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How the ban on incest spawned European civilization with its individualism
How the ban on incest spawned European civilization with its individualism

An international group of scholars decided to see how the incest taboo worked after the consolidation of the Christian church in Europe on society. Their conclusion is that it seems that modern civilization has developed largely due to the ban on marriage between relatives. Although, of course, this was not the only factor, the effect on the processes in society was strong.

Incest was more popular than people think

In many cultures, some form of intimate relationship was practiced, and the most common motive was property. It happened, of course, that a group of people turned out to be too isolated to seek alliances with other groups, but, as it turned out, the incest taboo of the second reason often helped to overcome, so that considerations regarding property are primary.

In the ruling dynasties of Ancient Egypt and the Incas, the marriage of rulers to their own sisters was practiced. Although it was explained by the fact that no one, except the children of the previous king, can be sufficiently equal to each other, there is a hypothesis that this is an echo of matrilineal, that is, inheritance along the female line, which was characteristic of many ancient peoples. This type of inheritance is characteristic of living with new husbands - when, instead of fathers, children are raised by maternal uncles.

The right to incest was also interpreted as an indicator of closeness to the gods, for whom, as you know, incest was permitted

In the foreseeable (written) past, both the Quechua and the Egyptians transferred property within a family created by a man and a woman, but the very practice of marrying sisters can go back to the past, not described by anyone - when the land was still inherited by the daughters of the clan. In Europe, echoes of this custom are heard in children's fairy tales, when the king promises to give half of the kingdom to his daughter's groom. Men from the ruling dynasties of the Incas and Egyptians could decide to transfer everything to their sons - and not breaking the tradition, this could only be done through the marriage of a young man with an heiress-sister.

Although for many other families, the question of inheriting the kingdom was not raised, the motives were still the same. In many medieval Muslim countries, a wedding was encouraged "with my uncle's daughter", that is, with a cousin, and in some Turkic tribes a closer alliance with a sister on the father's side (but not on the mother's side - by the way, the taboo on maternal kinship can also go to the custom of matrilineal). In the case of such a union, one did not have to think that the kalym and the dowry would harm the welfare of the clan. Everything continued to belong to one large family.

So, in Europe, for the same reasons, marriages between cousins ​​and second cousins ​​were popular - in general, within the same family - in the early Middle Ages, and later too. It was assumed that this makes the clan more cohesive and allows you not to scatter your property, not to divide the land, and so on.

The early Middle Ages were harsh

Why the ban on intra-family marriages affected more than just property issues

At the very beginning of the sixth century in the south of France, the "founding fathers" of the Catholic Church gathered in order to establish a number of prohibitions and vectors of development for their flock and clergy. Among other things, it was decided to prohibit closely related marriages - up to the seventh generation (a similar prohibition exists in the Orthodox Church, but the researchers considered only Western and Central Europe).

In practice, this meant that often lay people calmly received permission for marriages in less strict boundaries, no closer than to the fourth generation; but in some places the custom of marrying with closer relatives persisted - when the priesthood condoned him. Nevertheless, thanks to the relentless propaganda of the "unwholesome" of marriages within one large family and the spread of the influence of the Catholic Church, incestuous unions have been abandoned in an increasing number of countries. Church records of marriage dating back to 1500 allowed researchers to trace this process.

In fact, this meant not only that the territories began to be redrawn due to the fact that the lands, in view of the dowry, were transferred first to one family, then to another. The need to look for a marriage partner outside of their usual group has led to greater mobility, and hence the independence of young people. Household and cultural customs of different families were constantly mixed, because women began to move to other people's families and raise children there. For children, the world expanded, because from an early age they learned a lot about their mother's native lands - and everything that was outside of their native village no longer seemed so infinitely alien.

After the ban on incest, families became initially heterogeneous

But most of all, the researchers believe, the incest taboo has affected family cohesion. Large families have become much more heterogeneous, and small families (from a father, mother and children) from the very beginning were made up of representatives of two individuals who were quite distant from each other in experience and, probably, in worldview. All this contributed to the development of individualism, probably more than the need for young people to leave in search of an opportunity to get married away from their native lands - and there, far from home, to realize themselves professionally. Although the latter, that is, the wage labor that has become the norm, may have greatly influenced the changes in the economy. This, however, has not yet been investigated - but such hypotheses have already been expressed.

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