History of Greek Culture

History of Greek Culture

History of Greek Culture

History of Greek Culture

Excerpt

All beginnings are lost in obscurity, including those of a race or people. Still, the social foundations of Greek life, namely, marriage and the family and property rights, appear to have been present already in pre-Hellenic times; they were certainly present among the Hellenes and Greco-Italic people before they differentiated into sub-groups. They must have been shaped by a primal religion which bestowed a central role on the ancestral cult as well as on the hearth. Ancestor worship also imposed monogamy, found in Greece at the very beginning, as evidenced by elaborate marriage rites and the severe punishment adultery entailed. And, likewise, the right to own land was causally related to veneration of the hearth and graves.

According to Diodorus, the hearth taught man the art of building houses. Originally, Greek houses were separated from each other; there were no rows of houses with partition walls between them. The family burial site was located on one's own land; therefore, this property could not be alienated. The duties deriving from ancestor worship also imposed the right of inheritance. The son inherited the land, the daughters being left out. But, to guarantee the continuation of sacrifices to the dead, daughters as inheritors were married to the next of kin, and adoption was permitted. Paternal power must have been very comprehensive.

In historical times the genos , i.e., the racial community in the old sense, was present only as a vestigial remnant, surviving nowhere in its original form. The genos appeared as a recollection, as an awareness of a common ancestry, and in a communal worship of the dead, the grave site being the only property held in common. The relation of the later lines of descent to the ancestral lineage remains in question; the accession of slaves and hired hands also had a complicating effect on the racial groupings. The interrela-

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