Most savage marriages are pure matters of pleasure and convenience, contracted without formality and abrogated on the slightest, or no, pretext. A large portion of the old men in Central Africa do not personally know half their children; and, per contra, the well known aphorism about the wisdom of the child who knows its own father finds nowhere else, possibly, so apt an illustration.
The great chiefs of Tasmania, Milligan remarks, " make no scruple about a succession of wives;"4 and in Samoa, if the marriage is contracted for property, or the pleasures of the festivity, as is often the case, the wife is not likely to be with her husband more than a few days.'
Among the Dyaks, instances are common of young girls who have already lived with three or four husbands;* and the Yendaline women in Indo-China have frequently families by two or three different husbands.' The Maldivians are so fond of a change that it is not uncommon for a man to divorce and remarry the same woman half a dozen times;* and Knox tells us the Cingalese have to marry four or five times before they are suited sufficiently to settle down for life.*
Burckhardt knew Bedouins of forty who had had upwards of fifty wives; and in Persia a wife is taken for a stipulated period, which may vary from one hour to ninety-nine years.1 Mr. Lane had heard of men in Egypt who—in defiance of the monogamous custom of antiquity—had " been in the habit of marrying a new wife every month;"* among the Moors of the Sahara it is considered "low" for a couple to live together too long; and— mirabile dictu! as an example of how history repeats itself—"the leaders of fashion were those who had been the oftenest divorced."*
1 Of such examples the wives of Lucan, Pompey and Drusus, are memorable. 1 "Germania," XIX,
*" Uxorem vivam amare voluptas; delunctam religio." Statins, "Sylvie," in proem.
In Abyssinia marriage was entered into not for life but a number of years;4 and the Bondo husband exchanged wives so frequently that it was a puzzle to fix the fatherhood of the children. Both Rawlinson and Lecky mention the facility of divorce in Persia, as in perfect accordance with the looseness of Iranian law with respect to marriage and women in general; while among the Greeks and Teutons, although divorces sometimes were granted, the practice never grew to the same disgraceful proportions as it did in Rome during the close of the Republic and the beginning of the Empire.5
Among uncivilized races, as a matter of fact, a man may discard his wife about when he pleases. The Aleuts traded theirs for clothes, beads and jack-knives;11 and a Tonga husband's law of divorce was simply telling his wife to go.7