greece appears to have rather local/regional (on the village/county level) extended family groups which inbreed (to the degree of third+ cousins) as a rule. or at least they did as recently as the 1970s. the situation might be quite different nowadays now that many people have left rural areas and moved to urban centers. but that greeks were inbreeding in the 1970s would still affect social interactions there, today, since many greeks aged 30-40 would be the children of those who married in the ’70s.
the existence of such extended family groups to which the members have strong ties of loyalty (because of the inbreeding) goes a long way, imho, to explaining greece and all its (oftentimes charming!) dysfunctionalities in the modern world. the greeks are kinda quasi-tribal or quasi-clannish — they’re not at all as hostile to outsiders as iraqis or afghanis, but they’re certainly not very cooperative towards what non-greek people view as their “fellow greeks.”
here’s some more on inbreeding and the family in greece from roger just — “the limits of kinship.” this anthropological study took place on meganisi, one of the ionian islands in the west of greece. the study featured in the previous post was done on the east side of the peloponnese peninsula, so we start to have some indications that endogamous marriage practices are (or were up until recently) common throughout rural greece [pg. 120]:
“The domestic cooperation that for many of them [i.e. siblings] was mandatory when they were members of the same household continues in later life when marriage has parted them and they are established in their own households. Similarly, in the public world of men, the groups who regularly drink together, though not exclusively composed of kin, will be found to have a solid core of related members. Patronage of a particular coffee shop is itself allied to kinship. My host always claimed that his kouniados was ‘helping’ him by drinking regularly in his bar, for his brother-in-law was a highly respected man, and wherever his brother-in-law drank, there, according to my host, the ‘best men’ gathered, thus improving not only the quantity but also the quality of his trade. Such kinship-based patronage extended even to the clientele of the several general stores. Nothing other than a commercial price was ever asked for or received — nevertheless, the mere fact that relatives shopped at their relative’s store was contrued as ‘help’ and was seen as a minor but continual confirmation of the spirit of cooperation that ideally informed all dealings between kin.
“Cooperation between kin is, then, a social reality. The ideals of kinship — of trust, good will, fair dealing, and the preferential extension and receipt of favors — do translate themselves into practice.“
“[F]or the Spartohoriots such affinial [i.e. through marriage] relatives — whether relatives of one’s spouse or spouses of one’s relatives, or both — are genuinely considered to the ‘family’ and are treated in the same way as one’s ‘own’ bilateral kin….
“The consequence of this form of reckoning — which, so far as I know, is not uncommon in Greece — is to create a proliferation of uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, and cousins: 16 geneaological specifications for uncles, 16 for aunts, 16 for nieces, 16 for nephews (and a further 64 for uncles and aunts, and 60 for nieces and nephews, who would be first cousins once removed in the cumbersome English terminology), 32 for first cousins (male and female together), and 128 for second cousins (male and female together). But though such a form of reckoning may be reasonably common, its full effects are to be felt only a relatively small community that, importantly, is largely and preferentially endogamous — in a community, say, such as Spartohori, where the total year-round population was only 551, and where in the case of 75 percent of married couples, both partners were from the village.
“The effect is an obvious one. One way or another, almost everyone is related to almost everyone else. Moreover, geneaological connections between people are frequently multistranded — a folding-in of the community kinship links such that people are related to each other ap’tis duo meries, ‘from both sides,’ as a result, for example, of the marriages of a pair of first cousins to a pair of siblings (not permitted by strict Church law) or of two pairs of first cousins (permitted by Church law).
“One way of gaining an impression of the degree of the Spartohoriots’ interrelatedness is to take a single individual and to see the extent of his/her recognized kindred in relation to the village’s total population. My old friend Michalis was fond of boasting that he was related to half the village. In his case — which I do not believe to have been exceptional — the boast was roughly true. Since Michalis had four sisters and two brothers who survived into adulthood, the number of his nephews and nieces was high. On the other hand, only one of Michalis’s father’s siblings, a sister, had survived to adulthood, and his paternal grandfather appears to have had no surviving siblings. The number of his patrilateral relatives was thus low. Moreover, neither Michalis’s wife nor Michaelis’s mother appears to have come from particularly prolific families. The number of his matrilateral relatives and of relatives acquired by marriage was thus not out of the ordinary. Nevertheless, given the form of reckoning used, within the bounds of second cousin the number of Michaelis’s collateral relatives actually resident in the village was still 122. But to these must be added a further seventeen sympetheroi (affines) resident in the village whose relationship with Michalis derived from the marriages of his son and daughter (themselves both resident in Australia). Including Michalis’s own wife and his remaining bachelor son, the total number of Michalis’s ‘family’ within Spartohori was thus 141. But these were still less than the grand total of resident Spartohoriots whom Michalis could count as kin, for I have omitted, partly because of the inherent vagueness of the category, Michaelis’s many other sympetheroi who were relatives of his siblings’ spouses or relatives of his affinal nephews and nieces (e.g., the relatives of his brother’s daughter’s husband). Minimally, then, Michalis’s kin accounted for 25 percent of the village’s permanent population, and if all sympetheroi were taken into account, it would probably not be unreasonable to say that he was related to half the village.”
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I can believe this. I’m an Aussie. While waiting in a bank in a suburb with a high percentage of Greek Australian’s I watched two ladies of Greek descent strike up a conversation.
In order they confirmed their parents were from :
The same island
The same village/town.
A quick discussion of prominent relatives followed at the end of which they concluded they were aunt and niece, much to their satisfaction.
As a teen in the 80s it was commonly understood that Greek girls were _definitely_ virgins on their wedding night and that Greek boys could have non-Greek girlfriends, but they could never marry them, as they must marry a Greek girl.
At the time I assumed this was for religious or birth control purposes, but reading your site makes it apparent that it is a form of social control similar to the requirement that spouses be exclusively monogamous – it ensures the the continuation of the kinship group in much the way that monogamy ensures the survival of the nuclear family.
@radagast – ah, the “what part of the country are you from?” conversation. being the
spawnoffspring of one immigrant parent myself (the other not an immigrant), i know the conversation well! altho, i’ve never been witness to one where the conversants established a relationship as close as aunt-niece! normally you just find out that someone is from the next village over or is so-and-so’s second-cousin once removed. (~_^)
it’s funny that you should mention the greek girl virgin thing. in one of the books/articles on greece that i read recently, there was some discussion of honor crimes in another part of greece — one of the islands, iirc. i have to go back and look that up to see where it was. the greeks in the study that i read said they never, ever did anything like that and that they were proper, civilized greeks.
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