“the greatest pain of all”

men have been trying to figure out what to do about (us) women for…well, for millennia, apparently!

here is the poet semonides of amorgos writing about the fair sex in the seventh century b.c. (he must’ve had a HORRIBLE wife, if he was married at all). see if you can recognize any of these types (~_^) …

From the start, the gods made women different.
One type is from a pig–a hairy sow
whose house is like a rolling heap of filth;
and she herself, unbathed, in unwashed clothes,
reposes on the shit-pile, growing fat. (5)
Another type the gods made from a fox:
pure evil, and aware of everything.
This woman misses nothing: good or bad,
she notices, considers, and declares
that good is bad and bad is good. Her mood (10)
changes from one moment to the next.
One type is from a dog–a no-good bitch,
a mother through and through; she wants to hear
everything, know everything, go everywhere,
and stick her nose in everything, and bark (15)
whether she sees anyone or not.
A man can’t stop her barking; not with threats,
not (when he’s had enough) by knocking out
her teeth with a stone, and not with sweet talk either;
even among guests, she’ll sit and yap; (20)
the onslaught of her voice cannot be stopped….

Another type a horse with flowing mane
gave birth to. She avoids all kinds of work
and hardship; she would never touch a mill
or lift a sieve, or throw the shit outside,
or sit beside the oven (all that soot!). (60)
She’ll touch her husband only when she has to.
She washes off her body every day
twice, sometimes three times! then rubs herself
with perfumed oil. She always wears her hair
combed-out, and dressed with overhanging flowers. (65)
Such a wife is beautiful to look at
for others; for her keeper, she’s a pain
–unless he is a king, or head of state
who can afford extravagant delights….

Another type is from a bee. Good luck
in finding such a woman! Only she (85)
deserves to be exempt from stinging blame.
The household that she manages will thrive;
a loving wife beside her loving man,
she’ll grow old, having borne illustrious
and handsome children; she herself shines bright (90)
among all women. Grace envelops her.
She doesn’t like to sit with other women
discussing sex. Zeus gratifies mankind
with these most excellent and thoughtful wives.

But by the grim contrivances of Zeus (95)
all these other types are here to stay
side by side with man forever. Yes,
Zeus made this the greatest pain of all:
Woman.

If she seems to want to help
that’s when she does her keeper the most harm. (100)
A man who’s with a woman can’t get through
a single day without a troubled mind.
He’ll never banish Hunger from his house:
unwelcome, hateful lodger, hostile god.
Just when a man seems most content at home (105)
and ready for enjoyment, by the grace
of god or man, that’s when she’ll pick a fight,
her battle-helmet flashing, full of blame.
A household with a woman is at a loss
to give a decent welcome to a guest. (110)
The wife who seems the most restrained and good,
she’s the most disastrous of them all;
for while her slack-jawed husband gapes at her
the neighbors laugh at how he’s been deceived.
Each man will diligently praise his own (115)
and blame the next man’s wife; we just don’t see
that we all share alike in this hard luck.
For Zeus made this the greatest pain of all
and locked us in a shackle hard as iron
and never to be broken, ever since (120)
the day that Hades opened up his gates
for all the men who fought that woman’s war.

“that woman” was helen, of course.

i didn’t quote the whole poem. you can read it in its entirety here.

(i have been spending waaaay too much time @chateau heartiste. (~_^) )

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renaissances

in Innate Social Aptitudes of Man: An Approach from Evolutionary Genetics [pdf], william hamilton suggested that, perhaps, one gets a renaissance by (re-)introducing barbarian altruism genes into a too outbred population, letting the mixture ferment for ca. 800 years or so, and then enjoying the fruits of everyone’s labors. he’s talking here, of course, about the european renaissance of the fourteenth to seventeenth centuries … and classical greece/athens after the dorian invasion of ca. 800 years earlier? i think. if it happened at all (link inserted by me):

“The incursions of barbaric pastoralists seem to do civilizations less harm in the long run than one might expect. Indeed, two dark ages and renaissances in Europe suggest a recurring pattern in which a renaissance follows an incursion by about 800 years. It may even be suggested that certain genes or traditions of pastoralists revitalize the conquered people with an ingredient of progress which tends to die out in a large panmictic population for the reasons already discussed. I have in mind altruism itself, or the part of the altruism which is perhaps better described as self-sacrificial daring. By the time of the renaissance it may be that the mixing of genes and cultures (or of cultures alone if these are the only vehicles, which I doubt) has continued long enough to bring the old mercantile thoughtfulness and the infused daring into conjunction in a few individuals who then find courage for all kinds of inventive innovation against the resistance of established thought and practice. Often, however, the cost in fitness of such altruism and sublimated pugnacity to the individuals concerned is by no means metaphorical, and the benefits to fitness, such as they are, go to a mass of individuals whose genetic correlation with the innovator must be slight indeed. Thus civilization probably slowly reduces its altruism of all kinds, including the kinds needed for cultural creativity (see also Eshel 1972).”

“self-sacrificial daring” is probably the equivalent of greying wanderer’s “aggression”, chris’ “drive”, staffan’s “persistence under negative reinforcement”, and/or my “contrarianism” or independent-mindedness.

the connection between these two renaissances might, indeed, be the reintroduction of some good altruism genes, but i think that maybe what these two “rebirths” have in common — what led to them occur at all — are the ca. 400-800 years of outbreeding which happened right before they began. in medieval europe we have the catholic church banning close cousin marriage around the year 500, and many secular authorities banned close cousin marriage at various points after that. and in archaic greece — the period just before classical greece/athens — we apparently have at least ca. 400 years of outbreeding — amongst the upper-classes most probably — and possibly amongst the lower classes, too (hesiod in his Works and Days recommends that a man — an ordinary man, a farmer — marry a nice girl from the neighborhood — from the kome or village — so, if archaic greeks actually did this, their mating patterns would’ve been quite endogamic, but not necessarily to close cousins — maybe third or fourth cousins or something — see A Companion to Archaic Greece).

i think you need some loosening of the genetic ties in populations — enough to get rid of a lot or most of the “clannishness” — so that you can have a “wikification” of those societies, i.e. societies where individuals are really willing to openly share their ideas with other like-minded people (see, for example, harold’s comment on the scientific revolution in england). but outbreed too much, and you might lose that “self-sacrificial daring” — because as hamilton said:

“…the benefits to fitness, such as they are, go to a mass of individuals whose genetic correlation with the innovator must be slight indeed.”

share your innovative ideas — your scientific inventions — with the entire world, and you might wind up benefitting all of those people more than your own descendents (if you’ve got any).

already at the start of the classical period in greece/athens, the mating patterns began to narrow [pg. 67]…

“[W]ith the emergence of the *polis*, exogamy began to give way in some places to endogamy — to marriage within the community. For the upper classes, this meant marriage within a tight circle of aristocratic families living in the same *polis*.”

…so it’s maybe no surprise that the athenians battled throughout the classical period against various aspects of clannishness (cleisthenes’ reforms are one huge example of this struggle) and that their renaissance didn’t last more than a couple hundred years. europeans, on the other hand — especially northern europeans — have continued to outbreed for something like over ca. 1000-1400 years — which, perhaps, is leading to another sort of problem for society — that it’s simplying fraying away at the seams because the weave is not tight enough.

maybe. dunno. all wild speculation on my part, obviously.

previously: archaic greek mating patterns and kinship terms

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our political nature and human biodiversity

just started reading avi tuschman‘s Our Political Nature: The Evolutionary Origins of What Divides Us. so far it’s very good! mind you, i’ve only read the first two chapters (there are twenty-three altogether). (~_^)

according to tuschman, his goal in writing this book is [from the preface – my emphasis]:

“[T]o paint a compelling and accurate portrait of our nature as political animals. Today’s political commentators would have us believe that we vote based on our views about the main issues of the day, on our economic circumstances, or on our longtime affiliations with this political party or that. That’s wrong, or at least incomplete. Step by step, I will explain that our political orientations are not simply intellectual constructs, flowing from our upbringing, our schooling, our peer groups, or which newspapers we read. No, our political orientations are actually natural dispositions, molded within each of us by powerful evolutionary forces.

excellent!

in the first two chapters, tuschman reviews some of the major research out there which has found that personality is largely innate and that personality strongly influences our political orientations (left-wing or right): the blocks’ study showing that personality at age four strongly correlates with political orientation as an adult (in one’s 20s) [pdf], for example, and alford et al.’s twin studies which showed that identical twins reared apart have very much the same political orientations [pdf], and so on.

well, he doesn’t need to persuade me! (~_^) left and right — we are “born this way.”

furthermore, tuschman says we’ll find these innate left/right personalities in all societies. he draws, though, what i think is a slightly awkward comparison between all of the rebellious folks in the arab spring and the occupy wall street movement in the western world [chapter 1]:

“[I]t was precisely Basboosa’s [the tunisian man who immolated himself triggering the so-called arab spring] moral *rejection of inequality* that activated one of these universal hot buttons residing within him, and within so many of his compatriots. And this is why his story resonated with a critical mass of people in the Middle East, for whom Basboosa symbolized the humble, well-meaning common man systematically abused by government fiat and corruption.

“Now, the story of Basboosa might seem rather remote to many American readers. But the same hidden trigger at play in the Middle East underlies the concurrent transformation of the political landscape in the United States. As the Arab Spring was unfolding, the ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement emerged on the far left of the US spectrum. The demonstrators in New York shouting, ‘We are the 99 percent!’ were railing not against Middle Eastern dictators, but rather against bankers and large corporations. And yet the same issue that ignited the Arab Spring had inspired and galvanized their movement: a moral rejection of economic and social *inequality*.”

well, yeah … sort of … maybe. but i’m not certain that there are equally as many individuals in tunisia — or north africa — concerned about equality for everybody as there are in the united states or western europe. there might be a lot of people p*ssed off in the arab world/middle east/north africa that they, personally, experience so much corruption in their daily lives and that they and their families are often cheated by others, but are they really morally rejecting economic and social inequality to the same degree that, say, a swede does? i dunno, but it’s worth asking.

just looking quickly at one set of responses from the world values survey [1981-2002 waves] to the question…

“How would you place your views on this scale? – Incomes should be made more equal vs We need larger income differences as incentives.”

…we find that north africans are very much for GREATER income inequality [click on chart for LARGER view]:

wvs - income equality

i think it would be very safe to bet that different populations will vary not only in the numbers/proportions of leftists vs. rightists found within them but also in how liberal or conservative their left- or right-wingers are.

but i think i’m getting ahead of tuschman and that he’s actually going to get to this later in the book. for instance, in chapter two, he does say:

“What happened when groups of very different genetic backgrounds live in the same environment? In this case, each group’s average personality scores differed according to the *origin of their ancestors*. For example, the personality traits of white South Africans clustered closer to the Swiss, while black South Africans had personalities more similar to Zimbabweans. Likewise, groups that have traditionally lived in geographically adjacent territories have more similar average personalities than groups separated by large distances.”

so i should prolly finish reading the book before i say any more on this. (^_^)

previously: well this sounds familiar…

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geek vs. nerd

taken from here:

“Moving up the vertical axis, words become more geeky (‘#music’ → ‘#gadget’ → ‘#cosplay’), and moving left to right they become more nerdy (‘education’ → ‘grammar’ → ‘neuroscience’). Words along the diagonal are similarly geeky and nerdy, including social (‘#awkward’, ‘weirdo’), mainstream tech (‘#computers’, ‘#microsoft’), and sci-fi/fantasy terms (‘doctorwho,’ ‘#thehobbit’). Words in the lower-left (‘chores,’ ‘vegetables,’ ‘boobies’) aren’t really associated with either, while those in the upper-right (‘#avengers’, ‘#gamer’, ‘#glasses’) are strongly tied to both. Orange words are more geeky than nerdy, and blue words are the opposite.”

these are all based on tweets:

geek vs. nerd

i went ahead and circled (very unscientifically) all the words that i “identify” with — in other words, the topics/words that i believe that i think about/use frequently. seems like i’m slightly more of a nerd, but am also pretty geeky. i can live with that. (^_^)

geek vs. nerd - me

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archaic greek mating patterns and kinship terms

i’ve got this idea that the more specific a group’s mating patterns, the more specific their kinship terms — and vice versa.

so, if you’re the arabs, and you prefer father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage, you’ll have some rather specific kinship terms for all of your different aunts and uncles and cousins, because you want to be able to identify who your bint ‘amm is. if you’re the chinese, and you have an historic preference for mother’s brother’s daughter (mbd) marriage, you’ll also have specific kinship terms for all of your relatives. in fact, both of these societies have the most complicated of kinship terminology systems: the sudanese kinship system.

on the other hand, if you’re not picky about which cousin you can marry OR if all of your cousins are off-limits (like in christian europe), then you might not bother to designate any differences between your cousins (or other relatives). in the hawaiian kinship system, for instance, the only differentiation between relatives is sex and age, so all your brothers and male cousins are just “brother” and all your sisters and female cousins are just “sister.” and in traditional hawaiian society, marriage was very flexible.

meanwhile, in pre-christian europe, most all european populations had different terms for male and female, paternal and maternal cousins — like the arabs or chinese. after converting to christianity and adopting the church’s cousin marriage bans, the kinship terminology shifted to one in which cousins were no longer individually identified (see, for example, German Kinship Terms, 750-1500: Documentation and Analysis and this previous post). as michael mitterauer describes, this process took a few hundred years to happen [pgs. 68-69]:

“Fundamental trends in the changing kinship systems in Europe can best be deduced from the modified kinship terms in various European languages. Initially, terminological analyses will only yield very general clues that other indicators can differentiate and refine. Above all, these analyses cannot allow us to conclude anything about how some of the concepts used mirror a certain contemporaneous social order. Kinship terminology often outlasted by hundreds of years the conditions that gave rise to it. We frequently come upon phenomena of cultural lag when tapping this linguistic source in the attempt to learn about historical kinship systems, but that a change in a social situation must have preceded a change in vocabulary lies beyond a shadow of doubt.

so what does any of this have to do with archaic greece (800 BC – 480 BC)? (or classical greece and athens for that matter?)

well, from mitterauer again we have [pg. 69]:

“Greek was the first European language to eliminate the terminological distinction between the father’s and mother’s side, a transition that began as early as between the fifth and third century BC.35

so that’s just at the transition point between archaic greece and classical greece. but starting at least in the early part of the archaic period and lasting throughout to the classical period the archaic greeks were outbreeding! at least the upper class ones were — difficult/impossible to know about the lower classes. from Women in Ancient Greece [pg. 67]:

“Marriages were arranged by the prospective groom and the prospective bride’s guardian, and the wife usually (although not always) went to live with her husband’s family. In the early Archaic Age [800 BC – 480 BC], to judge from the evidence of Homer’s poems (e.g. ‘Odyssey’ 4.5), male members of the upper classes generally married women who were not related to them, and who came from different areas. This upper-class habit of exogamy — marrying outside the community — was related to the political importance which marriage possessed in these circles. Marriage exchanges were one of the means by which noble families created political alliances with groups living in other areas, and in this way they made a considerable contribution to the aristocracy’s stranglehold on power. This practice survived to the end of the Archaic Age. However, with the emergence of the *polis*, exogamy began to give way in some places to endogamy — to marriage within the community. For the upper classes, this meant marriage within a tight circle of aristocratic families living in the same *polis*.”

so there was outbreeding in archaic greece for a few hundred years (at least amongst the upper classes), and, then, eventually — after about 400 years or so — there was a linguistic shift to more general kinship terms which reflected that outbreeding. in other words, there was a lag time between the “social situation” (or mating patterns) and the linguistic shift in the kinship terms. in medieval german, the shift to more general terms for cousins began in the 1100s, about 300-600 years after the cousin marriage bans arrived in northern europe (depending on what region you look at).

that’s all for now. more anon!

previously: loosening of genetic ties in europe started before christianity? and demokratia

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the importance of the kindred in anglo-saxon society

update 10/24: see bottom of post.

this will be my last post on the anglo-saxons for a while. i promise! the following comes from some notes on anglo-saxon kindreds and feuds that have been hanging around on my desktop for a while now, and since i recently had a couple of posts related to the anglo-saxons (see here and here), i thought i may as well share these as well.

in America 3.0, bennett and lotus say [pg. 51]:

The English are descended from the Germanic conquerors who brought to England the ‘integrated nuclear family,’ in which nuclear families formed separate households, but stayed close to their relatives for mutual cooperation and defense. These people were illiterate, so we have no written records from those times, and we cannot know precisely how they organized their family life. But what we do know for sure is that over time the original Germanic family type developed into the ‘Absolute Nuclear Family,’ or ‘ANF,’ which we have today. It appears that the family type we have now has existed for about a thousand years.”

i haven’t actually read anything about the family type(s) of either the continental angles and saxons or the early anglo-saxons in england, but i’ll take bennett and lotus’ word for it. however, later in the book they go on to say about the saxons [pg. 75]:

“They traced their lineages through both the male and female line. This prevented clans or extended families from forming and becoming exclusive, as happens when lineage is traced solely through the male line. As a result extended families or clans did not have collective legal rights, or any recognized political role.

while it is correct that the germanics had bilateral kinship and, so, didn’t have strong patrilineal clans (like the irish or the scots), as i’ve discussed in previous posts (see here and here), the germanics did have kindreds which were VERY important socially AND, crucially, legally. this very much includes the anglo-saxons in early medieval england.

in early anglo-saxon england, if you were injured or killed by another person, your kindred — your closest family members on both sides of your family, probably out to second cousins — were obliged to take up a blood feud against the offending party’s kindred if you/they were not compensated by the other kindred for your injury/murder in the form of wergeld payments. this was your kindred’s legal right — their duty, in fact, since this was how order was maintained in that clannish society. (vengeance feuds have been, and still are, a common solution to keeping order in clannish societies all around the world and throughout history. unfortunately, if the feuding gets out of hand, that can, of course, lead to disorder.)

from “The Kentish Laws” in The Anglo-Saxons from the Migration Period to the Eighth Century: An Ethnographic Perspective (1997) [pgs. 214-216]:

Large sections of the Kentish laws [all dating from the 600s] (as, in particular, the largest part of the law-code of Aethelberht) are devoted to the condition of feud which came to exist between the kindred of a man (killed, wounded, wronged, or robbed) and that of the man responsible (for the killing, wounding, wrongdoing, or stealing). Kindreds were to take charge of reparation and they could (with a few exceptions, for example, when the conflict was too close in blood-line) arrange either for vengeance or for the payment of compensation to the kin of the killed. Material compensation requited woundings and offences. The reparation (expressed by the Old English verbs *forgildan*, ‘to pay for’ and *gebetan*, ‘to amend’), is meant to recover the lost equilibrium and to maintain the *frid*, ‘peace’.

“The complex system of wergild, with its different levels, which were fixed in relation to the status of the offended person, is strictly connected with feud. Payment could be made in one or more installments: the *healsfang*, which was the first payment of the wergild (that is, the first twenty shillings of the hundred-shilling wergild of a freeman), must be paid *aet openum graefe*, ‘when the grave is still open’. All the details of the feud were regulated by law, which fixed the amount of composition and the time-schedule for payment.

“Two different opinions have been put forwards as regards Anglo-Saxon legislation concerning feud. According to some scholars the kinship system appears to have been made the subject of such a large amount of legislation because it did not work: the chapters of the laws concerned with feud, in all its aspects and details, testify to an increasing failure of family concern (cf. Bridbury 1992). Other scholars have expressed the opinion that feud maintained its importance and vitality well beyond the seventh century. The bond of kinship was undeniably very important in Anglo-Saxon society and the support of the kindred was needed in all aspects of a man’s life: ‘kinship remained immensely strong in ordinary social life’ (Loyn 1974:199); at the same time, however, a strong state-authority soon developed. Kinship appears to be still powerful in the laws of Aethelberht and in those of Hlothhere. If a homicide departed from the country, his kindred were responsible for paying half the wergild (Aebt. 23)….

In the later legal codes it becomes evident that the law attempted to control feud, as the higher authority of the king attempted to exercise some of the power that the kin used to enjoy. As for the Church, it encouraged settlements by composition rather than ‘vendetta’. Bede tells of the role of Theordore of Canterbury in the settlement of the feud between Mercians and Northumbrians after the killing of King Ecgfrith’s brother, Aelfwine. At the same time, the penitentials stressed the negative side of killing, including that perpetrated by a kinsman carrying out a vendetta. In the Penitential of Theodore we read: ‘Si quis pro ultione propinqui hominem occiderit peniteat sicut homicida VII vel X annos’ (If a man slays another one to avenge a relative, he shall do penance as a murderer for seven or ten years).”

so extended families in early anglo-saxon society most definitely had “collective legal rights” — and duties!

and don’t misunderstand this wergeld payment thing. it wasn’t just a whip round that happened within one kindred with the collected cash being passed over to a representative of the other kindred. no. it’s likely that EACH member of the offender’s kindred went and physically paid his corresponding member in the victim’s kindred — paternal uncle would pay paternal uncle, maternal first cousin would pay maternal first cousin, and so on (that’s how wergeld payments happened in iceland anyway and, so it’s supposed, in the other germanic societies). THAT’s how important an individual’s kindred was. in the event of (serious) bodily injury or a killing, TWO WHOLE kindreds would be involved in the resolution.

in Kindred and clan in the Middle Ages and after: a study in the sociology of the Teutonic races (1913), bertha phillpotts argued that kindreds had more or less disappeared in england by the 600-700s, but most historians since phillpotts’ time (except for bridbury above) — like lorraine lancaster — put the date later at around ca. 1000 or 1100. this is the earliest point in anglo-saxon law tracts in which the law allows for an individual’s guild rather than kindred to be the recipient of wergeld payments — or the executor of a feud. this is a monumental shift in thinking (and feeling) in anglo-saxon society, afaiac — this is THE change from anglo-saxon society being based upon the extended family to english society being based upon friends and associates. this is HUGE.

anglo-saxon and other early medieval kings (like the frankish kings in bavaria) tried throughout the early medieval period to dampen the power of the kindreds, especially the feuding, since all that fighting seriously gets in the way of building a productive society. in the 900s, edmund i, for instance, attempted to restrict vengeance feuding to just the individual rather than whole kindreds — he issued a law exempting the kindred members from feuds if they abandoned their troublemaking kinsman [pgs. 39-40]. it was worth a shot, but probably didn’t much diminish the kindreds’ desires for revenge:

“[T]hese very efforts or aspirations reveal counter-pressures, the continuing use of violent self-help motivated by vengenance, the continuing involvement of kin and others. There must have been resistance, unconscious and conscious, to the extension of royal authority.”

indeed, feuds continued in england throughout at least the 1000s. what changed, though, was who took up the feuds — the gegildan, or the unrelated friends/associates of an individual who were his fellow oath takers. the gegildan appears in some of the anglo-saxon laws in the late-800s as an alternative group of people to whom wergeld might be paid if the wronged individual had no kin. by the 900s, though, in southern england, the gegildan might be the only group that received wergeld, bypassing kin altogether. from Wage Labor and Guilds in Medieval Europe [pgs. 39-42]:

“The laws of King Alfred of Wessex, dated to 892-893 or a few years earlier, are more informative about the *gegildan*. Again, the context is murder and the wergild — the compensation required for the crime. By Alfred’s time, if not during Ine’s, the *gegildan* is clearly a group of associates who were not related by blood. The clearest example of this is in chapter 31 of the laws: ‘If a man in this position is slain — if he has no relatives (maternal or paternal) — half the wergild shall be paid to the king, and half to the *gegildan*.’ No information exists on the purpose of the *gegildan* other than its role as a substitute for kinship ties for those without any relatives. These associates, who presumably were bound together by an oath for mutual protection, if only to identify who was responsible, would benefit anyone, whether the person had relatives or not…. Although the evidence from the laws of Ine may be read either way, the *gegildan* seems to be an old social institution. As seen more clearly in the tenth and eleventh centuries, it acquired additional functions — a policing role and a religious character.

“The nobles, clergy, and commoners of London agreed upon a series of regulations for the city, with the encouragement and approval of King Athelstan, who caused the rules to be set down some time in the late 920s or 930s. The primary purpose of these ordinances was to maintain peace and security in the city, and all those supporting these goals had solemnly pledged themselves to this *gegildan*. This type of inclusive guild, sometimes referred to as a peace guild, was an attempt to create one more additional level of social responsibility to support the king and his officials in keeping the peaces. This social group of every responsible person in London is a broad one, and the law does not use the term *gegildan* to describe the association in general….

“The idea of a guild to keep the peace was not limited to London, and a document from the late tenth century contains the rules and duties of the thegn‘s guild in Cambridge. This guild appears to have been a private association, and no king or noble is mentioned as assenting to or encouraging this group. Most of the rules concern the principle purposes of this guild — the security of the members, which receives the most attention, and the spiritual benefits of membership itself. The guild performed the tasks of the old *gegildan*: the members were obliged to defend one another, collect the wergild, and take up vengeance against anyone refusing to pay compensation. The members also swore an oath of loyalty to each other, promising to bring the body of a deceased member to a chosen burial site and supply half the food for the funeral feast. For the first time, another category of help was made explicit — the guild bound itself to common almsgiving for departed members — and the oath of loyalty the members swore included both religious and secular affairs. Although in many respects this guild resembles a confraternity along the lines Hincmar established for the archdiocese of Rheims, the older purpose of the group — mutual protection with its necessary threat of vengeance — makes the Anglo-Saxon guild something more than a prayer meeting. To include almsgiving to members in distress would be a small step, given the scope of activities this guild established. There is no sign that the thegns cooperated in any economic endeavors, but older rules of rural society had already determined methods of sharing responsibility in the villages, and the thegns cooperated on everything that was important in their lives. The thegns of Cambridge had a guild that resembles in some important ways the communal oath, that will be discussed below, of some Italian cities in the next century.”

fantastically, by the twelfth century it appears that many of the terms related to the feud were not understood and no longer really used by legal scholars and scribes [pg. 43]. in the space of about three hundred years, then — from the 900s to the 1100s — feuding in southern england seems to have gone from a regular activity engaged in by relatives, to something that a group of friends might do for one another, to eventually pretty much dying out altogether [pgs. 49-52]. but not in wales. or northern england:

What is also clear, however, is that by the twelfth century, and perhaps before, England was perceived as an area of particular peace. Authors contrasted such peace with the disorder of other areas. Writing at the end of the twelfth century, Gerald of Wales commented on the Welsh greed for land, stating that ‘law-cases in court and quarrels result, killings and arson, and frequent fratricides’, a situation he thought was made worse by the custom of partible inheritance.

“Can we tell if perception corresponded with reality? There is certainly a strong case to be made that the core of the English king’s lands differed in their practices from the periphery, most notably Northumbria. The violent dispute narrated by the ‘De obsessione’ may be the product of particular circumstances rather than a rare survival of a more general English pheonomenon. At the highest level of Northumbrian society, killing certainly was more frequent than elsewhere in England. It has been pointed out that ‘of the fourteen men to rule part or all of Northumbria between 993 and 1076, nine were killed, four had an unknown fate, and only one, Earl Siward, is thought to have died from natural causes.’ As John of Worcester’s account of the killing of Bishop Walcher of Durham in 1080 makes clear, the death of even post-Conquest rulers of Northumbria took place in a context of insult, killing, negotiation, and vengeance. If Northumberland was different, various explanations can be offered, from its geography and economy to the lack of royal presence and the conflicts between the earls and those responsible for Yorkshire.

“Difference from practices in Celtic lands may have existed well before the time of Gerald of Wales. ‘Domesday’ records the following custom under Archenfield of Herefordshire:

“‘If anyone kills one of the king’s men and commits housebreaking [*heinfaram*], he give the king 20s concerning payment for the man and 100s concering the wrong. If anyone kills a thegn’s man, he gives 10s to the dead man’s lord. But [*quod*] if a Welshmand kills a Welshman, the relatives of the slain man gather and despoil [*predantur*] the killer and his associates [*propinquos*] and burn their houses until the body of the dead man is buried the next day about noon. The king has the third part of this plunder, but they have all the rest free.’

Feud in Wales would continue beyond the twelfth century.

and in highland scotland until the 1500s. and in ireland in the form of “faction fighting” until the 1700- and early-1800s.
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so, even though they may have been living in nuclear family units, early anglo-saxons were very much tied to their extended families (kindreds) legally — and, presumably, socially — and those ties didn’t dissipate until around ca. 1000-1200, some six to eight hundred years after they settled in england. i have my own ideas as to why that was — and most of you know what they are, so i won’t repeat them now (you’re welcome! (~_^) ). a couple of important things to keep in mind, though:

– family types must be looked at in context — for instance, just because a group lives in nuclear family units does not necessarily mean that its members don’t have strong ties with their extended family;

– kinship ties are not broken quickly and certainly not via laws that only address the superficial symptoms of those ties (like feuds) — the fundamentals must be changed (and those fundamentals are mating patterns, i think … sorry! couldn’t resist saying it. (^_^) )
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*update 10/24: i meant to say in the post, and i forgot (typical), that bennett and lotus acquired a lot of their info about — and have based much of their thinking on — anglo-saxon family types and the importance of the nuclear familiy in anglo-saxon society from f.w. maitland‘s historical work on english law.

i haven’t read maitland, so i can’t comment on any of it, but i will do one of these days and will no doubt post about it. if you want to get a head start on me, check out these sources (h/t michael lotus – thanks, michael!):

F.W. Maitland And The Making Of The Modern World [pdf] from alan macfarlane.
The History of English Law before the Time of Edward I, 2 vols. [1898] by pollack and maitland. see vol II, ch VI, first 10 pgs re the kindred per michael lotus.
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previously: the anglo-saxons and america 3.0 and the saxons, the anglo-saxons, and america 3.0 and medieval germanic kindreds…and the ditmarsians and more on medieval germanic kindreds and kinship in anglo-saxon society and kinship in anglo-saxon society ii

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gypsies and cousin marriage

i know you’ve been wondering.

well, obviously the gypsies are a highly endogamous group — they mostly marry other gypsies. the actual cousin marriage rates vary though from (as you’ll see below) ca. 10-30% first cousin only marriages amongst gypsies in slovakia to 29% first+second cousin marriages amongst gypsies in spain [pdf] to 36% first+second cousin marriages amongst gypsies in wales [pdf]. these rates are comparable to those found in places like turkey (esp. eastern turkey) or north africa…or southern india.

consang.net tells us that the rates of first cousin marriage (that includes double-first cousin marriage) amongst slovakian gypsies ranges from 10.1% to 14.7% [pdf – pg. 10 – i think the reference is to this 1994 paper].

another study of gypsies in slovakia (in svinia) found that the cousin marriage rates have actually increased over time since the early twentieth century, the researcher guesses due to the increasing population size (the more cousins around to marry, the more cousin marriage – maybe?). from Svinia in Black and White: Slovak Roma and Their Neighbours (2005) [pgs. 84-85]:

“Analysis of the marital choices made by local Roma shows that 75 per cent of the children born here between the 1930s and the early 1970s had a least one parent who hailed from elsewhere, whereas that ratio fell to 25 per cent during subsequent years. This dramatic shift doesn’t mean that young people no longer leave Svinia for spouses in other settlements — some continue to do so — but it does mean that of those who remain behind, which is the vast majority, far fewer end up with spouses from outside the community than used to be the case with their parents and grandparents.

“I don’t know how to explain this remarkable shift toward settlement endogamy. The people who are responsible for it don’t indicate any significant changes in their preferences, and the most plausible conclusion one can draw in the absence of evidence pointing in a different direction is to correlate the shift with the dramatic increase in Svinia’s population size, which translates into a corresponding growth of the local marriage universe. Unlike their parents and grandparents who lived in a small community that imposed strict limits on their choice of partners, the people who have reached maturity in more recent years have faced a much expanded pool of potential local partners, enabling them to make a selection within their own settlement.

“The result of this shift has been a decrease in the amount of traffic between Svinia and other Romani communities. Every marriage with a resident of another settlement brings about increased contact between the two communities. Relatives and friends travel to and fro as they attend baptisms, birthday parties, funerals, and other important events…. The shift from choosing mostly spouses from other settlements to marrying predominantly one’s own neighbours has gone hand in hand with a remarkable increase in the rate of unions between relatives. It is certain that common-law marriage involving close relatives did exist among Svinia’s first- and second-generation Roma. Indeed, there is strong evidence that the common-law spouse of Bartolomej (1912-73), one of Juraj and Hania’s sons and the founder of one of the lineages of *jarkovci*, was his biological niece. And of Hania and Juraj’s 27 grandchildren who remained in Svinia and found partners there, seven chose first cousins or first cousins once removed. But this rate of roughly 25 per cent pales in comparison with the situation among the third- and fourth-generation: people who have reached maturity during the last 30 years or so and who have remained in their ancestral settlement. Of the 159 persons in this category, 101 (or close to 65 per cent) opted for a biologically related partner. Roughly one half of these unions involves close cousins — first and once removed — while the other half consists of more distant degrees of consanguinity….

“Interestingly, local Roma profess avoidance of cousin marriage, and few of those who have broken this norm will disclose it voluntarily. Confronted with genealogical evidence, most will shrug their shoulders and declare pragmatically that affection overrides conventions. On the other hand, many people have such a vague grasp of their own ancestry that they cannot establish the identities of all four grandparents. This means that more distantly linked spouses, such as second or third cousins, are often not even aware of their relationship.”

and here about gypsies in albania from Roma and Egyptians in Albania: From Social Exclusion to Social Inclusion (2005) (egyptians??) [pg. 18]:

“Most marriages, especially among Roma, are intra-ethnic and arranged through match-makers. In fact, 95 percent of Roma and 74 percent of Egyptians preferred members of their own ethnic group as marriage partners.

“Traditional Marriage Partners. Most Roma and Egyptians still marry within their own ethnic group. More Egyptians than Roma would accept a marriage between a family member and an Albanian.

Among many Roma families, moreover, marriage partners must be members of their own primary *fis*. Many Cergar and Bamill Roma in Delvina, Gjirokastra, Levan, Fier, Fushe Kruja, and Korca arrange marriages between first and second cousins. Endogamy is practiced by some Roma in isolated localities, or by Roma that recently migrated from the country, and is explained by the limited access to available marriage patterns there. Roma explain endogamy through such metaphors as ‘The good horse should be sold within the village’ and ‘Why should the good apple get eaten by someone else?’

“The tradition of marrying members of one’s own primary *fis* is, however, undergoing change. One Roma leader in Tirana explained: ‘Many marriages happen nowadays between members of different Roma *fise*, whereas before they didn’t. Everyone wanted [to marry someone] from his own *fis*. My father and my wife’s father belong to the same *fis*; therefore my wife and I married…Today, however, the youth don’t care about this tradition, and they’ve even started marrying whites, Egyptians, or Roma from other *fise*.’

“Marriage with a member of another ethnic group is sometimes punished with ostracism….”

we’ve heard about these *fise* in the balkans before. here’s more about the gypsy *fise* (i think we can just call them clans) [pgs. 21-22]:

“Roma social organization is based on the *fis*. Members of one *fis* are usually persons who patrilineally descend from a common male *fis* name. The main branches of the *fis* — large families — serve as the bases for the creation of new *fise*.

“Arben, a Roma who enjoys a high standing within his *fis*, explained: ‘My *fis* is made up of all cousins [first, second] that have my last name, Demir.’ When a *fis* extends for several generations into a few dozen families, *fis* membership can reach into the hundreds. Now into its third generation, the Demir *fis* is composed of approximately 70 families and several hundred individuals.

“*Fis* structures can take several forms. Many Roma only consider persons with a common last name as *fis* members. But some Roma think that the children of female *fis* members can still be considered *fis* members although they have different last names. The concept of the *fis* is relative and dependent upon the outlook of *fis* members and the point in the family tree from which the *fis* begins. Patrilineage indicates an ongoing social change. But while patrilineage has, up to now, been a rather stable form of kinship social organization of the Roma *fis*, forms of matrilineage have become less common.”

and, finally, on some gypsies in romania — Exploring Gypsiness: Power, Exchange and Interdependence in a Transylvanian Village (2007) [pg. 79]:

“The only restrictions of marriage among the hamlet Roma are between members of the immediate family, between uncles and nieces, aunts and nephews and between Roma and gaže [that’s us]. These restrictions are, however, not expressed as rules, but as a self-evident question of morality and practicality. As the gaže ‘have no shame’ and do not speak Romanes, and as such mixed marriages are also rejected by gaže, they will not generally happen. As marriage to gaže does not create alliance, and thus kinship, it is not strategically interesting. When such marriages did occur they were the result of individual choice, but were not rejected if they were seen as prosperous for the family household or familia in general. The hamlet Roma preferred to marry Roma of their own subgroup, generally Roma to whom they were already related. Although most Roma told us that it was bad to marry too close, first- and second-cousin marriages were common, both between cross and parallel cousins (vero/verisoara). These were regarded as true Roma (Roma cace), people one knows and can trust because they already belong to one’s kin network and speak Romanes properly.
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how long have gypsies been marrying close cousins at these rates? who knows. long time probably.

*edit 10/24: anonymous points out that the “gypsies” on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding are actually irish travellers — or mostly irish travellers. thanks, anonymous! the irish travellers marry their cousins A LOT.

/edit

apparently, a couple of the principles on My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding who got married were first cousins. caused a bit of a stir among some non-gypsy viewers i guess. i must’ve missed that episode. (~_^) interesting to see here the restrictions on women — related to reproduction, of course — just like in other inbreeding groups — like the arabs, for instance:

“‘My Big Fat Gypsy Wedding’ stars believe in incest, not pre-marital sex”

“…The show’s stars add that they also embrace traditional values and distinct gender roles.

“‘We don’t believe in sleeping with men before we are married,’ Annie explained. ‘The woman’s role in a gypsy family is to stay home, take care of kids, clean, get your nails done, and take care of duties at home. The kids, especially the girls, are learning to clean the house and parents are very strict on them. Growing up I was not allowed to stay at friends’ houses even when I was 15 or 16 years old, I was not allowed to go to parties or have a boyfriend or do anything. I just cleaned the house.’

“Nettie continued that the ‘normal age for a girl to get married is between 16 and 18,’ and that females are allowed fewer freedoms than their male counterparts.

“‘It is just the way we were brought up,’ she insisted. ‘A girl has more at risk with her reputation than a boy does. A girl has to go a little further than a guy to protect her reputation. A girl is to be looked at as a decent young girl, where a boy can do whatever and nobody is going to look at him in a bad way….'”

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