Among the ancient Arabs, Persians and Hebrews, the parent's will was supreme. According to the law of Jahveism, a father was permitted to sell his child to relieve his personal necessities, or to offer it to his creditor in pledge for a debt.* Death was the penalty for striking, or even cursing a parent; although the penalty must be inflicted, not by the parent himself, but by the communal court of the elders.*1 A Hebrew father not only selected a husband for his daughter but wives for his sons;* and in the precepts of Ptah-Hotep, which dispute with the Book of Job the claim of being the oldest book in the world, and which was the household law among the Egyptians, we read that "the son who accepts the word of his father will attain old age on that account."1
The ancient Roman claimed, and was awarded by law, the jus vita necisque over his children. He could imprison, Bell, destroy or otherwise dispose of them, under an explicit law of the Twelve Tablee (Duodecem Tabularum Fragmenta); and from Plutarch we learn that "Brutus condemned his sons to death, without judicial forms, not as consul, but as a father." The consent of the paterfamilias was always a condition of marriage; and children could not contract a legal union if this were withheld.1 Filial subjection of the son to the father also existed among the primitive Greeks, but, as Westermarck points out, "disappeared at an early period in Athens, and somewhat later at Sparta."
The relations of Ulysses and Laertes, in the OdyBsey, is quoted to show that at least in the decrepitude of age a father might be deposed from the headship of a clan, or family. At Athens, a son was held within the father's power until his twenty-first year; while women remained in a condition of nonage throughout life. A woman's power over property passed to her husband at márriage; and M I rule she was given in marriage by the parent without being consulted, and frequently to a man she did not even know.*
1 Quoted by Westermarck, loc. cit,, p. 229. The daughter or sister, however, could not be sold, anions the early Greeks, unless she were found to be a wanton.
Among the early Teutons, while the father possessed the power of selling his children, an adult son could, if he wished, put an infirm parent to death; and Pardessus tells us that, among the Franks, no such patria poiestas existed as among the Romans.5 In choosing a wife, however, the young man had to take council of his kin, who usually passed on the eligibility of the lady, and determined the nature and value of the bridal gifts, women always being regarded as helpless and dependent.
In Russia, the word father (Batushka) is applied indiscriminately to the head of the family; to the starosta, the governor of a province, the emperor, and to God; showing the measure of respect and reverence in which the title is held.* The same rule holds among all the Slavonic races; the South Slavonian youth, according to Dr. Krauss,7 not being permitted to make a proposal of marriage to a girl without the will and consent of his parents; the daughter, of course, enjoying still less individual freedom.