Greek Martial Laws and Practices: An Analysis and Historical Perspective
Techentin, Jeffrey K.
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I became fascinated with this topic when I was studying Platonic writings. Plato argued that tradition can only be maintained when its practitioners are oblivious to its traditionality. That is, people continue to act traditionally so long as they view those actions to be "the way to do thus-and-such," and if they question the foundations of those traditions, the traditions themselves fall apart. When it is perceived that traditions only exist because that was how a society's forefathers had done something, there is little incentive to carry on in the same manner. Moreover, these institutions are only brought into question when there is a cultural perception that the traditions do not fully meet the needs of the society. The application of this thought to modern marriage is inescapable: America is moving farther and farther away from the traditional family, and in general has been grappling with the fact that there seems to be no rational basis for many traditional institutions and arrangements. I wondered about whether this breakdown of cultural institutions had a parallel in Athens, where from the Classical to the Hellenistic age free cohabitation became more and more the ru1e, and formal marriage became less necessary or profitable. The paper only indirectly approaches this topic for two reasons. First, in the course of my research, it became apparent there was not one steady trend in the development in marriage laws. They became more formalized in the Classical period, and less so in the Hellenistic age. Secondly, there simply is not enough evidence to show that the latter trend was brought about by a change in the social order of the of the Athenians. However, valid conclusions may be drawn from this change. Rationalized marriage laws served a function during the Classical period which was no longer needed upon its close. Property rights and the upholding of traditional ''houses'' became less important, and the laws which had supported those concerns (Le., laws which formalized the relations of husband and wife vis a vis their respective families) could be abandoned.Missing page 86.