ONE of the early forms of union among human beings appears to have been that of the Group-marriage, which was an alliance between a group of men and a group of women. It had various forms, but rested in general on the fact that the women in primitive societies did not, on marriage, leave their parental habitation but remained there and were visited by the men--by one man first, who would come with presents of game, etc., from the chase, and would afterwards bring his 'brothers' or friends. Thus in general a group of 'brothers' would come into relation with a group of 'sisters.' In such a state of society, however, it is obvious that parentage would be very uncertain, and the terms brother and sister would not always have the stricter meanings which we give them. Such a group-marriage was the, 'Punalua' or 'friend' marriage of Morgan's North American Indians; which is also supposed by Marx and Engels to have prevailed at an early time throughout Polynesia. See Lewis Morgan's Ancient
[paragraph continues] Society and Friedrich Engels' Ursprung der Familie. In later times the group-marriage became restricted in various directions, according to the genius of various races--marriage of cousins, for instance, being severely prohibited among some barbaric tribes, while among others all relatives (in the maternal line) were barred. Thus ultimately, in some quarters, sprang up a Pair-marriage; which however was only loosely defined; which had much of the old group-marriage lingering round it; and in which the children still belonged to the woman, and descent was traced in the maternal line only.
Under these conditions of society the woman was comparatively well off. Remaining as she did in her own gens or clan and among her own relations, and the husband being as it were a visitor from the outside, she was by no means subject to him; in fact, in order to gain access, he had to make himself agreeable not only to her but to her own family! She had the disposal of the, children; there was no danger of their being sequestrated to her husband; and whatever little property she had she could leave to them; to her was all the honor of ancestry, The husband on the other hand, even if he knew which his own children were, could see little of them, and could not leave his possessions to them without
alienating those possessions from his clan--which the clan-customs would not permit. Thus in marriage he practically had to take the second place.
With the growth however of property and the sense of property, there came a time when the men could stand this state of affairs no longer, and insisted, violently at first, in carrying off the women and locating them in their own tents and among their own clans--a change rudely recorded probably in legends like the Rape of the Sabines, and in all the later customs of Marriage by Capture. And with this change marriage took on new forms. Women became the property of their husbands; they ceased to hold property of their own, in their children or in anything else; and descent was traced through the males only. In the Patriarchal system marriage was closely akin to slavery. Polygamy and Monogamy were the two resulting institutions.
Polyandry may perhaps be looked upon as a survival of the group-marriage in a special form adapted to warrior races; but--as Engels remarks--both Polygamy and Polandry in any strict sense can only be regarded as exceptional institutions, since if they were general in any one country, that would imply a great preponderance of one sex over the other--unless indeed the two institutions existed side by side in the same country, which notoriously
never happens. As a matter of fact in oriental countries Polygamy is confined to the rich, and is so to speak a luxury, within reach of the few only.
Thus it would appear that from the first, in oriental countries, the practices of polygamy and monogamy were intermixed. In Greece and Rome polygamy ceased to be recognised as an institution; though concubinage in one form or another remained. The Monogamic marriage became the legal institution; and the woman was handed over to the man as his chattel; was bought symbolically with his money, in the marriage ceremony; and had at first no more rights of her own than a chattel. In the later times, however, of the Roman Empire, with the institution of the dowry and the power granted to women of holding property, together with the great facilities of divorce allowed, the position of the Roman matron became much improved. And in modern European countries the monogamic institution seems to have passed or be passing through somewhat the same stages as in ancient Greece or Rome.