happy council of agde day!

september 10, 506 — 1,508 years ago today — was the final day of the council of agde, a meeting of bishops from all over what was then the visigothic kingdom in southern france (and spain, too, obviously). the council was headed by caesarius of arles and held at the basilica of st. andrew. (don’t know on which day the council was convened — sometime in late august.) the church is still there, btw!:

agde

an interesting little sidenote is that the visigoths at the time were still arians, so this meeting of bishops really related to, and would’ve affected only, the gallo-roman population of the region. in fact, the bishops were all very much gallo-romans themselves!

anyway, the council issued numerous canons, one of which forbade marriage to first and second cousins. this is the earliest official cousin marriage ban by the church that i know of, although st. augustine of hippo (d.430) certainly discussed at length in his The City of God (early fifth century) how it would be a good thing if christians were to marry out, a theme that st. aquinas would later pick up on.

people often ask me: “so why did the church get it into its head to ban cousin marriage, hbd chick?”

i. don’t. know. (*^_^*)

as i said above, this is the earliest official ban against cousin marriage from church authorities that we know of. what possessed the gallo-roman bishops at agde to do so, i have no idea. bishop caesarius was certainly an interesting fellow though. for instance, he thought that all priests and bishops (and nuns) ought to live austere lives like monks, and he actually instituted that policy in his own disocese, so i suspect that he was one of these guys who really did want to recreate god’s kingdom here on earth as much as possible, and he seems to have practiced what he preached.

caesarius’ teacher was one julianus pomerius, and his teacher was st. augustine, so here we have a direct line from augustine — who thought that christians ought to marry out — to caesarius and his council issuing this marriage canon. the funny thing is, though, augustine’s teacher was st. ambrose (d.397) who also had some things to say about cousin marriage — in fact, it was apparently he who recommended to theodosius i (d.395) to issue a secular ban against cousin marriage in the empire (theodosius did, but it didn’t stick — theodosius ii rescinded the ban). funnily enough, ambrose, like caesarius, was also from gaul (trier), so we come nearly full circle with these connections.

i suspect that the idea of avoiding cousin marriage was somehow a roman idea which was familiar to these early, urbanized, roman (or romanized) church leaders, one which they began to utilize when they encountered all these clannish barbarians (in gaul and in north africa, for example) and, as christopher burd put it on twitter, uncivilized, inbreeding country “hicks” in general. my guess is that they were trying to come up with a way to get rid of all the clannish infighting — and their plan just happened to work MUCH better than they ever imagined.

what i don’t understand — and what i need to find out more about — is how the early medieval church functioned. how the hierarchy worked and how the issuing of rules and regulations happened.

i’ve read a little about this council of agde now, and the historians i’ve read describe it as a “national” council — their scare quotes, not mine — since, unlike one of the huge church councils such as nicaea, the bishops who attended agde were only local — just from the areas in southern france held by the visigoths. what i want to know is, were the canons issued at agde binding everywhere then, or just in southern france there? could bishops in southern italy or ireland or constantinople just say, oh h*ck, we’re not going to follow those silly canons, or were they obliged to? or did canons issued by “national” councils need to be approved by rome first? i have no idea. Further Research is RequiredTM.

if canons issued by local councils only applied locally, that might explain why cousin marriage appears to have continued for some time after 506, like among the franks, for instance, who were just a stone’s throw away in northern france (until they took over the visigothic kingdom!), but who don’t seem to have taken these cousin marriage bans seriously until something like the 700s.

we do know, though, that rome was definitely behind the cousin marriage bans by the late sixth-early seventh centuries. augustine of canterbury (d.604) was sent in 595 to convert the anglo-saxons in england by pope gregory the great. he wrote to pope gregory in a panic asking what he should do about all the cousin marriage among the anglo-saxons, to which gregory replied that the newly converted should be allowed to remain married to their cousins, but going forward, NO cousin marriage.

how and when hq back in rome began backing this idea remains to be discovered.

anyway…happy council of agde day to you all! (^_^)

(note: comments do not require an email. 12th-century reliquary of caesarius of arles.)

Advertisements

la endogamia en la españa medieval

ok. so, moving counter-clockwise around the periphery of europe: spain.

medieval spain is complicated. ¡muy, muy complicado! there are so many different populations: visigoths, other germanics, moors, basques, cantabri, jews…. so, this is not going to be the last word on inbreeding in medieval spain at all. it’s barely even the first word.

but, broadly speaking — really broadly speaking — there was a north/more outbred versus a south/more inbred divide in medieval spain. that’s pretty much because you had christians in the north who, like we’ve seen, were under pressure from the church authorities to out-marry; and you had muslims in the south who brought with them their tradition of strong inbreeding.

the visigoths controlled a large part of the iberian peninsula in the early medieval period (418-721). they converted (or, at least, their king at the time did) to nicene christianity in the late 500s (they’d been arian christians before that). ausenda suggests that the pre-christian visigoths married close-relatives, including cousins, and that they had a patrilineal, tribal society. like the other gemanic tribes, they began to outbreed more and more after converting to christianity since the church demanded out-marrying.

this scenario is probably more or less correct, but i wonder if the visigoths were actually less influenced by the church’s laws than other germanic peoples living further north, like the franks. mitterauer insists, rightly so imho, that tribalism and feudalism do not go together (see, for example, the irish). you cannot get to a feudal society until you get rid of tribalism — and you cannot do that without outbreeding. the visigoths in spain, according to mitterauer, were less feudalistic than their counterparts the franks, so perhaps they hadn’t moved so far along the outbreeding path as the franks during the early medieval period.

then the moors arrived and wreaked bloody havoc on the whole system.

from “Islamic and Christian Spain in the early Middle Ages” by thomas glick [pg. 146]:

“Until recently, the nature of kinship and its shaping effect upon social and political institutions in medieval Spain was not a topic accorded much importance by historians…. This imbalance has been rectified by the work of Pierre Guichard, who has demonstrated the tribal organization of Andalusi society of the Emirate and, in the Christian orbit, Ruiz-Domenec, Garcia de Cortazar, and others have identified the dissolution of the extended family as a significant and central social process of the high middle ages.

the latter pattern we’ve seen already amongst the northern germanics: the church and tptb put an end (more or less) to inbreeding in those populations which brought about the demise of the tribes. the introduction of the feudal/manorial system plus continued outbreeding further broke down the extended family (a tribe being just a very extended family) leaving central europeans with nuclear or stem families (a stem family is where one married child remains living with his parents, so you get grandparents + a nuclear family in one household).

more from glick [pgs. 146-48]:

“The Arabs and Berbers who conquered the peninsula did so not as isolated warriors, but as members of organized tribal groups. The Arabs and most of their early Berber allies were members of agnatic, patrilineal groups forming a segmentary social system, whereby individuals belonged to a hierarchy of increasingly inclusive segments, from the clan up to the tribal confederation. The basic tribal unit, the qawm (variously translated fraction or clan), is a unit of several hundred tents or families, linked agnatically. That is, the kinship system ascribes importance only to relationship through males. In such a system, endogamous marriages are viewed as the ideal because through endogamy power, prestige, and wealth are retained within the agnatic group rather than shared with a competing group into which a daughter might marry, with parallel-cousin marriages (the wedding of one’s son with the daughter of the paternal uncle [i.e. fbd marriage]) preferred. A cross-cousin marriage (with the daughter of the maternal uncle or paternal aunt) is considered exogamous because the offspring gain a different lineage. The more powerful a tribal group is, the more women it will attract from outside, the fewer it will lose, and the more endogamous it will become.

“Guichard demonstrates that the early Muslim residents of the peninsula settled in tribal or sub-tribal groups and that, indeed, it was the policy of important figures to travel with tribal entourages and to reconstitute their clans once the decision to settle in al-Andalus had been reached….

“Segmentary organization gives rise to typical political forms. The basic unit is the clan — the Arab qawm, the Berber canton — which lives and fights together. The segmentary tribal structure makes it possible for such groups to subsist in relative isolation and, at the same time, because they are embedded in larger solidarities, to join in political or military federations with related groups. This gives rise to the kaleidoscopic pattern of atomization and amalgamation which is so characteristic of western Islamic, particularly Berber, society.”

so, in moorish spain, we have arabs and berbers practicing fbd marriage and living in a tribalistic society. tens of thousands of people who had been living in spain before the arrival of the moors converted to islam during the medieval period. it’s unclear to me what percentage of them adopted the marriage practices of the conquerers. it sounds, however, as though it was not an insignificant amount as glick points out [pg. 151]:

[C]onsanguinity remained a powerful social force [throughout the middle ages] (and so remained even among the Moriscos of the sixteenth century, who resisted taking Spanish names because such an act made it impossible to keep track of agnatic lineages), as did ethnicity.”

finally, from glick again [pgs. 149-51]:

“Arab and Berber tribal structure found political expression in the organization of confederations or alliances, which were formed according to the underlying logic of segmentary societies. The essence of this kind of political organization is that politics is viewed as a zero-sum game. The wealth, power, and prestige of one’s own group are increased only by decreasing those of a rival group, leading to a more or less permanent state of conflict between neighboring groups as well as to characteristic patterns of alliances….

“Much of the political history of al-Andalus, therefore, is occupied with accounts of tribal in-fighting, generally along lines of moiety division….”

this is totally unlike what was happening in northern europe throughout the middle ages. northern europeans became less tribal — in spain, especially southern parts of spain, tribal life was alive and well.

until the reconquista.

glick describes how, in the wake of the reconquista, feudal structures took hold throughout spain, starting in the north and progressively moving southwards. the population converted back to (or to) catholicism — ’cause they had to — and, presumably, they had to start following the catholic codes on marriage, altho as we saw above the mariscos resisted this for quite a long time.

quite extraordinarily, researchers looking at catholic church dispensations for cousin marriage in sigüenza in north-central spain between the 1950s and 1980s found that the folks there were marrying their first- and second-cousins at a rate of 12.6% [pg. 4; abstract here]. in the early 1940s, the overall rate for endogamous marriage in spain — and this is including uncle-niece marriage — was 4.1% [pg. 4]. the overall rate for france in the late 1940s was 0.8%; london in 1950, 0.4%; the netherlands in the late 1940s, 0.2% [pgs. 2 & 5]. close relative marriage has obviously remained more common and more important for longer in spain than in northern european populations.

so, now we’ve looked at one of the i’s and the s. the p is prolly pretty similar to spain. next stop, italy. aaaaaah — la dolce vita! (^_^)

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

previously: inbreeding in europe’s periphery

also previously: northern vs. southern spanish iq, redux and, from the reluctant apostate, Mapping The 2009 PISA Results For Spain And Italy

(note: comments do not require an email. ¡olé!)

inbreeding amongst germanic tribes

in “Kinship and marriage among the Visigoths“, giorgio ausenda tries to elucidate the … well … kinship and marriage patterns amongst the visigoths!

there’s not a lot of direct evidence to work from, so ausenda looks at the law codes from various germanic tribes (visigoths, lombards, alamanni, bavarians) from different time periods as well as at the gothic bible (kinship terms, etc.) for any indirect evidence.

he finds that the patrilineal side of the family was of primary importance in germanic tribes and that the father’s brothers were significant members of the germanic family. related to this, he finds some hints — but only indirect ones — that parallel cousin may have been a common form of marriage in germanic tribes early on, possibly even the preferred one. in any event, he does think that endogamous marriage was probably the norm in earlier periods, but then a shift occurred (due to pressure from the church and the state) towards more exogamous marriage practices.

below are some key passages from ausenda. first, here’s some info on the sources he used:

Lex Visigothorum – ca. 480 (Code of Euric) / 654
Pactus Alamannorum / Lex Alamannorum – ca. 620 / 730
– Lombardian laws – Edictum Rothari – 643 A.D.
Lex Baiwariorum [Bavaria] – ca. 745
Liutprand’s Law – King of the Lombards – 8th century
Gothic Bible or Wulfila’s Bible – 6th-8th centuries

pg. 142:

We know from the laws that the paternal uncle was the most important next of kin after the father. In the Leges Alamannorum XL [early 7th century or 8th century] De patricidiis et fratricidiis, the patruus [paternal uncle] comes right after the father and before the brother. In Rothari’s [643 A.D.] edict the paternal uncle is called barbas or barbanus in its latinized form. The term is mentioned in Ro. 163 as referring to one of the closest relatives against whom someone might plot death. The closest relatives mentioned in that law, with the paternal uncles, were brothers and parallel cousins, i.e., the closest male agnates beyond the father….

This is in tune with kinship relationships among social groups with patrilineal descent where, in general, the father’s brother is the most important kin next to the father.

pg. 143-44:

“One of the main characteristics of agro-pastoral populations to this day is their high degree of endogamy, i.e. marriage with close relatives within the lineage or corporate group. In fact the great majority of present-day agro-pastoralists are characterized by unilinear descent and in most cases the paternal line is the priviliged one. At the time of the invasion [of Rome], the Langobards [Lombards] had a patrilineal descent system. This is shown beyond reasonable doubt by the genealogies written in the prologues to their laws and in their histories. That they had a segmentary lineage system [e.g. clans & sub-clans] cannot be established beyond doubt, but is highly probable….

“As far as the Langobards [Lombards] are concerned, practically no direct clue is available in their laws as to whether they had preferential marriage and whether this was with a parallel cousin [e.g. fbd]. The adoption of Christianity must have caused considerable changes to occur with respect to pre-existing marriage customs about which practically nothing is known directly.”

pg. 145:

The early exsitence of preferential marriage among close kin can be inferred from later laws forbidding those marriages considered ‘illicit’ and ‘incestuous.’

“In Rothari’s edict [643 A.D.] the only prohibition, mentioned in Ro. 185, is against marriage with a (widowed) step-mother or (widowed) sister-in-law — for the widower — with a step-daughter; however, there is no specific law against close kin marriage, i.e. close cousins. Perhaps this is an indication that, until three generations after Langobardic [Lombardian] settlement in Italy, endogamous marriages were still practiced….

A law among the Leges Alamannorum [early 7th century or 8th century] has almost the same wording [as a law in the Leges Baiwariorum] and the same penalty, but stresses also prohibition against parallel cousin marriage, ‘filii fratrum, filii sororum inter se nulla praesumptione iungantur.’

“In the later Leges Visigothorum Chindaswinth [642/643 A.D.] substituted the law of the previous Eurician code [c. 480] with a wider prohibition which excluded from marriage persons ‘from the father’s or mother’s descent, and from the grandfather or grandmother or the wife’s parents, also the father’s wife or widow or left by his relatives…thus no one shall be permitted to pollute in a libidinous way, or desire in marriage close blood [relations] until the sixth degree of descent.’ The law exempts those persons who, ‘with the order and consent of the princes, before the law [was enacted] should have adopted this [form of] marriage.’ Again more than a hint that close-kin marriages were practiced in the early days and gradually prohibited by increasingly strict laws.

pg. 147-48:

Langobardic [Lombardian] laws concerning forbidden marriages also became stricter over time. Liutprand 33 [8th century] forbade marriage with the widow of a cousin, but no further prohibitions were reflected in the laws. We know, however, that more extended prohibitions were made compulsory by the Church….

“This shows that both Church and State were interested in forbidding close kin marriages. Their common concern becomes clear when one bears in mind the recognized difficulty the Church had, from the fourth century onwards, in expanding into the countryside….

In conclusion, the strenuous effort [by the Church] to penetrate the countryside entailed a long-drawn battle against traditional religion, whose vehicle was the kin group, and substituting the authority of the elders of the kin group with that of a religious elder, the presbyteros. At the same time the king’s rule was undermined by revolts on the part of the most powerful kin groups, clans or sections, whose conspiracies and murders menaced the power of the state. Thus Church and State became allies in trying to do aways with the political power of extended kin groups utilizing all manners of impositions. One of the most effective among them was to destroy their cohesiveness by prohibition of close kin marriage.

edit: boilerplate and boilerplate 2.0

previously: whatever happened to european tribes?

update 06/29: see also more on inbreeding in germanic tribes

(note: comments do not require an email. or any geneaological skillz.)