From Simple English Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Monogamy (Greek: μονός+γάμος; monos+gamos meaning one+marriage) is a form of marriage in which a person or animal has only one spouse at any one time.

Etymology[change | change source]

The word monogamy comes from the Greek words "μονός", monos which means one or alone, and "γάμος", gamos which means marriage.[1]

Religion[change | change source]

Monogamy is one of the beliefs of Judaism and Christianity. An exception is the fundamentalist branch of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons) who strictly follow the teachings of founder Joseph Smith. Smith allowed polygamy, and had many wives. In Jewish and Christian doctrine, marriage is between one husband and one wife, which is monogamy.

Law[change | change source]

In most countries, monogamy is the only legal form of marriage, either between a man and a woman in most of these countries, and between two persons of the same gender (gay marriage) in some of the Western world. In these countries polygamy is illegal, and a person who has more than one spouse can be prosecuted for bigamy.

Historical angle[change | change source]

Polygamy without equality was almost universal in ancient human tribes.[2] By "without equality" is meant that of the wives only one would have full rights and recognition as the main wife.

The fact is that all societies of which we have good records lost men disproportionately, mainly because of warfare, but also accidents in hunting. This left widows who were not responsible for being widows: they were just unlucky.

It might be thought that this would be counter-balanced by loss of females during child-birth, but apparently not so. A full appreciation of this fact needs to take into account:

  1. On the one hand, the absence of modern medical technology, and
  2. The well-known fact that earlier societies had younger mothers.[3]
  3. The life expectancy in prehistoric times was low, 25–40 years,[4] and with men living longer than women; archaeological evidence of women and babies found together suggests that many women would have died in childbirth.

References[change | change source]

  1. Cf. "Monogamy" in Britannica World Language Dictionary, R.C. Preble (ed.), Oxford-London 1962, p. 1275:1. The practice or principle of marrying only once. opp. to digamy now rare 2. The condition, rule or custom of being married to only one person at a time (opp. to polygamy or bigamy) 1708. 3. Zool. The habit of living in pairs, or having only one mate; The same text repeats The Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, W. Little, H.W. Fowler, J. Coulson (ed.), C.T. Onions (rev. & ed.,) Oxford 1969, 3rd edition, vol.1, p.1275; OED Online. March 2010. Oxford University Press. 23 Jun. 2010 Cf. Monogamy in Merriam-Webster Dictionary
  2. Salisbury, Joyce E. 2001. Women in the Ancient World. ABC-CLIO. pp. 142–143. ISBN 9781576070925.
  3. Donald Todman 2007. Childbirth in ancient Rome: from tradition folklore to obstetrics. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2007, p83.
  4. Schools History Project (26 September 1996). Medicine & health through time: an SHP Development Study. Hodder Education. ISBN 978-0719552656.