Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 12.djvu/571

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EVOLUTION OF CEREMONIAL GOVERNMENT.

within it: the enemy and the felon are undistinguished. This confusion, now seeming strange to us, we shall understand better on remembering that, even in early stages of civilized nations, the family groups which formed the units of the national group were in large measure independent communities, standing to one another on terms much like those on which the nation stood to other nations; that they had their small blood-feuds as the nation had its great blood-feuds; that each family-group was responsible to other family-groups for the acts of its members, as each nation to other nations for the acts of its citizens; that vengeance was taken on innocent members of a sinning family, as vengeance was taken on innocent citizens of a sinning nation; and that so the inter-family aggressor (answering to the modern criminal) stood in a like relative position with the international aggressor. Hence the naturalness of the fact that he was similarly treated. Already we have seen how, in mediaeval days, the heads of slain family-enemies (murderers of its members or stealers of its property) were exhibited as trophies. And from the Salic law we also learn "that there was beside each dwelling a forked gibbet, as there was beside the public tribunals." Since, at the same time, the heads of foes slain in battle were brought back and displayed—since it is alleged by Lehuerou, on the authority of Strabo, that sometimes such heads were nailed up to the chief door of the house along with those of private foes—we have evidence that identification of the public and the private foe was associated with the practice of taking trophies from them both. A kindred alliance is traceable in the usages of the Jews. Along with the slain Nicanor's head, Judas orders that his hand be cut off; and he brings both with him to Jerusalem as trophies: the hand being that which he had stretched out in blasphemous boasts. And this treatment of the transgressor who is an alien is paralleled by the treatment of non-alien transgressors by David, who, besides hanging up the corpses of the men who had slain Ishbosheth, "cut off their hands and their feet."

It may, then, be reasonably inferred that the display of executed felons on gibbets, or their heads on spikes, originates from the bringing back of trophies taken from slain enemies. Though usually a part only of the slain enemy is fixed up, yet sometimes the whole body is, as when the dead Saul, minus his head, was fastened by the Philistines to the wall of Bethshan; and that fixing up the whole body of the felon is more frequent, probably arises from the fact that it has not to be brought from a great distance, as would usually have to be the body of an enemy.

 

Though no direct connection exists between trophy-taking and ceremonial government, the foregoing facts reveal such indirect connections as make it needful to note the custom. It enters as a factor into the three forms of control—social, political, and religious.