When a man marries with one woman it is monogamy ; with two, bigamy; with many women, polygyny; and when one woman marries with many men —not a frequent occurrence—it is known as polyandry. Polygyny was permitted by most of the early nations of the world, and is still practised by many civilized Oriental races, as well as by almost every savage tribe. As in the case of the queen mother of the Turkish harem, the Mexicans, Peruvians, Chinese, Japanese and Koreans, have, along with their lesser wives, or concubines, a legitimate or favored wife, whose children enjoy superior rights, privileges and distinctions. Both polygyny and concubinage were practised by the Jews in the patriarchal and later ages, and were not interdicted by the Mosaic law. Thus, Esau married Judith and Bashemath;1 Abraham, Sarah and Hagar;1 and Jacob, Leah and Rachel;' while, during the kingdom, both David and Solomon illustrated very forcibly the freedom of the Jewish law from matrimonial restrictions.
Indeed, polygyny was so common that no person thought of criticising it* It was practised by the Jews during the Middle Ages, and in Mohammedan countries prevails even yet.5 Diodorus Siculus tells us that the Egyptians enjoyed perfect freedom as to the number of their wives; everyone marrying as many as he pleased; with the exception of priests, who were restricted by law to one. They had also many concubines; but these appear to have been mostly, if not entirely, women captured in war.* We are told, concerning the Assyrians,' that their kings, at least, appear as monogamists, although it is extremely likely that concubinage was also practised. In Media, on the other hand, polygyny was a custom among the wealthier classes; and the Persian kings of later, and even modern times, were noted in history for the splendor and extent of their harems.*
None of the laws of India restricts men in the number of their wives, many cases of polygyny being mentioned in the Vedic hymns; and the Laws of Manu expressly provide that the Hindu "may marry as many wives, and by custom keep as many concubines, as he may choose."9
In the Homeric age, concubines were common, being regarded as halfwives,1 although Priam's appears to have been the only well authenticated case of actual polygyny.1 Among the Romans, while concubinage .seems to have been general, the mass of the people were more strictly monogamous. The concubine was always carefully distinguished from the legal wife, and the rights and privileges of children were bestowed with a jealous eye to this distinction.'
Among the Teutons, Scandinavians, Russians and Finns, the plural marriage was well recognized as an institution; and even in the Christian world polygyny, in the early ages, was distinctly tolerated, if not sanctioned. It was practised by the early Merovingian kings, and a law of Charles the Great seems to imply that it was not unknown even to the clergy.* Caribert and Chilperic had both a plurality of wives;5 and Clotaire married the sister of his first wife, during the lifetime of the latter; consent being given in the mock words of the wife—"let my lord do what seemeth good in his sight; only let thy servant live in thy favor."1
St. Columbanus was driven out of Gaul for his denunciation of the polygyny of King Thierry;' and Dagobert had, in addition to three wives, a whole multitude of concubines; so that the modern morganatic, or "left-handed," marriage of royalty, we see, had ample authority in the customs of the past. Not only had the great Charlemagne two wives, but a whole battalion of ftlles de joie;* and "polygyny, in this qualified form, has remained a tolerated privilege of royalty down to the present time."*
St. Augustine expressly said he did not condemn polygyny;10 and Luther permitted Philip of Hessen to marry two women to accomplish a certain political purpose. Indeed, he openly declared that, in view of the silence of Christ on the matter, " he could not forbid the taking of more than one wife;"11 while, as later exponents of the same view, it is well known the Mormons regard polygyny as a divine institution. In fact monogamy, having no sanction in the Old Testament, and being only negatively, if at all, taught and enjoined in the New, were it not for the beneficent influence it exercises upon society, the home, and the state, might well be discarded altogether, both as a theological dogma and statutory decree.
It is probable, notwithstanding the general opinion, that polygyny had its origin among a sexually weak, rather than a sexually strong people. The races of the East, with whom it is proverbially indigenous, through climatic and other enervating influences, are naturally less virile than the Northern races, placing checks upon the sexual passion, from religious and superstitious causes, which would be badly borne, I fear, by the latter. And the Bame may be said of savages.
Hubert and Maus, in their essay on sacrifice,1 have pointed out how frequently sexual relationships are prohibited by religious observances; and quite recently Crawley,1 in describing the occultism of taboo, has very fully elaborated the traditional influences which tended to the promotion of chastity among primitive races. Numbers of cases, from various portions of the world, are cited to show where intercourse has been delayed for days, weeks, and even months after marriage, in conformity to certain religious laws; and a trace of the church asceticism of later times is found in the early history of the Oriental pagans.
Dion Chrysostom advocated the suppression of prostitution by law. Apollonius of Tyana, though a pagan, lived a life of celibacy.* Zenobia refused to cohabit with her husband, except on the ground of producing an heir; and Hypatia is Baid to have preserved her virginity, though a wife.*