……………………..Limits are for governments.

The Gift of Conjugial Love to Mankind: A Mythological Study on the Spiritual Significance of Marriage

Etruscan Terra Cotta Sarcophagus c 500 BC

Etruscan Terra Cotta Sarcophagus c 500 BC

“Show me the way to the town and give me some rag to wrap me in if you had any piece of cloth when you came here,

and then may the gods grant you everything your heart longs for; may they grant you a husband and a house and sweet agreement in all things, for nothing is better than this, more steadfast than when two people, a man and his wife, keep a harmonious household; a thing that brings much distress to the people who hate them and pleasure to their well-wishers,

and for them the best reputation.”

Comment: These words from Book Six of The Odyssey were spoken to Nausicaa by Odysseus, when he washed up on the shore after having drifted at sea for twenty days. Prompted by Athena in a dream the night before, the young lady had taken a picnic and was doing her family’s laundry by the sea.

This vibrant picture of conjugial love from Homer’s ancient epic reveals a pleasant and powerful representation of marriage as one the true blessings and advancements of life. It is likely that the source for this high esteem of conjugial love pre-dates the Roman and Greek civilizations; it is well attested that the Greek and Roman wives were kept at home, not to be seen in public, while the husbands went to banquets or other events. But The Odyssey shows kings and nobles showing hospitality and banqueting with their wives. This respected position and visibility is more closely matched with the Etruscan traditions than of their later conquerers, the Greeks and Romans.

It raises an interesting question, that if it may be shown that the Etruscan women were held in honor, carried out their own business for themselves, married happily having had their hearts won first, and were literate, then it is more accurate to consider Etruria, not Greece, as the “birthplace of Western civilization.” Of course, their histories and legends were lost after the Romans invaded, and their language remains a mystery; yet it has been said by some historians that the Etruscans had indeed developed some form of voting in their city-states. These questions must remain inconclusive, yet it is certainly worth looking beyond the Greek and Roman accounts for answers, since these were their rivals and later their destroyers in the pursuit of Empire.

I hope to continue this mythological series on marriage, and to show that some cultures and people are deeply and inherently conjugial, while we clearly understand that other cultures are not. It is at least a worthwhile study to understand this as a difference, with the hope that this difference can be discerned and appreciated. It looks to hold promise for an interesting survey, and in the end, I think perhaps more people can agree that being part of a conjugial tradition is really nothing to be ashamed of, but rather is a long spiritual heritage worth preserving.

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5 responses

  1. Hi Zeke; The reclamation of preclassicial history of Europe is very difficult as there is little preserved record. The Celts worked in metal and wood and kept records of history with mental works of song and verse. Not the things that would survive the ages. But there are hints that have survived the efforts of Church and Empire to erase the record clean of their predecessors. Modern Greeks are not the same people that created the civilization of Classical Greece. The Sea People that colonized sea ports around the Mediterranean and produced the first blooming of civilization were light of skin, blue of eyes and had reddish hair. They were also quite large in size, sang like angels and fought like the demons of hell. Practice consensus rule where all men and women were equals and leadership was earned through merit.
    I think I would much prefer a Celt for a neighbor then a Roman or a modern Greek. ;-) pg

    August 19, 2013 at 10:32 pm

  2. Hi PG,

    I have been a long time replying but thanks so much for your remark! It is very near and dear to my heart, and is an absolutely superb summary of what we have discussed about the subject over at Chiefio’s.

    I have been slowly working out means and methods of quantifying what is not known about pre-classical history. The usual approach is to rely on the existing record, but it is better in this case to look at what was lost – which I believe outweighs the written record by orders of magnitude. I think this can be done by simply cataloging extinct languages which could run into the hundreds or even thousands on the European continent alone (and not including those of Anatolia, Persia, and India). The other subject I am researching is ancient libraries, such as the one in Alexandria, Egypt. This library was the home of as many as 730,000 scrolls. Many were lost forever. Coincidentally the Roman and Greek works have been preserved and perpetuated, and so the view of the “ancients” is hopelessly locked into a Greco-Roman paradigm.

    I also am interested in the importance of oral traditions and the extraordinary capacity of a well-trained human memory to accurately transmit long works. I believe that Homer’s works are an example of the importance of the bard to pre-classical history. Many works were committed to writing during the 800-600 BC period, but this does not mean that they were composed at that time. It means that writing was gaining in ascendancy in the ancient world. This is interesting to think about, esp. in terms of the usual paradigms which claim the increasing capacity of the human brain over time. It may be that there is evidence of some very important lost and forgotten capacities of the brain, such as memorization of extensive works without inaccuracies.

    Another interesting subject is city layouts – including drainage, and the deliberate preference for less permanent and grandiose building materials. These tell much about the people, their economies, and their leadership. Western scholars impose their own ideologies and Greco-Roman paradigms on every ancient culture. This is a great loss and missed opportunity to understand the past.

    Thanks again PG.
    Here’s a site describing lost parchments near Alexandria.
    http://www.papyrology.ox.ac.uk/POxy/oxyrhynchus/parsons3.html

    September 20, 2013 at 11:45 am

  3. ~Archived Comment~

    milodonharlani says:
    September 23, 2013 at 2:14 pm

    Lithuanian archaeologist Gimbutas’ Goddess hypothesis has been savaged by non-feminist colleagues like Anthony, Fleming, Ucko & Wailes, including women such as Gere (Knossos & the Prophets of Modernism, 2009). You can read her book’s conclusion on Amazon, a well-written caveat against finding in archaeology & history what your own predilections lead you to see. Chapter Seven covers Gimbutas’ views of women in Minoan religion.

    http://www.amazon.com/Knossos-Prophets-Modernism-Cathy-Gere/dp/B008DMRBJK/ref=sr_1_7?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1381181319&sr=1-7&keywords=cathy+gere

    milodonharlani says:
    September 23, 2013 at 2:18 pm
    Comments on Gimbutas were in reply to Gore on Gaia & the alleged prehistoric Goddess cult of Europe.

    Zeke says:
    September 23, 2013 at 2:25 pm
    I just bought a copy of the book you linked on Amazon. Thanks.

    milodonharlani says:
    September 23, 2013 at 2:42 pm
    Hope you enjoy it. It’s good history. Gere’s the anti-Oreskes. Maybe her years of political activism taught her the difference between scholarship & advocacy.

    October 7, 2013 at 2:28 pm

  4. Archive Wikipedia

    Medieval Christendom[edit]

    Teaching at Paris, in a late 14th-century Grandes Chroniques de France: the tonsured students sit on the floor.
    Beyond the fact that Clerical celibacy functioned as a spiritual discipline it also was guarantor of the independence of the Church and of its essential dimension as a spiritual institution ordered toward ends beyond the competence and authority of temporal rulers.[17]

    During the decline of the Roman Empire, Roman authority in western Europe completely collapsed. However, the city of Rome, under the guidance of the Catholic Church, still remained a centre of learning and did much to preserve classical Roman culture in Western Europe. The classical heritage flourished throughout the Middle Ages in both the Byzantine Greek East and the Latin West. Will Durant argued that certain prominent features of Plato’sideal community were discernible in the organization, dogma and effectiveness of the medieval Church in Europe:[18]

    The clergy, like Plato’s guardians, were placed in authority… by their talent as shown in ecclesiastical studies and administration, by their disposition to a life of meditation and simplicity, and … by the influence of their relatives with the powers of state and church. In the latter half of the period in which they ruled [800 AD onwards], the clergy were as free from family cares as even Plato could desire [for such guardians]… [Clerical] Celibacy was part of the psychological structure of the power of the clergy; for on the one hand they were unimpeded by the narrowing egoism of the family, and on the other their apparent superiority to the call of the flesh added to the awe in which lay sinners held them…”In the latter half of the period in which they ruled, the clergy were as free from family cares as even Plato could desire”.[18]

    In his book The Ruling Class, Gaetano Mosca wrote of the medieval Church and its structure:

    …the Catholic Church has always aspired to a preponderant share in political power, it has never been able to monopolize it entirely, because of two traits, chiefly, that are basic in its structure. Celibacy has generally been required of the clergy and of monks. Therefore no real dynasties of abbots and bishops have ever been able to establish themselves…Secondly, in spite of numerous examples to the contrary supplied by the warlike Middle Ages, the ecclesiastical calling has by its very nature never been strictly compatible with the bearing of arms. The precept that exhorts the Church to abhor bloodshed has never dropped completely out of sight, and in relatively tranquil and orderly times it has always been very much to the fore.[19]

    January 28, 2015 at 11:10 am

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