Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 44.djvu/308

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

wed his brother's widow, provided the first union was childless, and to raise up seed to the deceased, was only a modification of polyandry and differed from the conjugal relations still in vogue among the Thibetans in the fact that the possession of the same wife was successive instead of simultaneous. Both of these matrimonial customs are survivals of the earliest form of marriage, which was not individual, but tribal. We have a relic of this primitive kind of wedlock among the Californian Indians, who practiced promiscuous sexual intercourse, so far as the members of the same tribe were concerned; the woman was regarded as faithless or adulterous only when she cohabited with a man belonging to another tribe.

The Greeks, with all their superior culture, never became as a people sufficiently enlightened to lay aside their deep distrust and depreciation of foreigners. Sparta was notoriously hostile to strangers (ἐχθρόξενος, or guest-hating), and how impossible it was for even a cultivated Athenian to look at the world at large from any but a strictly Hellenic point of view is curiously and comically illustrated in the drama in which Æschylus glorifies the battle of Salamis, where the Persians are made to speak of themselves as barbarians balked of their purpose, and to describe their lamentations over their defeat as dismal barbaric wailings.

It is a somewhat surprising and quite significant concession to Greek arrogance that Plautus should use the phrase vortere barbare in the sense of turning or translating into Latin. It is possible, however, that he may have borrowed this phrase from Philemon and other Greek playwrights, whose comedies he imitated with more or less freedom, but always with a touch of native genius. Still, we know that the Romans were uniformly called barbarians, and seem to have recognized the correctness of this appellation down to the age of Augustus, when the term began to be applied chiefly, if not exclusively, to the Germans. As our earliest information concerning the Germanic peoples was derived from Greek and Roman sources, we have been misled by the use of this depreciatory designation to think of them as wild and lawless hordes, and to form a wholly false conception of the grade and quality of their civilization.

When individuals of different race or nationality formed friendships they were wont to confirm the pact by an exchange of tokens, which remained as heirlooms in their respective families, and were prized by their descendants as pledges of mutually kind and hospitable treatment. The duty of helpfulness was, in such cases, quite as imperative as is the vow of vendetta, which passes as a precious inheritance of hatred from Corsican father to son. These tokens were called by the Greeks σύμβολα, and by the Romans tesseræ hospitales, and, although they were eventually