(Yasna, xiii, 38); and in the Book of Ardâ Vîrâf (ii, 1, 2) Viraf is said to have had seven sisters, who were to him as wives (chîgun nêshman), and this circumstance is adduced as evidence of his extraordinary piety. The connubial relations of this model of a religious man were both polygamous and incestuous.
Herodotus states (iii, 88) that Cambyses, the son and successor of Cyrus, was wedded to his own sister Atossa; and when, in the Hebrew story, Tamar rebukes Amnon for his guilty passion and tells him that "no such thing ought to be done in Israel," she refers solely to her brother's folly and wickedness in seeking a secret and illicit connection, and suggests that, if he will only speak to the king on the subject, there would be no obstacle to their union. That such marriages were common in the earlier history of the Jews is evident from the fact that Abram took to wife his half-sister Sarah, and this event is not recorded as an unusual occurrence.
Among the Persians this custom seems to have been confined, for the most part, to priests and kings, who constitute always and everywhere the two most conservative classes of society. Thus it came to be regarded as a mark of distinction or an enviable privilege, of which wealthy persons of inferior rank sometimes endeavored to avail themselves; but there is no evidence that it remained, within historical times, a law for the entire nation or was generally practiced by the people at large. The Magians continued to wive their sisters in conformity to ancient usage and holy tradition, for the same reason that stone knives and hatchets are used in sacrificial rites and fire for the altar is kindled by laboriously rubbing two sticks together long after these clumsy methods have been superseded in secular life by steel implements and lucifer matches.
Darwin's theory of the formation of coral reefs is not as near obsolete as some students have supposed. It had several friends in the discussion of the subject at the recent meeting of the British Association.