When did monogamy become the norm in Ancient Greece?

When did monogamy become the norm in Ancient Greece?

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The case for an automatic association between Christianity and monogamy is weakened further by the fact that socially imposed monogamy was first established in ancient Greece and Rome, centuries before Christianity even existed. Greco-Roman laws prohibited any man from having more than one official wife at a time. It's true that forms of de-facto polygamy (e.g. concubinage, sex with slaves) continued to be tolerated in these societies. Nevertheless, anti-polygamy laws made Greco-Roman society relatively sexually egalitarian (Scheidel, 2009), because by preventing elite men from legally acquiring multiple wives, they improved the ability of lower-ranking men to acquire wives of their own. So by the time Christianity began spreading through the Roman Empire in the first centuries AD, monogamy was already well-established. But even though Christianity did not introduce socially imposed monogamy to the West, it did fully embrace this institution, and as noted above, it was this embracement that ultimately led to monogamy's spread throughout the Western world

That article says that Roman and Greek laws prohibited polygamy hundreds of years before Christianity. I want exact dates, and exact laws, and well, exact history on how that happens. I mean, as exact as possible.

I asked this question in political stackexchange

The idea is that monogamy happened due to democracy.

Democracy started in Athens. At what date?

Then, after (or before) that, are there any laws in Athens that declare polygamy illegal? If so, at what date?

I know that polygamy was already illegal in Rome and Greece far before Christianity. However, I want to know exactly when.

You mention both Greeks and Romans, so I treat each separately below, identifying exactly when they switched to monogamous laws (in the case of the Romans) as you ask:

Marriage Under the Greeks

Greek society was always monogamous. For example, in the Odyssey, one of the oldest Greek works which was originally transmitted orally, Odysseus has only one wife even though he is a great lord. In the Oeconomicus, it says

My belief is that a good wife, being as she is the partner in a common estate, must needs be her husband's counterpoise and counterpart for good…

The wife is described as the partner and implies there must needs be one. In Plutarch's life of Alcibiades a typical story of a wife is told:

Alcibiades went to the house of Hipponicus, knocked at his door, and on being shown into his presence, laid off the cloak he wore and bade Hipponicus scourge and chastise him as he would. But Hipponicus put away his wrath and forgave him, and afterwards gave him his daughter Hipparete to wife. Some say, however, that it was not Hipponicus, but Callias, his son, who gave Hipparete to Alcibiades, with a dowry of ten talents; and that afterwards, when she became a mother, Alcibiades exacted other ten talents besides, on the plea that this was the agreement, should children be born.

Unfortunately there are very few written laws known from ancient Greece, except as they are mentioned in plays and such. Greek law differed from nation to nation and there are no inscribed monuments of laws as we have for Rome. The Greeks preferred judges who interpreted traditional laws over hard and fast written laws. For this reason, there is no specific written Greek law that I know of forbidding polygamy.

Marriage Under the Romans

Under the Romans, polygamy was legal until the Christians gained control in the reign of Constantine. The first Roman law forbidding polygamy was by that emperor made in 320 AD, stating: "No married man may have a concubine during the existence of his marriage." In this law the term "concubine" refers to wife by usus, not to a slave. Usus normally required a written legal contract and the wife was a legal, freeborn wife. In Roman society a usus wife was just as legal as the primary wife. Originally, Romans had several different grades of wife and it was common for wealthy men to have all grades. This gradually devolved into having a primary wife and various usus wives. This does not include sex with slaves who were not considered any kind of wife. Roman law provided for what we now call "common law" wives, meaning automatic usus status even without a contract if the woman slept in the man's house for over one year. The Twelve Tables specifically states the terms of this law as follows:

"If a wife should sleep for three nights in a year out of her husband's house, she should not be subject to his paternal power."

Thus any woman could escape being an automatic wife by claiming she slept for three nights outside of the house. Note that any usus wife, contract or not, would be considered materfamilias (primary wife) by the law if she was the only wife of a man.

It was probably always the norm, at least in a way that also tolerated concubines. The Ancient Greeks were of course descended from Proto-Indo-Europeans. As early as 1864, French historian Numa Denis Fustel de Coulanges reasoned in his magnus opus, La Cité antique, that marriages were monogamous from the earliest days of the Indo-European peoples.

The institution of sacred marriage must be as old in the Indo-European race as the domestic religion… The marriage ceremony, too, was so solemn, and produced effects so grave, that it is not surprising that these men did not think it permitted or possible to have more than one wife in each house. Such a religion could not admit of polygamy.

- De Coulanges, Numa Denis Fustel. The Ancient City: A study of the religion, laws, and institutions of Greece and Rome. Courier Corporation, 2012.

Modern scholarship lends his arguments support. The Oxford biological anthropologist, Dr Laura Fortunato, writes that:

The phylogenetic comparative analysis of marriage strategies across societies speaking [Indo-European] languages provides evidence in support of [Proto-Indo-European] monogamy… More generally, these reconstructions push the origin of monogamous marriage into prehistory, well beyond the earliest instances documented in the historical record. This implies that the archaeological and genetic evidence for the nuclear family in prehistoric populations may reflect a monogamous marriage strategy.

- Fortunato, Laura. "Reconstructing the History of Marriage Strategies in Indo-European-Speaking Societies: Monogamy and Polygyny." Human Biology 83.1 (2011): 87-105.

It is difficult to verify pre-historical social practices, but monogamy must have been very ancient. At the very least, monogamy was standard by the time historical records began in both Ancient Greece and Rome. While men certainly kept concubines and had sex with slaves, these were not recognised as wives nor give birth to legitimate children.

By the historical period, by contrast, [Socially Imposed Universal Monogamy] was firmly established as the only legitimate marriage system [in Greece]: polygamy was considered a barbarian custom or a mark of tyranny and monogamy was regarded as quintessentially "Greek"… There is no sign of an early polygamous tradition in Rome.

- Scheidel, Walter. "A Peculiar Institution? Greco-Roman Monogamy in Global Context." The History of the Family 14.3 (2009): 280-291.

Athens under Solon the Lawmaker did not exactly outlaw polygamy per se (this was probably already illegal or socially unacceptable, excepting as concubines). Rather, it established the concept of legitimacy by excluding bastard children from the legitimate family and inheritance.

[A]s a legally sanctioned reproductive institution, the laws redefined the conjugal family as the sole legitimate family form… after the time of Solon's laws the bastard was not considered a full member of the father's household, if he or she was a member at all.

- Lape, Susan. "Solon and the Institution of the" Democratic" Family Form." Classical Journal (2002): 117-139.

Apsu and Tiamat were the first documented monogamous couple through the use of cuneiform. I believe they were Alalu's son and daughter. There is a lot more to them than that. However, they predate Rome, Greece, and Egypt. They originate from Mesopotamia, specifically Ancient Sumeria.

Children of Ancient Greece

Babies born in ancient Greece often had a difficult time surviving. Many died in the first couple days of life therefore, babies did not receive names until the seventh or tenth day of life. If a baby was born deformed, it might have been abandoned on a mountain (female babies were abandoned more often than males). Sometimes abandoned babies were rescued and brought up as slaves by another family.

In some Greek cities, children were wrapped up in cloths until they were about two years old to insure straight and strong limbs. Other city-states, such as Sparta, did not do this to their children..

Children spent the majority of their time with their mother. They stayed in the women&rsquos part of the house. While they were being raised, girls would receive their entire education and training in the home with their mothers. Boys, on the other hand, might learn their father&rsquos trade or go to school around the age of seven.

In Sparta, seven-year-old boys were taken to the barracks by the city and raised. They were trained in the military and were not allowed to leave the barracks until age thirty.

Many toys, similar to current day toys, have been found in archeological sites. Dolls, rattles, tops, swings, and many other items have been unearthed. As is common today, those from richer families had a greater assortment of toys, while those from poorer families were expected to work for the family at a much younger age. Evidence also shows that Greeks kept pets such as dogs, pigs, tortoises, and caged birds.

Girls reached puberty at ages twelve or thirteen, at which point they were considered adults and could marry. Girls took their childhood toys and left them at the temple of Artemis. This signaled that their childhood was over and that they were becoming adults. After marrying, the women were expected to have a baby. Not being able to bear children was seen as curse from the gods.

At age eighteen, boys in several ancient Greek cities were required to join the army for two years of service. Many cities required males to reach the age of thirty before they were able to participate in city politics.

Men & Status: The Cultural Evolution of Status

Welcome back to our series on male status. This series aims to help men understand the way status affects our behavior, and even physiology, so we can mitigate its ill effects, harness its positive ones, and generally get a handle on how best to manage its place in our lives.

In the previous posts in this series, we’ve delved deeply into the biological, neurological, and evolutionary origins and effects of the male status drive. We’ve seen that the status drive is deeply ingrained in the physiology of not only humans, but animals as well.

But there is a big difference between the human drive for status, and that of the rest of the animal kingdom: people can achieve and display status not only through physical traits, but also through material objects as well as intellectual and creative pursuits. Human status is sought and expressed not only through our biology, but also our culture. And since that culture has changed over the centuries, so has our understanding of the nature of status, the weight we’ve given its different manifestations, and the mechanisms by which it can be earned.

So today we will offer a big picture view of the major forces that have transformed the dynamics of our status drive from hunter-gatherer days through the 19 th century. Let’s begin this tour through thousands of years of human history.

Social Signals: The Keystone Cultural Innovation of Human Status

As we saw in our previous article, status plays an important role in the survival and reproductive success of nearly all animals, particularly males. The status drive explains why male lions have their manes, male peacocks have their plumage, and bucks have their antlers these features signal their genetic fitness to the ladies.

At a very primal level, humans have a similar signaling system. In our first post in this series, we talked about embodied status — the status one gets based on his or her genes and physical features. Just like other animals, we instinctively hold individuals with certain traits in higher regard. Women routinely rate taller, fitter, handsomer men as more desirable, and numerous studies have shown that these genetic lotto winners get more esteem from both their male and female peers, have more success at work, and make more money than the less physically fortunate.

While humans use these kinds of embodied signals (usually unconsciously) to determine status just like animals do, because of our increased intelligence and complex social lives, we can also signal and gain status in a variety of other ways. For example, an artist can gain and signal status by painting a picture or composing a hit song. A scientist can gain and signal status by inventing a drug that benefits the rest of humanity. And of course a successful businessman can gain and signal status with his wealth. We can also acquire and communicate our status by the clothes we wear, the people we know, the things we hang on our walls, the goods we buy, and even our tastes and opinions.

Sociologists call these non-embodied status markers social signals. And anthropologists posit that our ability to use these creative, intellectual, and material markers to communicate our value to others was the key cultural innovation that separated us from our primate relatives and laid the groundwork for complex human societies. The significance of this cultural development resides in the fact that social signals can be offered in less intimate and dangerous ways than the embodied variety.

Embodied status signals require animals (including humans) to be up close and personal. You need to interact face-to-face and possibly engage in potentially deadly tussles to detect and test out the subtle status signals given off by physical bodies. Thus, while embodied status signals are effective, they’re inefficient, and can beget violence and destruction.

Social signals, on the other hand, are much more peaceable and economic. A primitive caveman could simply look at the necklace or ritualistic scar of a fellow caveman and immediately understand he was talking to one of the tribe’s alphas. No chest beating required. Markers like tattoos, jewelry, and clothing could immediately designate a person as part of a certain tribe, wall paintings in a cave could display creativity, and knowledge of healing herbs could gain one status as a medicine man. Social signals allowed status to be conveyed at a distance and even in the absence of their creator (as in the case of the wall painting).

Besides being efficient, social signals are much more fluid and open to nuance than embodied status signals. The human ability to imbue meaning into different objects and behaviors created the possibility of an infinite number of statuses and ways to communicate their attainment. Social signals thus catapulted status from the primal realm to the more artistic, materialistic, and intellectual spheres. The springboard for this leap would be found in the agricultural revolution and the increasing urbanization of human societies.

Be sure to listen to our podcast with Leo Braudy about the history of fame:

The Agricultural Revolution and the Rise of the City

For tens of thousands of years, humans lived in small, relatively egalitarian hunter-gatherer tribes. Status existed, but its dynamics were much more primal. Our ancient human ancestors did create social innovations that would lay the groundwork for more complex status signaling in the form of things like jewelry, tattoos, and art. But the privilege of wearing such clothing and accessories was typically earned through demonstrations of physical bravery. Because large stores of physical wealth couldn’t be accumulated or passed down through the generations, embodied signals like size and dominance played the most important role in determining status, particularly for males.

So the dynamics of primitive status went until a turning point 10,000 years ago that would change the course of history and up the status ante dramatically:

Humans discovered agriculture.

With farming came the ability to accumulate physical wealth in the form of crops and domesticated livestock. Status was no longer determined largely by embodied traits, but by the ability to collect and protect vast amounts of resources. What’s more, these resources could be passed down from generation to generation. Men could leave their sons a farm or a herd of cattle, thus giving their progeny a leg up in the status game. The consolidation of wealth was often compounded by male kin pooling their resources together in order to form powerful cabals that promoted the material and reproductive success of their family.

Agriculture spurred more cultural and economic innovations, which contributed to increasingly stratified and hierarchical societies. Writing allowed humans to keep track of wealth, legal codes developed to protect property, and stringent social systems were put into place to ensure powerful and wealthy families/dynasties stayed wealthy and powerful. At the top of the totem pole, God-kings like Gilgamesh or the pharaohs of ancient Egypt made all the laws and accumulated massive wealth at the bottom, poor and illiterate commoners had little to no power or chance of rising through the hierarchy.

Besides making human status more stratified and institutionalized, agriculture also gave birth to the city. Instead of living in small, intimate groups of around 150 — as had been typical of hunter-gatherer clans — humans began living together in larger and larger settlements. The beginning of the anonymous urban mass was under way. Along with city life came increasing social complexity and the need to signal status to strangers outside your immediate family and friends. Consequently, humans came to rely less on embodied status signals that required up-close intimacy, and more on communicating their value through signals that could be read from a distance.

Clothing, personal ornamentation, and consumer goods began to have increasing importance in signaling status. Kings and noblemen wore certain types of clothing, while lower-class individuals wore another kind. Individuals in certain professions sported particular haircuts. In extreme cases, entire groups would make modifications to their body in order to signal their membership in that specific group. For example, the requirement that Hebrew men be circumcised was in effect not only a signal to God of their covenant, but a social signal to fellow Hebrews and non-Hebrews alike that they worshiped Yahweh. These outward social signals allowed humans in large cities to quickly communicate status to others.

One of the problems with social signals like clothing, haircuts, and the like is that a person who doesn’t necessarily have the requisite social status to don that piece of clothing or jewelry could wear it anyways and thus pass himself off as a member of a higher social rank. Another problem is that lower status individuals could create alternative status systems by attempting to elevate the value of goods or behaviors that go against the norms established by those in power (see: “Christianity” below). Thus to maintain the status hierarchy, sumptuary laws in the form of formal rules or informal religious norms were created that laid out specifically who and who could not wear certain pieces of clothing, own certain products, and take part in certain religious rites.

In Ancient Greece, embroidered robes were only to be worn by prostitutes. In Rome, the wearing of the toga was highly regulated and a Roman’s social rank and age were signaled by different colors and the width and number of stripes along the border of the garment. During medieval times, laws existed that said only kings and noblemen could have beards and if a mere commoner wanted to sport one, he had to pay a tax. No matter the form, what all these laws and mores have in common is controlling who did and did not have status.

Monogamy: Bridling the Male Status Drive

For most of human history, polygyny (men having multiple wives) was the norm in cultures all around the globe. Polygyny intensifies status competition among men because it creates a “winner-take-all” reproductive market. The men at the top of the status heap gain access to more women, while the men at the bottom may not get to reproduce at all as we discussed last time, because of polygyny, anthropologists believe that only 33% of our ancestors were male.

Polygyny amplified as societies grew larger and more hierarchical. Instead of having just a few wives, kings and rulers in large societies would have dozens of them, as well as a huge harem. According to the Bible, King Solomon had 700 wives and 300 concubines. Genghis Khan had so many wives and concubines that 16 million people living today are thought to be his direct descendants.

For the “Big Men” in these societies, taking on as many wives and concubines as possible served two purposes. First, it served as a status signal of wealth. In order to support so many people, you’ve got to have the resources to do it. Second, multiple wives and concubines signaled sexual potency. Throughout history and across cultures, a man’s ability to procreate has been a salient factor in determining his status as a man. Polygyny and concubinage allowed ancient kings and rulers to create enormous bloodlines and create a kingdom where many of the subjects had originally descended from his very own seed. In a way, extreme polgyny and concubinage allowed a man to become like a god — populating a little world onto himself.

While monogamy co-existed with polygyny, it wasn’t a more imposed by society it was simply the only marital arrangement available to men who didn’t have the status or resources to support more than one wife. Monogamy of this sort is often referred to as ecologically-imposed monogamy, because the availability of natural and material resources determined whether a man was monogamous or polygynous.

But starting with the ancient Greeks, monogamy began to be socially imposed laws were established that allowed all men — high status and low status alike — just one wife. But why would men in power, the men who made the rules and could have as many wives as they wanted, agree to such an arrangement? Sociologists and evolutionary psychologists have a few theories on the matter. The most widely accepted hypothesis has been forwarded by evolutionary biologist Richard Alexander. He posits that as societies got larger and larger, more men were needed to fight wars with competing peoples. Large-scale warfare requires co-operation among companies of males. But polygyny increases intragroup conflict. Thus, to reduce male-male competition within a society, so that attention could be directed towards fighting those without it, cultures began prohibiting polygyny, thus giving all men equal access to wives. Basically, the pressures of intergroup competition may have been so great that high-status men were willing to trade intragroup conflict and the opportunity of having lots of wives themselves, for the sake of social cooperation and societal survival.

And it worked. Extremely well in fact.

In societies with socially-imposed monogamy, murder, rape, and other violent crimes are significantly less than in societies that allow polygyny. Instead of investing energy and resources in desperately fighting each other for access to women, monogamy allows men the time and security to compete and seek status more indirectly through things like creative work, business acumen, and craftsmanship. Consequently, monogamous societies are much more innovative and economically productive than polygynous ones.

Socially-imposed monogamy also encourages men to invest more in fatherhood. Instead of having as many progeny as possible, men invest time and energy in ensuring that the children they do have thrive.

Finally, in polygynous societies, group trust is often based on kin relationships. The closer the person is related to you, the more you trust him. Socially-imposed monogamy deemphasizes blood ties in establishing trust, and encourages men to build relationships outside their kin circle. This widening of trust and sociality made things like democracy and representative governments possible.

It’s for these reasons that many commentators have remarked that monogamy essentially made the modern world.

Now to be clear, while socially-imposed monogamy got its start in ancient Greece, it would take the rise of Christianity and the increasing power of the Church during the medieval era to further entrench and spread this marital structure around the world. And of course, just because monogamy has become a global norm, doesn’t mean men (going back to ancient Greece) haven’t enjoyed mistresses outside their lawfully wedded wife. The important thing to understand is that socially-imposed monogamy — whether actively embraced or lived serially and in appearance only — is the cultural innovation that has had the most profound impact on the male status drive. By giving all men nominally equal access to women, it greatly reduced the winner-take-all reproductive market of polygyny. This in turn bridled the male status drive, diverting it from direct and often destructive competition waged through might, to arenas of creativity, innovation, and intellect.

Christianity and the Leveling of the Status Hierarchy

Christianity’s role in leveling the status playing field wasn’t limited to its promotion of monogamy other tenets of the religion would also significantly alter Westerners’ perceptions on the nature of status, how it should be gained, and what role it should play in individuals’ lives.

Because of the agricultural revolution and its effect on the consolidation of wealth, the factors determining status shifted from centering on those which are embodied to that which is “ascribed.” Ascribed status is rooted in the circumstances of a person’s birth, or a role they assume later in life. If you were the son of a nobleman, you’d enjoy high status within your society for the rest of your life if you were born to a middle-class craftsman, you were probably going to be a middle-class craftsman yourself if you were born to a slave, you would likely always be a slave. This rigid hierarchy was taken as a fact of life — something willed by fate and the gods. In his Politics, Aristotle declared, “it is clear that some men are by nature free, and others are by nature slaves, and that for these latter, slavery is both expedient and right.”

This isn’t to say status competitions didn’t exist in antiquity. They did. But those status competitions took place within a society’s various classes. Slaves competed for status with other slaves craftsmen competed for status with other craftsmen kings and noblemen competed with other royals. Each class had their own ranking system and criteria for what gave a man status for example, a house slave might have more status than a field slave, while some trades were more respected among craftsmen than others.

These rigid hierarchies were found in civilizations around the world, until a single man was born who would change the status game forever.

In the Roman Providence of Judea, during the reign of Caesar Augustus, a son of a lowly carpenter from the backwater village of Nazareth, started teaching people some radical ideas in regards to their personal worth — ideas that would completely disrupt the rigid and highly stratified social hierarchies that had been in place for thousands of years.

Three principles birthed and spread by Christianity would have a huge impact on how humanity viewed status, particularly in the West: 1) heavenly status is more important than earthly status, 2) status is inherent, inclusive, and universal, and 3) status is private and unchanging. Let’s take a brief look at each one:

Heavenly status is more important than earthly status. For the ancient Greeks and Romans, the status and renown you gained during mortal life on earth was what mattered most. Yes, they believed in an afterlife, but in the form of a dreary, empty, non-existence existence. If you wanted to gain a glorious immortality, you had to do something during your earth life that would cause people to talk about you for generations.

Christ, of course, taught something entirely different. Heavenly glory was more important than earthly glory. Not only that, but one’s high earthly status — and the riches and pride that went with it — could in fact be a hindrance, rather than a help, to gaining a crown in heaven. The rich and powerful would be humbled, while the weak and meek would inherit the earth. It was a complete inversion of the Greek and Roman view of status.

Status is inherent, inclusive, and universal. For the ancient Greeks, high status was exclusive you could earn more of it through excellence in philosophy, oration, art, and martial valor, but to even have that opportunity, you had to be a male citizen — women, foreigners, and slaves could not participate in the public arena. Christ and his disciples taught a very different doctrine: every person was born with an inherent value and was worthy of dignity. The only status that mattered beyond this innate dignity was becoming a follower of Christ — and this was a status open to any and all. Paul summed up this idea of radical inclusiveness and universality in his epistle to the Galatians: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Status is private and unchanging. For most of human history, status was based on your public reputation. What you did before others determined your worth in your peers’ eyes as well as in the assessment of the gods. For the Greeks and Romans, if one wanted to be in the good graces of the gods, they had to do something to earn that honor — win battles, sacrifice animals (and sometimes humans), or build large monuments to them. Christianity, on the other hand, subverted this idea, teaching that what the world thinks of you is not as important as what God thinks of you God loves you and cares about you, no matter whether you’re ugly or poor, and nothing you can do will either enhance or diminish that love.

The Renaissance and the Creation of the Self

With the rise of Christianity, we began to see the early stages of the democratization of social status. Individuals who might not have been born into a noble family could at least take consolation in the fact that after this life they too would be crowned with glory. This isn’t to say that the old, rigid status hierarchies went away overnight. In fact, as Christianity spread and became the state religion of kingdoms and empires, rulers justified their status on the basis of “divine right.” Yes, in the life to come kings and paupers would have equal glory, these rulers said, but during this life, God had appointed each person to a particular role and status for purposes only he knew. Thus, during the Middle Ages, status hierarchies remained stable and rigid.

But Christianity planted a seed in the hearts and minds of individuals that the barriers to status weren’t as fixed and exclusive as they had long been assumed to be. Philosophers began to muse on and extend this idea, positing that if all men can gain glory in the life to come, then perhaps all men could have a chance to receive glory in this life, too.

Beginning in the 14th century in Italy, civilization saw a period of huge advances in art, science, and philosophy. Alongside these cultural evolutions, there was a transformation in the Western psyche that would eventually greatly weaken the status monopoly of kings and noblemen and open up the pursuit of earthly status to everyone.

Artists led the way in this. Before the Renaissance, these creative types had received patronage from kings and rulers to produce works that glorified themselves. The public knew about the person who commissioned the painting or the building of a monument, but the painter or architect who had brought the work to life remained anonymous. That started to change during the Renaissance. Artists began signing their paintings and authors too made sure their names were on the title page of their books. No longer was being born into nobility the only way to gain earthly status one could make a name for himself through creative work.

In addition to these changes in the world of art and literature, the Renaissance also saw shifts in religious thinking that would have profound effects on how we perceive status. The Protestant Reformation further democratized spiritual status amongst believers and also helped create the idea of the individual. In the Catholic Church, priests mediated a person’s access to God, and religious worship was very communal. Many medieval thinkers, such as Thomas Aquinas, saw all life and matter as connected in a hierarchical structure — a “great chain of being” — that worked its way down from God. Individuals weren’t seen as having the same kind of distinct identity — a sense of separate self — that we embrace today.

Protestant reformers, on the other hand, eschewed this communal relationship with God, arguing that each person could access him directly. Instead of relying on a priest versed in Latin to read and explain scripture, the Bible was translated into the common tongue. Individuals could read and interpret scripture on their own and pray to find out God’s will for their lives. Faith became a more personal pursuit.

The Protestant Reformation thus spurred an increasing sense of individualism in the minds of Westerners. Most early Protestants still believed in being content with one’s station in life, but the modern belief in a distinct self — one not based on membership in any group or institution — was slowly developing. This in turn further contributed to the growing sense that status hierarchies weren’t so etched in stone after all, and that each individual could become the captain of their own destiny, and their own success.

The Enlightenment: Democracy, Meritocracy, and the Birth of Modern Status Anxiety

The Enlightenment of the 17th and 18th centuries continued and amplified the political, economic, and social revolutions that began during the Renaissance. As Leo Braudy notes in his book The Frenzy of Renown, “the erosion of monarchical power, the rise of Parliament in England, the growth of individualism fostered by Protestant theology, the expansion of economic markets across Europe, and the rise in literacy rates in the world, encouraged a myriad of new ways for individuals to engage in activities and achieve status that had previously either been barred from them or not even existed.”

Two factors in particular would have dramatic effects on how modern Westerns would view status: democracy and meritocracy.

The Rise of Liberal Democracies

Enlightenment thinkers began to forward the idea that all people had certain inalienable rights that they were born with and which could not be taken away. The role of government was to protect these inalienable rights. In effect, they brought the idea of heavenly Christian equality down to earth. Kings and noblemen didn’t have some monopoly on power. They too were subject to natural laws and rights, and if they wished to rule, they had to do so with the consent of those they governed.

The democratic governments put in place after the American and French Revolutions not only shifted the political power from the few to the many, it also caused a psychic shift amongst the citizens of these nations. No longer was high status open to just a few who had the right lineage the way was open for anyone to achieve status who wanted it. But in this democracy of status, you were going to have to work for it.

The American Experiment and the Rise of Meritocracy

Thomas Jefferson, though himself a member of the landed aristocracy, wished to design a country in which the circumstances of birth had less to do with a man’s ability to be an esteemed and participatory citizen. He hoped to make America an aristocracy of talent and virtue in which status was bestowed on any and all willing to work for the good of the republic. In short, he wished the fledgling country to be a land of meritocracy, where one’s status was earned rather than given.

But for a meritocracy to take hold, fundamental shifts about how individuals perceived work, and themselves, had to occur. First, work had to be seen not as punishment due to Original Sin, but rather as a sacred calling that benefited the individual and society. Enter the idea of the “Protestant work ethic.” While Protestants accepted the idea that toiling our days away was the result of Adam’s transgression, they felt it was not something to be lamented, but to be grateful for. Work became a “blessed curse” that allowed man to spiritually refine himself and kept him away from temptations, while simultaneously advancing the kingdom of God on earth.

Second, work had to become connected to moral worth. While Christian doctrine severed the connection between earthly wealth and moral value, in the 17th and 18th centuries, some Protestant preachers and thinkers began connecting the two again. A good Christian was to be industrious rather than idle frugal rather than wasteful prudent rather than reckless. These Protestant virtues also happened to lead to material wealth in the free markets growing up in England and the American colonies. If you were poor, the thinking went, perhaps it was because you were a lazy, intemperate bum. The connection between wealth and morality became even more explicit during the 19th century, as clergymen published tracts and books such as 1863’s The Book of Wealth: In Which It Is Proved from the Bible That It Is the Duty of Every Man to Become Rich.

Third, individuals had to believe their efforts could result in a change of status. For most of human history, individuals believed they had little or no control over their lives. Status was pre-destined by birth, along with Fate, luck, or God, and it was the duty of individuals to play the hand they were dealt resolutely. In The Iliad, we see the great king-warriors being subject to the whims of the gods and begrudgingly accepting it. In the medieval era, kings meditated upon the idea of the rota fortuna, or wheel of fortune. All men sat on this great metaphysical wheel that was spun by the blindfolded goddess Fortuna. At one moment, a man could be at the top of the wheel, enjoying the fruits of good luck, but just as quickly he could begin the trip down to the bottom. He had no control over the turns of the wheel, and accepted that his fate was not entirely in his hands.

But in the growing economic prosperity of the 17 th , 18 th , and 19 th centuries, people began to believe they could control their own destinies. Industrialization opened up new lines of work and career paths men were no longer stuck working on the family farm, and could strike out for new opportunities. With increasing options, success came to be seen as a matter of making the right choices and working hard a new ideal of the self-made man emerged, in which through pluck and determination one could wrest control of the wheel from Lady Luck, steer his own life, and work his way up from rags to riches. This shift in mindset began to be reflected in our language. Before the 17th century, “fortune” meant fate by the 18th century, it also meant economic wealth. No longer did a man sit idly by, waiting for luck to randomly reward him with status he “made his fortune” — that is he made his own wealth by making his own luck.

While this new sense of self-control opened up the possibility of moving up in life, it came at a costly psychic price. If you, and you alone, determined your success in life, what did it mean if you failed?

Well, it was your own damn fault.

As philosopher Alain De Botton put it in his book Status Anxiety:

With the rise of the economic meritocracy, the poor moved, in some quarters, from being termed ‘unfortunate,’ (unlucky) and seen as the fitting object of the charity and guilt of the rich, to being described as ‘failures’ and regarded as fair targets for the contempt of robust, self-made individuals, who were disinclined to feel ashamed of their mansions or to shed crocodile tears for those whose company they had escaped…

The injury of poverty gets the insult of shame.

Democratic sensibilities, coupled with a rising sense of self-destiny born of the emerging meritocracy, created a dramatic new conception of status that was both motivating and existentially frightening. During his tour of the United States in the early 19th century, French historian and political thinker Alexis de Tocqueville astutely noted the double-edged psychic sword that came with the opening of opportunity to all. In Democracy in America he wrote:

In America I saw the freest and most enlightened men placed in the happiest circumstances that the world affords, it seemed to me as if a cloud habitually hung upon their brow, and I thought them serious and almost sad, even in their pleasures…

When all the privileges of birth and fortune are abolished, when all professions are accessible to all, and a man’s own energies may place him at the top of any one of them, an easy and unbounded career seems open to his ambition and he will readily persuade himself that he is born to no common destinies. But this is an erroneous notion, which is corrected by daily experience. The same equality that allows every citizen to conceive these lofty hopes renders all the citizens less able to realize them it circumscribes their powers on every side, while it gives freer scope to their desires…They have swept away the privileges of some of their fellow creatures which stood in their way, but they have opened the door to universal competition the barrier has changed its shape rather than its position…When inequality of conditions is the common law of society, the most marked inequalities do not strike the eye when everything is nearly on the same level, the slightest are marked enough to hurt it…

To these causes must be attributed that strange melancholy which often haunts the inhabitants of democratic countries in the midst of their abundance, and that disgust at life which sometimes seizes upon them in the midst of calm and easy circumstances…in America suicide is rare, but insanity is said to be more common there than anywhere else.

In democratic times enjoyments are more intense than in the ages of aristocracy, and the number of those who partake in them is vastly larger: but, on the other hand, it must be admitted that man’s hopes and desires are oftener blasted, the soul is more stricken and perturbed, and care itself more keen.

What Tocqueville was saying is that while democracy and meritocracy eliminated the rigid aristocracy and allowed men to increase their status through their own efforts, these systems also made status competitions much fiercer and far more psychically acute. Democracy raised the hopes and expectations of all men, even men of low status. But with everyone believing they’re capable of doing anything they can dream of and striving to move up in the world, competition for status increased as well, thus making it both easier and harder to gain at the same time. Couple that with a culture that places personal responsibility for success and failure entirely on the individual, and you’ve got a recipe for acute psychic pressure.

Botton calls this uneasiness of the modern Western mind “status anxiety.” In an aristocratic society where social positions were fixed, people had less freedom, but more psychic stability — they didn’t spend much time worrying about where they ranked because there weren’t any options for changing position. Us moderns, on the other hand, live in a world where our choices are seemingly infinite and our status is constantly in question. “Sure, I’m doing okay,” we tell ourselves. “But maybe I could do better. Maybe I’m missing out on something more.” It hard to reach a point where we’re content with our success, and this breeds a pervasive and unending sense of restlessness.

Summary & Conclusion

While the drive for status is ingrained in our biology, the ways in which this drive has been viewed, controlled, manifested, and desired has varied greatly through time. The meaning and nature of status is something that is transformed in every era by the forces of human culture.

For egalitarian hunter-gatherers, status was embodied in nature and proven and displayed largely through physical traits and often violent competitions. As agriculture and increasingly complex civilizations developed, the need arose to communicate status in more efficient and less destructive ways. Humans thus developed “social signals” that could be understood by strangers and read from afar. At the same time, hierarchies became more rigid and stratified as a few families accumulated numerous wives and massive power and wealth. Status came to reside in ascribed qualities and was gained through birth in the right class.

Christianity began to soften the fixed walls of status by promoting an idea that all humans have equal and inherent worth in the eyes of God. The religion leveled the status playing field by spreading the practice of monogamy, which gave all men nominally equal access to women and the status that came with marriage. Instead of having to compete in physical contests with other men for access to women, men could turn their attention to moving up in the world by participating in creative and intellectual pursuits, and building wealth through commerce.

While Christianity exhorted its adherents to turn their minds and energy from worldly success, it ironically at the same time planted the seeds for the birth of individualism — seeds which would eventually lead to an increasingly frenzied drive for status once amplified and fertilized during the Renaissance and Enlightenment. The Renaissance forwarded a view of man as having divine potential that could be cultivated in this mortal life and expressed through art, thus winning its creators glory and status. The Enlightenment pushed for democratic governments that would turn nations into meritocracies in which all men who worked hard would have an equal chance of moving up in the world.

This final leveling of the status playing field both expanded human freedom and possibilities, while heightening human anxiety. Whereas status was once at least partially attributed to birth and luck, and could only be altered in a limited number of ways, it now became something deemed entirely within an individual’s personal control. Whether you failed or succeeded became a matter solely of personal responsibility — of choosing the right path from an endless menu and seizing opportunities through grit and hard work.

So where does that leave us today? The nature of status and the ways in which it could be attained and displayed continued to change in the 20th and 21st centuries. In modern times, it has taken on a new track, in that it has become high status to publicly eschew one’s desire for status at all, and to behave as if we are beyond all that. Yet at the same time, the number of one’s perceived competitors for status has grown exponentially due to social media. This has created a dynamic in which modern men feels increasingly restless and anxious, and yet don’t know why, since an understanding of their drive for status has been submerged.

In the next two posts, we’ll unpack these two currents and their consequences for masculinity and modern society.

6 Things You Need To Know About The History of Blowjobs

Blowjobs are a staple in (and out) of the bedroom, have you ever thought bout the rich historical legacy of this most famous form of foreplay?

Even though BJs haven&apost exactly been a topic of conversation up until a few decades ago, they&aposve been a deservedly popular sex act for thousands of years. So without further ado, the bountiful history of the glorious blowjob, courtesy of a new report from Mic:

1. The first documented blowjob resurrected an ancient Egyptian God.
Though only from mythology, the first "documented" blowjob was between the Egyptian god-king Osiris, and his sister-turned-wife Isis. The story goes that when Osiris was murdered and chopped up into pieces by his brother, Set, Osiris’ wife Isis put his body back together, but unfortunately couldn’t find the penis. Clearly thinking: “what’s a man without a penis?” she crafted a makeshift dick out of clay, stuck it onto Osiris’ crotch, and 𠇋lew” life into him by sucking his clay penis. Which is why amazing blowjobs take your breath away even today.

The man himself, Osiris. (Source: British Museum)

2. Pompeiians were very sexual people.
Pompeii is best known as the Italian city that drowned in molten lava when Mount Vesuvius erupted in 79 AD, but the ancient city was actually a lot saucier than you𠆝 think.

About 50 years ago, erotic fresco paintings were discovered in the baths of Pompeii, depicting lesbian sex, group sex, and lots and lots of blowjobs. Historians believe the paintings were intended to get visitors, who would need to go through the baths to get to the city center, into the “Pompeii state of mind,” which was sexual and horny.

(Source: Bridgeman Art Library)

There’s even an extravagant two-story brothel in Pompeii called The Lupanare, that houses equally titillating erotic paintings, and rumor has it, a prostitute named Myrtis had a sign on her door that pointed out her specialty –yep, blowjobs.

3. Ancient Greeks loved blowjobs, too.
In the times of Plato and Socrates, blowjobs abounded, and were artfully called “playing the flute.” Grecians happily lifted their togas for someone to come along and play their flute *wink wink* and it was actually pretty common for oral sex to be exchanged between two straight men. Though not always.

Some of the earliest phallic poetic references came from ancient Greece, as the great poet Archilochus wrote, "As on a straw a Thracian man or Phrygian sucks his brew, forward she stooped, working away." Or in other words, she really knows how to use her mouth. 

4. An entire chapter of the Kama Sutra is dedicated to oral sex.
In Ancient India, fellatio was ritualized, and the original Sanskrit version of the Kama Sutra even has an entire chapter on 𠇊uparishtaka,” or “oral congress,” which is basically the art of blowjobs. The chapter goes into detail on eight different ways to give head, and some of them are pretty complicated, and look like they require a good amount of flexibility.

5. Blowjobs were a punishment in ancient Rome.
In Ancient Rome, giving a blowjob was a terrible, horrible thing, and was even worse than anal sex. And for ancient Romans, anal sex was an unforgivable vice. However, it was totally fine to receive a blowjob, and petty crimes were often solved with forceful blowjobs.

For example: Imagine you’re an Ancient Roman, and you own a fantastic onion field. So many onions. Suddenly, a peasant runs through your field and steals some of your onions. That jerk! Instead of having his eyes gouged out or his arms chopped off, you can simply pull down your pants and order him to give you a blowjob. The end.

Fun fact: having bad breath in ancient Rome was frowned upon, because it might have meant you just gave someone a blowjob.

6. Oral sex could get you executed in the 19th century.
Thanks to certain churchgoing killjoys, any sexual act that didn’t lead to your wife popping out babies was a mortal sin, and that included oral sex. So if a woman got a little tipsy on some toilet hooch (booze was more or less frowned upon) and got caught giving a man a blowjob, it was off with her head. Aren’t you glad those days are over?

(Source: Francois Guillot/Getty)

There you have it. A brief history of the beloved blowjob, a sex act that has been through it all. 

8 Sexual Curiosities From Ancient Greece (PHOTOS)

According to Aristophanes, human beings used to have four arms, four legs, and two sets of genitals, either two male sets, or two female, or one of each. But Zeus split everyone in two, forcing them to wander around on just two legs looking for their other half, with their sexual orientation determined by the genitals of that alter ego they yearned for. Sex hasn't changed much we are still on that same quest, and many of the sexual attitudes from two and a half thousand years ago are still around today - but there are also some radical differences.

Many Greek philosophers were lukewarm on the subject of sex. Democritus thought that people derive as much pleasure from scratching themselves as they do from having sex. Aristotle asked "Why are people ashamed to admit that they want to have sexual intercourse, whereas this is not the case with drinking or eating or other such things? Is it because most of our desires are for things we must have, some of them actually being essential for life, whereas sexual desire is a non-vital indulgence? (Ps.-Aristotle, Problems). Epicurus (yes, that Epicurus, the one who regarded pleasure as life's central purpose) said that "sexual intercourse has never done anyone any good, and we should be content if it does us no actual harm" (Epicurus, frg. 62).

On the other hand, Greek physicians took a much more positive view. They recommended intercourse as a way of countering a wide spectrum of ailments: depression, indigestion, jaundice, lower back pain, weak eyes, and many more. Hippocrates, the father of Western medicine, states that unrestrained intercourse cures dysentery. Sex gives relief to a man bitten by a snake or stung by a scorpion, although it harms the woman who is his partner. It can even restore sanity.

Ancient Greek medical texts also provide many remedies for male impotence: for example, smearing your penis with a mixture of pepper, olive oil, and honey. If you want to make your penis look especially big, soak the root of a specific but unidentifiable plant in good wine for three days and, when needed, tie it to your thigh. Aristotle thought size mattered, but not how you might think: the longer a man's penis, the farther his semen has to travel and the greater the chance that he will be unable to father children.

The images that follow present just a few of these sexual curiosities in Ancient Greece - sometimes satirical, sometimes familiar, and often strange.

The 13 Biggest Assholes in Greek Mythology

It’s a mystery why ancient Greeks worshipped their gods, because their gods were all complete dickheads. They could — and did! — steal, rape, torture, or kill pretty much anyone at any time. Of course, the kings and heroes of ancient Greece was also often terrible people, so maybe the gods were just par for the course. Here are the 13 biggest assholes in Greek myths — because a list of all the assholes would have taken forever.

Where to start with this guy? Zeus was of course the guy in charge of the gods and the universe. Everyone, both mortal and immortal, called him father — both to represent his status and because in ancient Greece there was a 30% chance that Zeus actually sired you. Zeus cheated on his wife Hera constantly, and the sex didn’t need to be consensual — once he decided to fuck a woman, he was going to fuck her, and if he had to be a swan, a bull or a golden shower of light to do it, he didn’t care. Like all the gods, Zeus could hold a grudge, so if you pissed him off once, you were completely screwed, as Prometheus found out when he gave humanity fire. Zeus chained him to a rock and had an eagle eat Prometheus’ liver every day for eternity — just for being nice to us.

To be fair, Zeus had a pretty fucked up childhood. After hearing a prophecy that one of his children would overthrow him, his dad Cronus the Titan ate all of his children — Zeus only escaped because his mom fed Cronus a rock in baby clothes, which he assumed was his kid. It takes a special kind of asshole to not just kill his own kids, but eat them (let alone be dumb enough to mistake a baby for a rock). But Cronus didn’t do things by half measures — he didn’t just overthrow his own dad, Uranus, but he castrated him, too.

Cronus’ dad wasn’t really any better a father, honestly. Uranus was essentially the sky, who made love with Gaia, the Earth — who, according to some versions of the myth, was his mother, by the way. Gaia gave birth to the Titans and a few humongous monsters Uranus imprisoned the monsters in Tartarus, deep inside his mom, where they hurt the hell out of her (no pun), causing her to conspire with Chronus to kill and castrate Uranus (Gaia was very firm about the castrating part). Father’s Day must have been super-awkward in ancient Greece.

I didn’t mentioned the worst part about Zeus’ constant seduction and/or sexual assault of every pretty girl in Greece — his wife Hera would inevitably torture the the women, too. Like some wives, Hera blamed the women for their husband’s infidelity (admittedly, it was kind of tough to punish the king of the universe for anything), even if they had tried to refuse Zeus’ amorous advances. Hera turned them into monsters, banned them from giving birth on land, tricked Zeus into murdering them and more — any children resulting were not spared either, as Hercules learned when Hera tried to kill him for his entire life, starting when he was a baby. Of course, she wasn’t much better with her own kids when she gave birth to the ugly Hephaestus, she threw the baby off a mountain.

Hades was the lord of the underworld and death, but he was generally a pretty chill guy. That is, until he saw Persephone, the daughter of the goddess Demeter. Like so many of the male gods, Pluto believed "why ask a woman on a date when you can just abduct her against her will," and he kidnapped her to be his bride. Not only was this a dick move to Demeter and her daughter, it was a dick move to all of humanity — Demeter was the goddess of the harvest, and she was so upset at her daughter’s disappearance that she forbade the world from producing any food. Zeus eventually forced Hades to give Persephone back to her mom, because everybody was starving to death — but not before he tricked his bride into eating some pomegranate seeds, ensuring she spent three months a year with him in the underworld.

Even the wisest and kindest could be kind of a dick sometimes. Athena was generally the most levelheaded of all the gods, but even she had a temper. When Poseidon raped the beautiful priestess Medusa in one of Athena’s temples, the goddess was so pissed off that Medusa had somehow not managed to fend off the advances of the god of the sea she turned her into a monster with snakes for hair, and then she later helped Perseus kill Medusa. Athena was one of the goddesses who helped start the Trojan war, because she was pissed off when Paris awarded Aphrodite first prize in an impromptu goddess beauty contest. And when she heard about a woman named Arachne, who boasted she was better at weaving than the goddess herself, she challenged the mortal and lost… and was so mad she turned Arcahne into a spider.

You didn’t have to be a god to be an asshole in ancient Greece (but it sure helped). Even the “heroes” managed to be pretty unheroic sometimes, especially Jason, of “And the Argonauts” fame. The story goes that he was supposed inherit Thessaly, but his uncle Pelias killed the king when Jason arrived, Pelias sent him to go fetch the Golden Fleece to prove his claim to the throne. While this was an adventure, it was also a heist, because somebody already owned the Fleece, namely King Aeetes. Jason didn’t just steal the fleece, he stole Aeetes’ daughter Medea, whom Jason had promised to marry for helping him get it. Once Jason was back in Thessaly and one the throne, he kicked Medea to the curb — as well as the children she’d given him — and married some chick from Cornith instead. This did not go well for Jason.

Why did this not go well for Jason? Because Medea was CRAZY. She betrayed her father and helped Jason steal the Fleece for love, that’s fine. But she helped Jason to escape by distracting her dad by murdering her own brother, cutting him into pieces because she knew her dad would need to find them all to give his son a proper burial. And when she and Jason made it back to Thessaly, she used her magic to trick King Pelias’ daughters into thinking they could make their dad young again by cutting him into pieces and making soup out of him. That’s fucked up. But it — and Medea — gets worse when Jason abandoned her, Medea gave his new bride a dress that set her on fire when she put it on, then she killed the kids she had with Jason.

Antaeus was a more traditional asshole. The son of Poseidon and his grandmother Gaia, the half-giant Antaeus literally just hung out by a road and killed anyone stupid enough to agree to fight him in a wrestling match. He took all their skulls with the intent of turning them into the world’s creepiest shrine to his dad. Thanks to his mother, Antaeus was undefeatable whenever he was touching the ground. He just killed a lot of travelers until Hercules wandered by, picked him up, and crushed him to death.

First of all, King Minos of Crete had the labyrinth built, and stuffed it with the murderous minotaur. No one has ever built a giant maze and put a monster in it with good intentions. He imprisoned the master builder Daedelus to make it, which wasn’t nice either. Minos tricked Scylla, the daughter of the king of Megara, into helping kill her father — and then afterwards, he decided to drag her behind a boat until she drowned for the crime he talked her into committing. But the best-known story of Minos’ assholery is when he sent his son Androgenous to fight in the Pan-Athenaeic Games, where he won. The King of Athens got pissed, and tricked the kid to fighting a bull, which killed him. Obviously, Minos was shitty to even to people he liked, so he kicked the hell out of Athens and demanded a sacrifice of seven completely innocent Athenian boys and girls every nine years to throw in the labyrinth. When Poseidon sent him a great white bull out iof the sea, Minos promised to sacrifice it to the god, but then switched it out — so Poseidon “punished” Minos by making his wife fall in love with the bull. Because Poseidon was also an asshole.

When Ixion married Dia, he didn’t pay the bride price, the traditional gift grooms gave to their fathers-in-law. Dia’s dad Deioneus was rightly offended at this, and in retaliation — not so rightly — stole a few of Ixion’s horses. Ixion’s response: Pushing his father-in-law into a bed of burning hot coals, murdering him instantly. But it gets worse! Ixion went insane, as the first (mortal) kinslayer in Greek mythology. Somehow, Zeus actually felt bad for the guy, and brought him to Mount Olympus where he immediately started trying to have sex with Zeus’ wife Hera. Zeus no longer felt bad for the guy. After creating a cloud that looked like Hera — which Ixion did fuck (his semen falling down the mountain and creating the centaurs, because why not) thus proving his guilt, Zeus strapped him to a burning wheel of fire in Hades for the rest of eternity.

12) Tantalus

Tantalus was hosting a barbecue for the gods when he decided it was be super-funny to murder his own son, cook him, and then secretly feed him to his divine guests. This did not fool the gods — well, it didn’t fool anyone besides Demeter, who was so busy mourning her recently kidnapped daughter she accidentally ate a piece of shoulder. Zeus immediately sent Tantalus to Hades, where he was placed in a knee-deep pool with an apple tree right overhead. It sounds all right until you remember that Tantalus was cursed with an eternal hunger and thirst, and the water and the apples shrank away from him, so he could never drink or eat. The gods resurrected the boy, along with a snazzy new ivory shoulder, and took him to Olympus. And then at some point, Zeus was still so mad as Tantalus he threw the kid off the mountain, because Zeus is an asshole.

13) Sisyphus

Sisyphus was a king who had a bad habit of murdering his guests, which was a major no-no back in ancient Greece (admittedly, it’s still kind of frowned upon). But what really pissed off the gods is how clever Sisyphus was. When he was first taken to Hades to be punished for his sins, he managed to trick Death into the chains intended for him, and then he escaped, while no one on earth died. And then when he was caught, he had his wife toss his naked body into the town square instead of giving it a proper burial he complained about this to Persephone, and asked if he could go topside to scold his wife. Persephone said yes, and Sisyphus escaped again. Eventually he was caught and chained in hell, where he was forced to roll a boulder up a hill for all eternity.

Bachelor Parties


The trees are blooming the birds are singing the newspaper society sections are thick with marriage announcements. As the last soggy weeks of spring give way to the balmy days of summer, wedding season has arrived — and with it, an onslaught of bachelor parties. With an estimated 2.2 million weddings in the U.S. each year, providing for the groom's send-off is big business. Dozens of websites cater to the needs of the bachelor-party planner (typically, the groom's best man). I-Volution Inc., which owns two of the largest bachelor-party sites on the Web, says its websites get about 4 million visitors a year — 35% of whom focus on the Las Vegas packages. Just witness the success of the hit film The Hangover, whose tale of a prenuptial Las Vegas jaunt gone horribly awry has topped the box office for two straight weeks, pulling down more than $105.4 million. (See the top 10 non-emergency 911 calls.)

The bachelor party, however, goes back much further than you'd expect. It's rooted in ancient history — as early as the 5th century B.C. It is believed that the ancient Spartans were the first to make a celebration out of the groom's last night as a single man. Spartan soldiers held a dinner in their friend's honor and made toasts on his behalf — with, one assumes, a Spartan sense of decorum. Since then, the events have generally grown more raucous. In 1896, a stag party thrown by Herbert Barnum Seeley — a grandson of P.T. Barnum — for his brother was raided by police after rumors circulated that a famous belly dancer would be performing nude. Before his wedding to Gloria Hatrick, Jimmy Stewart's infamous bash at the Beverly Hills hangout Chasen's included midgets popping out of a serving dish.

The fun can get out of hand, however: in recent years, bachelor-party high jinks have led to numerous Hollywood breakups. Paris Hilton accused beau Paris Lastis of cheating on her at his bachelor party — an alleged indiscretion that similarly doomed Mario Lopez and Ali Landry. Nick Lachey's reported dalliance with a porn star at a friend's party — while it was denied — sparked rumors about a rift with wife Jessica Simpson before their eventual split in 2005. And Peter Berg's dark 1998 film Very Bad Things should be required viewing for grooms-to-be about the importance of good behavior (although it's probably not for their fiancées).

The term bachelor — previously meaning a young knight or a student with a bachelor's degree — first appeared in reference to an unmarried man in Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales in the 14th century. The term bachelor party didn't appear until 1922, however, when it was first used in the Scottish publication Chambers's Journal of Literature, Science and Arts to describe a "jolly old" party. The event is known by different names in different countries: the stag party in the U.K., Ireland and Canada the buck's party in Australia and, with typical panache, the enterrement de vie de garçon in France (translation: "the burial of the life as a boy").

In the past, a bachelor party could commonly involve a black-tie dinner hosted by the groom's father, with toasts to the groom and the bride. The more recent traditions of hazing, humiliation and debauchery — often consuming entire weekends and involving travel to an exotic destination such as Las Vegas or its nearest available facsimile — became a staple of bad '80s sex comedies. (The 1984 Tom Hanks vehicle Bachelor Party hit the genre's perfecta, featuring beer, drugs, strippers, an ill-fated donkey and MTV video vixen Tawny Kitaen.) (Watch TIME's video "Beer Pong Strikes Back.")

By the sexual revolution of the 1960s, women had launched their own version of the prewedding festivities: the bachelorette party. Prior to the late 19th century, women were limited to bridal showers, the main function of which was to acquire a dowry and gifts to prepare them for marriage. Bachelorette parties allowed women the opportunity to express their own sexual freedom with drinking games and (male) strippers. Other couples, uncomfortable with the expectations of debauchery, celebrate their last night together in combined stag and doe parties — an idea that's grown popular as more couples live together and marry later in life. Bachelor parties are now as diverse as the bachelors involved, ranging from Las Vegas trips (losing teeth, dignity and sometimes the groom, as in The Hangover) to a casual party with friends and/or the fiancée. First and foremost, the event is an important step in saying goodbye to one's single life and relieving prewedding jitters. There doesn't even have to be a party: some men now opt for "groom's showers," in which they acquire their own dowry of foosball tables and power tools.

From heroes to thinkers

The notion of paideia did not suddenly emerge in the time of Isocrates, but developed slowly over time. Child-rearing customs that developed in Greece’s Archaic period, from the eighth century B.C. onward, were restricted to a tiny elite of young male aristocrats. They centered on rules and moral dictums—the respect that one owed to parents, the gods, and strangers, for example.

As the literature of Homer spread through the Greek world, the heroes of the Odyssey and the Iliad were held up as examples to inspire young men. A prized quality in the Homeric hero was arete, a blend of military skill and moral integrity.

With the Homeric foundation, scholars began to develop more complex ideas around education. In the fifth century B.C., around the time of Socrates, a new kind of professional teacher, the Sophist, became popular in Athens. Teaching their students rhetoric and philosophy, Sophists infused the traditional values of arete with a new spirit of intellectual inquiry. It is during this period that the word paideia is first found. The movement advocated higher education for young Athenian men starting around the age of 16.

There were notable exceptions to this new emphasis on the life of the mind. In neighboring Sparta, harsh child-rearing customs placed an almost exclusive emphasis on physical prowess to prepare for a soldier’s life. Even so, the development of paideia was not restricted to Athens, and formed part of a pan-Greek culture. (See also: Ancient Spartans were bred for battle.)

A partial refurbishment of the surviving palace elements by Arthur Evans, the great discoverer of Minoan civilisation between 1900-1905

The Minoan society had been divided into a sociological structure between the rich and poor class. Upper-class Minoans would have had freestanding houses, aside from the palace. Men and women within the ancient civilisation maintained a near equivalence in social status without discrimination. Archaeological and historical studies of Minoan civilisation suggested that it was literate, advanced and a predominantly peaceful society.


Blümner, Hugo, 1844-1919, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

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