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Polyamory, the practice of engaging in multiple romantic relationships with the consent of all involved, might seem like a modern concept to some. But if you take a stroll down the annals of history, you'll find that love, in its multifaceted forms, has always been as diverse as humanity itself. Let's embark on a journey through time, exploring the rich tapestry of polyamory and its intriguing presence throughout human history.
Ancient Mesopotamia's Royal Affairs
In the cradle of civilization, monogamy was the social norm, especially when it came to arranged marriages. However, rulers and commoners alike often practiced polygyny, where a man had multiple wives. For instance, Philip II of Macedon boasted eight wives, while Persian King Darius III had a staggering 360 royal concubines. And if you think that's all, the Code of Hammurabi even had rules on polygyny, detailing conditions under which a man could take a second wife.
Egypt: From Pharaohs to Modern Times
Ancient Egyptian men had the liberty to marry as many women as their wealth allowed. This tradition of polygyny continues in many African countries today, especially those with a predominantly Muslim faith. For instance, in Muslim Malaysia, there's even a Polygamy Club boasting 300 husbands and 700 wives!
Greece: The Birthplace of Democracy... and Orgies?
Ancient Greece, renowned for its philosophers and art, was also a hotbed of diverse romantic practices. While monogamy was the official stance, the reality was far more... colorful. From pederasty to the open acceptance of bisexuality among men, the Greeks were anything but shy about their romantic inclinations.
The Bible's Take on Non-Monogamy
While modern Christianity often champions "traditional marriage," the Bible paints a different picture. From Abraham to Solomon, many biblical figures had multiple wives and concubines. Solomon, for instance, had a jaw-dropping 700 wives and 300 concubines. Talk about a full house!
Hinduism's Vedic Period
The ancient Hindu scriptures, the Rig Veda, mention that during the Vedic period, a man's number of wives depended on his caste. A Brahmin could have up to four wives, while a Shudra could have two.
Islam and the Quran
The Quran permits polygyny but with a catch. A man can have up to four wives, but only if he treats them all equally. This is a testament to the religion's emphasis on justice and fairness.
America's Brush with Polygamy
While bigamy and polygamy are illegal in the US today, early Mormon settlers practiced "plural marriages." This continued until the 19th century when the Supreme Court outlawed it. However, some Mormons persisted, leading to the existence of Mormon fundamentalist communities even today.
Polyandry in Nepal
Polyandry, where one woman has multiple husbands, was once common in Nepal. This practice often involved a woman marrying several brothers, a necessity in regions where the rough landscape required many hands for farming.
China's "Walking Marriages"
The Mosuo ethnic group in China's Yunnan province practices "zou hun," or walking marriage. This unique arrangement allows individuals the freedom to have romantic relations with whomever they choose without the bindings of traditional marriage.
Today, polyamory or consensual non-monogamy is gaining traction and acceptance worldwide. From books to scientific research and even reality TV shows, polyamory is being explored and celebrated more openly than ever.
Spotlight on Historical Polyamorists
Throughout history, many notable figures embraced polyamory. Georgiana Cavendish, an English duchess, had a unique marital arrangement with her husband and Lady Elizabeth Foster, forming a polyamorous triad that lasted 25 years. William Marston, the creator of Wonder Woman, drew inspiration from his life partners, Elizabeth and Olive Byrne, with whom he shared a polyamorous relationship. Other figures like Emma Goldman, Alfred Kinsey, Colette, Simone de Beauvoir, and Marlene Dietrich also had intriguing polyamorous liaisons that defied societal norms of their times.
In essence, polyamory is not a newfangled trend or a passing phase. It's a testament to the diverse ways humans have experienced and expressed love throughout history. So, the next time someone mentions polyamory, remember: it's as old as time itself and just as fascinating!
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The polyamorous lifestyle is trending at the moment, but it certainly isn't a modern-day millennial invention. This group relationship lifestyle has its roots in the 19th century but was only given a label in the 1970s. Centuries ago, it was common for those living a polyamorous lifestyle to live in small communities on communes.
(Many people get polyamory and polygamy confused. Polygamy is when only one party in a relationship is allowed multiple partners. Polyamory is when two or more people agree to a set of unique relationship rules.)
During the Summer of Love wave in California in the seventies, the well-documented Kerista hippie commune became known for its non-conventional living arrangements. The group even coined the term "polyfidelity". It wasn't until the early 1990s that the term polyamorous hit mainstream media, thanks to polyamorous writer Morning Glory Zell-Ravenheart.
Since its terminology came to light, California has made waves to legally recognize polyamory!
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