Slave-Wives, Single Women and “Bastards” in the Ancient Greek World: Law and Economics Perspectives

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Oxbow Books, Jan 31, 2018 - History - 224 pages
Greek scholars have produced a vast body of evidence bearing on nuptial practices that has yet to be mined by a professional economist. By standing on their shoulders, the author proposes and tests radically new interpretations of three important status groups in Greek history: the pallakē, the nothos, and the hetaira.

It is argued that legitimate marriage – marriage by loan of the bride to the groom – was not the only form of legal marriage in classical Athens and the ancient Greek world generally. Pallakia – marriage by sale of the bride to the groom – was also legally recognized. The pallakē-wifeship transaction is a sale into slavery with a restrictive covenant mandating the employment of the sold woman as a wife. In this highly original and challenging new book, economist Morris Silver proposes and tests the hypothesis that the likelihood of bride sale rises with increases in the distance between the ancestral residence of the groom and the father’s household.

Nothoi, the bastard children of pallakai, lacked the legal right to inherit from their fathers but were routinely eligible for Athenian citizenship.

It is argued that the basic social meaning of hetaira (companion) is not ‘prostitute’ or ’courtesan,’ but ‘single woman’ – a woman legally recognized as being under her own authority (kuria). The defensive adaptation of single women is reflected in Greek myth and social practice by their grouping into packs, most famously the Daniads and Amazons.


List of Plates
Overview and Summary of Main Conclusions
Path to Pallakia
Single Woman as Hetaira as Suppliant
Companionship as an Adaptation to the Dangerous Life
Role of Cults in the Marriage of Single Women
Hetaira as Textile Worker
Legal Status of Nothoi
Share the Wealth? Not with Foreigner Nothoi
Hera as Zeuss Pallak
Classical Athens
Summary of Main Findings and Problems for Future Research

Wealth Transfers in the Greek Marriage Market with

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About the author (2018)

Morris Silver is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the City College of the City University of New York. He specializes in ancient economies and has widely published on slavery by contract and the role of ancient religions in facilitating economic growth.

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