses with a high central hall for common use reaching up to the roof and surrounded by sleeping rooms accessible by the help of stairs with six to eight steps. Several generations of the same family live together in such a house.




In India, the household community with collective agriculture is already mentioned by Nearchus at the time of Alexander the Great, and it exists to this day in the same region, in the Punjab and the whole Northwest of the country. In the Caucasus it was located by Kovalevski himself.

In Algeria it is still found among the Kabyles. Even in America it is said to have existed. It is supposed to be identical with the “Calpullis” described by Zurita in ancient Mexico. In Peru, however, Cunow (Ausland, 1890, No. 42- 44) has demonstrated rather clearly that at the time of the conquest a sort of a constitution in marks (called curiously enough marca), with a periodical allotment of arable soil, and consequently individual tillage, was in existence.

At any rate, the patriarchal household community with collective tillage and ownership of land now assumes an entirely different meaning than heretofore. We can no longer doubt that it played an important role among the civilized and some other nations of the old world in the transition from the maternal to the single family. Later on we shall return to Kovalesky’s further conclusion that it was also the stage of transition from which developed the village or mark community with individual tillage and first periodical, then permanent allotment of arable and pasture lands.




In regard to the family life within these household communities it must be remarked that at least in Russia the master of the house has the reputation of strongly abusing his position against the younger women of the community, especially his daughters-in-law, and of transforming them into a harem for himself. Russian popular songs are very eloquent on this point.

Before taking up monogamy, which rapidly developed after the downfall of maternal law, let me say a few words about polygamy and polyandry. Both forms of the family can only be exceptions, historical products of luxury so to speak, unless they could be found side by side in the same country, which is apparently not the case. As the men excluded from polygamy cannot find consolation in the women left over by polyandry, the number of men and women being hitherto approximately equal without regard to social institutions, it becomes of itself impossible to confer on any one of these two forms the distinction of general preference. Indeed, the polygamy of one man was evidently the product of slavery, confined to certain exceptional positions. In the Semitic patriarchal family, only the patriarch himself, or at best a few of his sons, practice polygamy, the others must be satisfied with one wife. This is the case to-day in the whole Orient. Polygamy is a privilege of the wealthy and distinguished, and is mainly realized by purchase of female slaves. The mass of the people live in monogamy. Polyandry in India and Thibet is likewise an exception. Its surely not uninteresting origin from group marriage requires




still closer investigation. In its practice it seems, by the way, much more tolerant than the jealous Harem establishment of the Mohammedans. At least among the Nairs of India, three, four or more men have indeed one woman in common; but every one of them may have a second woman in common with three or more other men; and in the same way a third, fourth, etc. It is strange that McLennan did not discover the new class of “club marriage” in these marital clubs, in several of which one may be a member and which he himself describes. This marriage club business is, however, by no means actual polyandry. It is on the contrary, as Giraud-Teulon already remarks, a specialized form of group marriage. The men live in polygamy, the women in polyandry.


It develops from the pairing family, as we have already shown, during the time of transition from the middle to the higher stage of barbarism. Its final victory is one of the signs of beginning civilization. It is founded on male supremacy for the pronounced purpose of breeding children of indisputable paternal lineage. The latter is required because these children shall later on inherit the fortune of their father. The monogamous family is distinguished from the pairing family by the far greater durability of wedlock, which can no longer be dissolved at the pleasure of either




party. As a rule, it is only the man who can still dissolve it and cast off his wife. The privilege of conjugal faithlessness remains sanctioned for men at least by custom (the Code Napoleon concedes it directly to them, as long as they do not bring their concubines into the houses of their wives). This privilege is more and more enjoyed with the increasing development of society. If the woman remembers the ancient sexual practices and attempts to revive them, she is punished more severely than ever.

The whole severity of this new form of the family confronts us among the Greeks. While, as Marx observes, the position of the female gods in mythology shows an earlier period, when women still occupied a freer and more respected plane, we find woman already degraded by the supremacy of man and the competition of slaves during the time of the heroes. Read in the Odysseia how Telemachos reproves and silences his mother. The captured young women, according to Homer, are delivered to the sensual lust of the victors. The leaders in the order of their rank select the most beautiful captives. The whole Iliad notoriously revolves around the quarrel between Achilles and Agamemnon about such a captured woman. In mentioning any hero of importance, the captured girl sharing his tent and bed is never omitted. These girls are also taken into the hero’s home country and his house, as Kassandra by Agamemnon in Aeschylos. Boys born by these female slaves receive a small share of the paternal heirloom and are regarded as free men. Teukros is such an illegitimate son and may use




his father’s name. The wife is expected to put up with everything, while herself remaining chaste and faithful. Although the Greek woman of heroic times is more highly respected than she of the civilized period, still she is for her husband only the mother of his legal heirs, his first housekeeper and the superintendent of the female slaves, whom he can and does make his concubines at will. It is this practice of slavery by the side of monogamy, the existence of young and beautiful female slaves belonging without any restriction to their master, which from the very beginning gives to monogamy the specific character of being monogamy for women only, but not for men. And this character remains to this day.

For the Greeks of later times we must make a distinction between Dorians and Ionians. The former, with Sparta as their classic example, have in many respects still more antiquated marriage customs than even Homer illustrates. In Sparta existed a form of the pairing family modified by the contemporaneous ideas of the state and still recalling group marriage in many ways. Sterile marriages were dissolved. King Anaxandridas (about 650 before Christ) took another wife besides his childless one and kept two households. About the same time King Ariston added another wife to two childless ones, one of which he dismissed. Furthermore, several brothers could have one wife in common; a friend who liked his friend’s wife better than his own could share her with him, and it was not considered indecent to place a wife at the disposal of a sturdy




“stallion,” as Bismarck would have said, even though he might not be a citizen. A certain passage in Plutarch, where a Spartan matron refers a lover, who persists in making offers to her, to her husband, seems to indicate—according to Schoemann—even, a still greater sexual freedom. Also adultery, faithlessness of a wife behind her husband’s back, was unheard of. On the other hand, domestic slavery in Sparta, at least during the best time, was unknown, and the serf Helots lived on separate country seats. Hence there was less temptation for a Spartan to hold intercourse with other women. As was to be expected under such circumstances, the women of Sparta occupied a more highly respected place than those of other Greeks. Spartan women and the Athenian hetaerae were the only Greek women of whom the ancients speak respectfully and whose remarks they considered worthy of notice.

Quite a different condition among Ionians, whose representative is Athens. The girls learned only to spin, weave and sew, at the most a little reading and writing. Tbey were practically shut in and had only the company of other women.

The women’s room formed a separate part of the house, on the upper floor or in a rear building, where men, especially strangers, did not easily enter and whither the women retreated when male visitors came. The women did not leave the house without being accompanied by a female slave. At home they were strictly guarded. Aristophanes




speaks of Molossian dogs that were kept to frighten off adulterers. And at least in the Asiatic towns, eunuchs were kept for guarding women. Even at Herodotus’ time these eunuchs were manufactured for the trade, and according to Wachsmuth not for barbarians alone. By Euripides woman is designated as “oikurema,” a neuter signifying an object for housekeeping, and beside the business of breeding children she served to the Athenian for nothing but his chief house maid. The man had his gymnastic exercises, his public meetings, from which the women were excluded. Besides, the man very often had female slaves at his disposal, and during the most flourishing time of Athens an extensive prostitution which was at least patronized by the state. It was precisely on the basis of this prostitution that the unique type of Ionic women developed; the hetaerae. They rose by esprit and artistic taste as far above the general level of antique womanhood as the Spartan women by their character. But that it was necessary to become a hetaera before one could be a woman, constitutes the severest denunciation of the Athenian family.

The Athenian family became in the course of time the model after which not only the rest of the Ionians, but gradually all the Greeks at home and abroad molded their domestic relations. Nevertheless, in spite of all seclusion and watching, the Grecian ladies found sufficient opportunity for deceiving their husbands. The latter who would have been ashamed of betraying any love for their wives, found recreation in all kinds of love affairs with




hetaerae. But the degradation of the women was avenged in the men and degraded them also, until they sank into the abomination of boy-love. They degraded their gods and themselves by the myth of Ganymedes.

Such was the origin of monogamy, as far as we may trace it in the most civilized and most highly developed nation of antiquity. It was by no means a fruit of individual sex-love and had nothing to do with the latter, for the marriages remained as conventional as ever. Monogamy was the first form of the family not founded on natural but on economic conditions, viz.: the victory of private property over primitive and natural collectivism. Supremacy of the man in the family and generation of children that could be his offspring alone and were destined to be the heirs of his wealth—these were openly avowed by the Greeks to be the sole object s of monogamy. For the rest it was a burden to them, a duty to the gods, the state and their own ancestors, a duty to be fulfilled and no more. In Athens the law enforced not only the marriage, but also the fulfillment of a minimum of the so-called matrimonial duties on the man’s part.

Monogamy, then, does by no means enter history as a reconciliation of man and wife and still less as the highest form of marriage. On the contrary, it enters as the subjugation of one sex by the other, as the proclamation of an antagonism between the sexes unknown in all preceding history. In an old unpublished manuscript written by Marx and myself in 1846, I find the following passage: “The first




division of labor is that of man and wife in breeding children.” And to-day I may add: The first class antagonism appearing in history coincides with the development of the antagonism of man and wife in monogamy, and the first class oppression with that of the female by the male sex. Monogamy was a great historical progress. But by the side of slavery and private property it marks at the same time that epoch which, reaching down to our days, takes with all progress also a step backwards, relatively speaking, and develops the welfare and advancement of one by the woe and submission of the other. It is the cellular form of civilized society which enables us to study the nature of its now fully developed contrasts and contradictions.

The old relative freedom of sexual intercourse by no means disappeared with the victory of the pairing or even of the monogamous family. “The old conjugal system, now reduced to narrower limits by the gradual disappearance of the punaluan groups, still environed the advancing family, which it was to follow to the verge of civilization.… It finally disappeared in the new form of hetaerism, which still follows mankind in civilization as a dark shadow upon the family.”[14]

By hetaerism Morgan designates sexual intercourse of men with unmarried women outside of the monogamous family, flourishing, as is well known, during the whole period of civilization in many different forms and tending more and more to open prostitution. This hetaerism is directly derived

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