James Frederick McCurdy.

History, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) online

. (page 6 of 39)
Online LibraryJames Frederick McCurdyHistory, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 39)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


unity and homogeneity unimpaired, and performs all its
functions unimpeded. There is involved in this gen-
eral fact alone the external possibilities of decisive
changes in the personnel, the numbers, the effective
strength of the clan. We may thus be assured that our
special subject of study, the community of Israel, for
example, became greatly modified in all these respects
before it exchanged its tribal constitution for the more
stable conditions of civic life. But the question that
presses itself upon us is: How was this corporate con-
tinuity, this conservation of type and tradition, secured?
We see at once in this crucial problem the importance of
being able to realize in some degree the genius of ancient
and Eastern civilization. Placed as we are now among
conditions of life and habit which we call higher and
better than those of ancient peoples, and which, in any
case, are essentially different from theirs, we are inevita-
bly divided from them by a great negation of intellectual
and moral sympathy, Avhich should yet be bridged over by ■
an intelligent appreciation of their manners and usages,
of their outlook upon the world, of their needs in body,
soul, and spirit. Surrounded as we are by the manifold
appliances of our culture, and moving on as we do in an
unbroken, perpetual advance in discovery and invention,
we wonder how progress was possible to a people whose
only movement was made in one unending circle of senti-
ments and ideas. Protected as we are, and needing pro-
tection, even in our peaceful surroundings, by the police
of the municipality or the state, we find it hard to under-
stand how primitive homes and communities could be
secured against robbery and murder and lust from within,
or the onslaught of rapacious enemies from without.^
We think of ourselves as being regulated and limited
by checks and safeguards of all sorts, legal and govern-

1 Cf. Tyler, Anthr«poJo(/i/ (1881), p. 405.



Cii. II, § 403 ESSENTIAL NOTIONS IN CLAN LIFE 43

mental, which yet cannot guarantee even to our Christian
society an immunity from the successful practices of the
cunning or the greed of our rivals or our associates, and
which sometimes threaten to give way altogether under
the constant strain of corporate rapacity clashing with the
more excusable turbulence of ill-fed and ill-guided masses
morally, though not legally, defrauded of the rewards of
their toil. And we cannot but be astonished at the stabil-
ity and permanence of some less-favoured races unblessed
by those social, political, and religious institutions that
would seem to embody and conserve all the gathered
experience and all the well-tried wisdom of all peoples
and all ages.

§ 402. Intricate as were the internal relations of the
clans, the outstanding conditions of their growth and
change were simple enough. Among the essential ele-
ments or features of tribal life that have just been named
we may make an obvious threefold distinction. We
find present and dominant here belief, sentiment, and
custom. We see exhibited the sentiment of kinship
between the clan members, the belief in the active influ-
ence of the patron deity and his vital association with the
people, along with other and minor beliefs ; and, finally,
the various customs within the indivisible sphere of social
and religious usage which mark the unity of the clan and
impart to it its needed solidity. Now it is evident that
these various sentiments, beliefs, and customs would be
cherished and conserved, Avhatever their origin might be,
in proportion to the degree in which they would severally
tend to the personal security and comfort of the members
of the clan, to the coherence and prosperity of the several
households, and to the effective strength and g-rowth of
the whole community.

§ 403. It is further self-evident that what was really
obligatory on the individual clansmen was the fulfilment
of the traditional tribal duties, all of which were invested
with the sacredness of religious sanction. In other words,



44 PROCESS OF PERPETUATION Book YII

the social customs being of a religious character, and the
religious practices being of a social character, the observ-
ance of both constituted the sum of public duty. As the
clan was supplied from the family groups, with their
several households, these customs which mark the homo-
geneity of the clan continued to be maintained not only
on account of their intrinsic claims, but also, and to a
great degree, because their perpetuation was essential to
the preservation of the clan. The clan therefore was kept
up for the sake of the observances, and the observances
practically, though not of set purpose, for the benefit of
the clan. Moreover, since subsistence, self-preservation,
and the defence of auxiliary dependents are the great
ends of society, whatever be the outward forms or usages
of the community, that type of social life was necessarily
maintained and fostered which was found to best secure
these indispensable advantages. So it came to pass that
the aggregation of family groups which grew up and was
maintained without concerted action or prevision of the
consequences, and was, therefore, in the strict sense of
the phrase, not politically constituted, became, at length,
an end in itself. For it was found to secure the peaceful
enjoyment of the fruits of labour or adventure and of
inherited possessions, and to provide leisure, opportunity,
and appliances for the practice of ancestral and family
observances. Thenceforward, then, it is possible to speak
of the political as well as the social functions of the clan,
and to perceive how it must be perpetuated as an organi-
zation in order to conserve and utilize the primary and
fundamental conditions which brought it into being.

§ 404. We are thus brought to a stage in the inquiry
where it is proper to speak of the internal make-up and
economy' of the clan. The security, which has just been
referred to as indispensable for continued corporate exist-
ence, was, under the conditions of ancient society, unat-
tainable either by the household or the family group. It
was, however, provided through the necessary extension



Ch. II, § 404 THE CLAN AND FAMILY GROUP 45

of functions that was realized in the clan, or, rather, by
an enlarged application of the conception of social homo-
geneity, of kinship, and of brotherhood. For the distinct-
ive mark of the clan, in contrast with the family group,
is the adoption of outsiders^ and their assimilation under
the guise of factitious kinship to the corporate fellow-
ship and unity of the other clansmen. This potent prin-
cij^le again needs a word of comment. First of all, we
need to revert to the distinction that has" been made
(§ 396) between the "family" in the modern sense of
the word and the "household." The former was a social
institution inevitably and universally developed of itself
by virtue of direct progeniture. The latter was in a strict
sense a political combination, involving the administra-
tion of a composite body which possessed well-understood
and permanent corporate functions.^ As the household is
to the family, so is the clan to the kin or family group.
It is hardly necessary to observe that since all political
combinations are a matter of gradual growth and differ-
entiation from simpler types, there was no hard and fast
line of distinction between these forms of association.
Families were continually being integrated into house-
holds, and family groups into clans ^ wherever and when-
ever a more complex condition of society than that of the
lowest and simplest came into existence. The household
is an especially instructive object for our ^^resent purpose,
since it exhibits a type of structure very analogous to
that of the clan. The essential distinction between the
household and the family is, that the former includes, as
constituent elements, dependents, helpers, and retainers
who are not necessarily within the kin either near or

1 This definition is put in general terms as characterizing the household
everywhere. For the primitive Aryans, see W. E. Hearn, The Aryan
Household (Longmans, 1891), especially chap. iii.

2 Notice the usage of the terms explained in § 396 ; on the one hand
3N n>3 is properly a house under paternal control (familia), and nnsra is
used for both family group and clan.



46 CONSTITUENTS OF THE HOUSEHOLD Book VII

remote. The same tiling is characteristic of the clan as
distinguished from the family group. ^ For the clan is
developed not merely by natural expansion of the kin,
but also essentially by the absorption of new elements
who adopt its badges and traditions, relinquishing the
fellowship and forfeiting the privileges of their former
associations. 2

§ 405. Sufficient space has now been taken up with
general distinctions, and we must proceed to specify and
describe the internal processes of the household and
the clan, the two fundamental political units among the
Hebrews and their ancient congeners. In this most
important region of inquiry there is a great abundance
of illustrative material, and we shall have to content our-
selves with the most comprehensive of well-ascertained
facts. Let us first take the household as being most
easily apprehended. The "household" (§ 396) is a
small heterogeneous community, whose members, having
a diversity of function, are under the control of the

1 It will be understood that although the family group (which is at best
an unstable and transitional association like all other purely social combi-
nations) contains households, and might seem really to consist of them,
the alien elements of the household are not recognized as belonging to the
kin.

2 It is a problem which does not greatly concern us here, whether the
household preceded the clan and was developed into it, or whether the
household was really a later subdivision of the clan. But it may not be
out of place to remind the reader that the question is not similar to that
involved in the relations of the clan to the family or the family group.
While the presumption (see note to § 396) is in favour of the indirect
derivation of clans from families, it is not so clear that the clan was
developed from households, or that the former was even posterior to the
latter. The presumption, however (for in these matters direct evidence
is hard to get) , is in favour of the transfer of the characteristic principles
of clientage and adoption from the smaller body to the larger. As to the
Hebrews in particular, the Old Testament favours this hypothesis. For
the "Aryans," see Hearn, op. cit., p. 139 ff., 181 ff. After the establish-
ment of the clan, new households were continually branching off within
it on the basis of the individual family, and such are the only households
known in history.



Cii. II, § 406 STATUS OF SLAVES 47

"house-father"^ — to borrow an appropriate term from
the terminology of Indo-European society. The constit-
uents of the household were, in the first instance, the
children of the father and the mother (or, as in the excep-
tional cases of polygamous marriage, the mothers) along
with the parents. Inseparably combined with them as
members of the community were also the servants and
dependents and guests of the establishment. The house-
hold was therefore an adjunct of the family, growing
up, primarily, through the urgency of practical needs.
Its heterogeneous constitution strikes ri^ht across the
commonly accepted ideas of kinship, and yet the uniting
bond must have been close, since such a community is a
permanent and fundamental institution.

§ 406. Moreover, the heterogeneity which at once
occurs to us was not so obvious to ancient society. In
the first place, the marked social distinctions of our modern
civilization were not known to the more simple society
of the ancients. In particular, our modern conception of
servitude fails to represent the relation that subsisted
among ancient peoples, whether Semitic or Aryan, be-
tween the slave and his master. Whatever might Ije the
barbarities and the hardships of the slave-trade,^ when a
servant became regularly established in a household his
position, though menial, was not degrading. It was only
in the more opulent and populous cities of the later times

1 If the father were dead, the eldest son took the position of household
head, as in the case of Laban (Gen. xxiv. 29 ff.). Observe that Abra-
ham's servant does not I'eceive the hospitality of Rebekah's "mother's
house" (v. 28) till Laban appears and makes him formally his guest.

2 The slave-trade was only possible on a large scale, among extensive
commercial communities, and the ubiquitous men-stealing raids of the
Phoenicians, carried on for the purpose of obtaining galley-slaves as well
as plantation hands and dock-labourers for their numerous settlements,
extended, as we have seen, to the interior of Israel and Judah (§ 264).
Captives taken alive in war naturally became the slaves either of their
captors or of outside purchasers. The great Assyrian policy of deporta-
tion (§ 283 ; 288 ff.) must have helped to solve the problem of dealing with
prisoners of war, not always to the disadvantage of these unfortunates.



48 FUNCTIONS OF SLAVES Book VII

that anything approaching the modern conditions were
found. From the days of Abraham and the Damascene
Eliezer to those of Philemon and Onesimus, the associa-
tion in well-regulated households was one of mutual con-
fidence and trust (cf. Job xxxi. 13 ff.). The practical
manager of a nomadic household or of a large estate in the
later settlements was often a slave who, necessarily, had
the respect and, doubtless, sometimes the affectionate
regard both of the master and his immediate family.
Genesis xxiv. gives a charming picture of what must
often have been a real condition of things, and it is diffi-
cult to overestimate the beneficent functions performed
among a people like Israel by these wards and conservers
of the family. 1

§ 407. Here again we have an exemplification of the
rich and instructive significance of the Hebrew term
of relationshijD. How often does the term "servant" or
"slave " occur in the Bible in an enlarged and spiritual
sense! God himself, the great "house-father," is set
forth with especial frequency as the master of a vast and
well-ordered household. Even the forces of the universe
are his servants, his attendants, who do his pleasure (Ps.
ciii. 20 f.). In his control of the great actors in human
history, he uses them as his obedient and efficient slaves.
Cyrus and Nebuchadrezzar are as much his servants as
are Abraham, Moses, and David. The people of Israel,
and its choicest representative, the Prophet, Martyr, and
Redeemer of his people, are servants of Jehovah. The
members of the household of the faith (Gal. vi. 10; cf.
Eph. ii. 19) are his special servitors. And in the per-
formance of their functions they are held by obligations
precisely analogous to those which bound the slaves of a
large Oriental establishment of the ideal Biblical type.
Their attitude varies and ranges from the extreme of
absolute submission, wholly devoid of servility, to that

1 Cf. Stade, GVI. I, 377. For ancient slavery generally, see Wallon,
Histoire de Vesdavaye dans Vantiquite.



Ch. II, § 408 SERVITUDE IN LITERATURE 49

of implicit confiding trustfulness, never exemi)t from
reverence. This may be here exhibited best and most
briefly by an example. Paul calls himself " the slave of
Jesus Christ" (Phil. i. 1 et al.). Not to multiply illus-
trations, I may cite the employment of the same circle of
images in the closing words of the New Testament, in the
description of the reunion of all the members of the one
great family, household, clan, tribe, and nation in the one
"Father's house." "His slaves shall do him service, and
they shall see his face " — the place of privilege, of recog-
nition, of approval, and the attitude of eager and joj-ful
waiting (Rev. xxii. 3 f.). And, to heighten the colour
and expressiveness of the picture, it is added, "his name
shall be on their foreheads." We think of the brand of
slavery, the inscription of the owner's name upon the
body of the slave. We recall how the most spiritual and
imaginative of the Old Testament prophets had already
idealized this immemorial usage to set forth the willino-
subjection of the surrounding nations to the God of Israel,
in the words : " One shall say, 'I am Jehovah's,' and another
shall call himself by the name of Jacob, and another shall
write on his hand, 'Jehovah's ' " (Isa. xliv. 5 margin).
And now at last the seer of Patmos, beholding in pros-
pect the final regeneration and renewal of mankind,
embraces in a single apocalyptic glance the whole evo-
lution of human society, from the rudest beginnings of
barbaric slavery to the joyful services of the new heavens
and the new earth, where the servants are still slaves and
yet "kings and priests unto God."

§ 408. Again, the homogeneity of the household Avas
matei'ially promoted by the common relation of subjection
or clientage which all its members, bond or free, sus-
tained to the house-father, who controlled and disposed
of them, not, it is true, with the inexorable despotism of
the ideal Roman 'paterfamiUas,^ yet with an authority



1 For a clear and concise description of the 'Rom^nfamilia, see Momm-
sen, History of Borne (Engl, tr., New York, 1871), vol. I, ch. v. The

E



50 PATRIA POTESTAS Book YII

w}iich seems to have been limited only by the tolerance
naturally developed among peoples long and habitually
nomadic, as contrasted with those Avho, like the Romans,
comparatively early attained to fixedness of settlement and
permanence of domestic establishment. A brief indica-
tion of the character of this ijatria potestas in its extreme
exemplification will, perhaps, best show how firmly
ancient society was rooted in traditional beliefs and
usages.

§ 409. " Father and mother, sons and daughters, home
and homestead, servants and chattels — such are the natu-
ral elements constituting the household in all cases where
polygamy has not obliterated the distinctive position of
the mother. . . . None has equalled the Roman in the
simple but inexoi'able embodiment in law of the principles
pointed out by Nature herself. ... To the Roman citizen
a house of his own and the blessing of children appeared
the end and essence of life. The death of the individual
was not an evil, for it was a matter of necessity ; but the
extinction of a household or of a clan was injurious to the
community itself, which in the earliest times therefore

patria potestas had been a subject of study from the days of the old
Roman jurists (Gams lived under the Antonines), but it was reserved
for modern sociological science to explain its fundamental character.
Fustel de Coulanges, La Cite antique (11th edition, 1885), p. 98 ff.,
points out its distinctive features in the Greek and Roman household,
and performs the capital service of showing how it was connected with
the religion of "the hearth and of the tomb" ; how the guardianship of
the sacred family hearth, confided to the house-father, was practically a
worship of the ancestral spirits ; how the ancestors and the descendants
were bound together in an indivisible unity through the male members in
the diverging lines of descent ; how the family property was by the house-
father held in trust for this society of the living and the dead constituted
by the cult of its tutelary divinities. Prom these fundamental facts it
follows, we may add, that in the proportion of the sense and appreciation
of property must be the degree of power with which the house-father is in-
vested (§ 425). The sense of property was strongest in Rome, and there the
patria potestas was stronge.st. For limitations of the sphere of the patria
potestas, its historical influence, and its gradual relaxation, see Maine,
Ancient Laio (3d New York, from 5th London edition, 1888), p. 131 ff.



Cn. II, § 409 THE ROMAN TYPE 51

opened up to the childless the means of avoiding such a
fatality by their adopting, in the j)resence of the people,
the children of others as their own. . . . Man alone could
be head of a family. . . . Woman always and necessarily
belonged to the household, not to the community, and in
the household itself she necessarily held a position of
domestic subjection. . . . In- a legal point of view, the
family was absolutely guided by the single, all-powerful
will of the ' father of the household.' In relation to him
all in the household were destitute of legal rights — the
wife and the child no less than the bullock or the slave. . . .
The father of the household not only maintained the
strictest discipline over its members, but he had the right
and duty of exercising judicial authority over them, and
of punishing them as he deemed fit in life and limb. The
grown-up son might establish a separate household, or, as
the Romans expressed it, maintain his ' own cattle ' Qjecu-
liuui) assigned to him by his father, but in law all that
the son acquired . . . remained the father's property. . . .
Indeed, a father might convey his son as well as his slave
as property to a third person : if the purchaser were a for-
eigner, the son became his slave. ... In reality, the j)ater-
nal and marital power was subject to no legal restrictions
at all. Religion, indeed, pronounced its anathema on
some of the worst cases of abuse. For example, whoever
sold his wife or his married son was declared accursed ;
and in a similar spirit it was enacted that in the exercise
of domestic jurisdiction the father, and still more the
husband, should not pronounce sentence on child or wife
without having previously consulted the nearest blood-
relations, his wife's as well as his own. But such provi-
sions as these involved no legal diminution of his powers,
for the execution of the anathemas Avas the province of
the gods, not of earthly justice ; and the blood-relations
called in to the domestic judgment were present not to
judge, but simply to advise the father of the household
in his judicial office. But not only was the power of the



52 A WIDE-SPREAD INSTITUTION Book VII

master of the house unlimited and responsible to no one
on earth ; it was also, as long as he lived, unchangeable
and indestructible. According to the Greek as well as to
the Germanic laws, the grown-up son, who was practically
independent of his father, was also independent legally -,
but the power of the Roman father could not be dissolved
during his life, either by age or insanity, or even by his
own free will, except when a daughter passed by a lawful
marriage out of the hand of lier father into the hand of
her husband, and, leaving her own gens and the protection
of her own gods to enter into the gens of her husband and
the protection of his gods, became henceforth subject to
him as she had been to her father. It was easier, accord-
ing to Roman law, for the slave to obtain release from his
master than for the son to obtain release from his father." ^
In Lubbock's pithy language, " a Roman's ' family ' origin-
ally, and indeed throughout classical times, meant his
slaves, and the children only formed part of the family
because they were his slaves, — so that if a father freed
his son, the latter ceased to be one of the family, and had
no part in the inheritance." ^

§ 410. Such was the household of the Romans, the
best known to us of all ancient domestic institutions, and
the foundation and germ of the most comprehensive and
thorough-going system of jurisprudence and of social
organization which the world has ever seen. We should
find it exceedingly instructive to compare it with what is
known of other ancient households. The question is of
interest to us not merely because of its bearing upon prim-
itive society generally, but especially on account of the
religious significance of fatherhood, to which reference
will be made later (§ 432). It has been denied that
patria potestas existed -except among the Romans.^ But

1 Mommsen, op. cit., vol. i, p. 88-02.

2 Origin of Civilization, etc., 5 ed. 1889, p. 100 ; cf. p. 73.

3 Especially by J. F. and D. McLennan, The Patriarchal Theory
(1885), p. 35 ff. Cf. also Studies in Ancient History (1886), p. 132.



Ch. II, § 411 AMONG SEMITES AND NON-SEMITES 53

as a matter of fact the institution or the customs have
been widely prevalent both in ancient and in modern
times. Abundant testimony is at hand of its existence,
extending even to the light of exposure and sale of chil-



Online LibraryJames Frederick McCurdyHistory, prophecy and the monuments (Volume 2) → online text (page 6 of 39)