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Thread: Inbreeding Amongst Germanic Tribes

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    Inbreeding Amongst Germanic Tribes

    [I'm bumping this thread, since it is relevant to the previous article I just posted]


    In “Kinship and marriage among the Visigoths“, Giorgio Ausenda [...] looks at the law codes from various Germanic tribes (Visigoths, Lombards, Alamanni, Bavarians) from different time periods as well as at the Gothic bible (kinship terms, etc.) for any indirect evidence.

    He finds that the patrilineal side of the family was of primary importance in Germanic tribes and that the father’s brothers were significant members of the Germanic family. related to this, he finds some hints — but only indirect ones — that parallel cousin may have been a common form of marriage in Germanic tribes early on, possibly even the preferred one. in any event, he does think that endogamous marriage was probably the norm in earlier periods, but then a shift occurred (due to pressure from the church and the state) towards more exogamous marriage practices.

    Below are some key passages from Ausenda. first, here’s some info on the sources he used:

    Lex Visigothorum – ca. 480 (Code of Euric) / 654
    Pactus Alamannorum / Lex Alamannorum – ca. 620 / 730
    – Lombardian laws – Edictum Rothari – 643 A.D.
    – Lex Baiwariorum [Bavaria] – ca. 745
    Liutprand’s Law – King of the Lombards – 8th century
    Gothic Bible or Wulfila’s Bible – 6th-8th centuries

    pg. 142:

    We know from the laws that the paternal uncle was the most important next of kin after the father. In the Leges Alamannorum XL [early 7th century or 8th century] De patricidiis et fratricidiis, the patruus [paternal uncle] comes right after the father and before the brother. In Rothari’s [643 A.D.] edict the paternal uncle is called barbas or barbanus in its latinized form. The term is mentioned in Ro. 163 as referring to one of the closest relatives against whom someone might plot death. The closest relatives mentioned in that law, with the paternal uncles, were brothers and parallel cousins, i.e., the closest male agnates beyond the father….

    “This is in tune with kinship relationships among social groups with patrilineal descent where, in general, the father’s brother is the most important kin next to the father.“

    pg. 143-44:

    “One of the main characteristics of agro-pastoral populations to this day is their high degree of endogamy, i.e. marriage with close relatives within the lineage or corporate group. In fact the great majority of present-day agro-pastoralists are characterized by unilinear descent and in most cases the paternal line is the priviliged one. At the time of the invasion [of Rome], the Langobards [Lombards] had a patrilineal descent system. This is shown beyond reasonable doubt by the genealogies written in the prologues to their laws and in their histories. That they had a segmentary lineage system [e.g. clans & sub-clans] cannot be established beyond doubt, but is highly probable….

    “As far as the Langobards [Lombards] are concerned, practically no direct clue is available in their laws as to whether they had preferential marriage and whether this was with a parallel cousin [e.g. fbd]. The adoption of Christianity must have caused considerable changes to occur with respect to pre-existing marriage customs about which practically nothing is known directly.”

    pg. 145:

    “The early existence of preferential marriage among close kin can be inferred from later laws forbidding those marriages considered ‘illicit’ and ‘incestuous.’

    “In Rothari’s edict [643 A.D.] the only prohibition, mentioned in Ro. 185, is against marriage with a (widowed) step-mother or (widowed) sister-in-law — for the widower — with a step-daughter; however, there is no specific law against close kin marriage, i.e. close cousins. Perhaps this is an indication that, until three generations after Langobardic [Lombardian] settlement in Italy, endogamous marriages were still practiced….

    “A law among the Leges Alamannorum [early 7th century or 8th century] has almost the same wording [as a law in the Leges Baiwariorum] and the same penalty, but stresses also prohibition against parallel cousin marriage, ‘filii fratrum, filii sororum inter se nulla praesumptione iungantur.’

    “In the later Leges Visigothorum Chindaswinth [642/643 A.D.] substituted the law of the previous Eurician code [c. 480] with a wider prohibition which excluded from marriage persons ‘from the father’s or mother’s descent, and from the grandfather or grandmother or the wife’s parents, also the father’s wife or widow or left by his relatives…thus no one shall be permitted to pollute in a libidinous way, or desire in marriage close blood [relations] until the sixth degree of descent.’ The law exempts those persons who, ‘with the order and consent of the princes, before the law [was enacted] should have adopted this [form of] marriage.’ Again more than a hint that close-kin marriages were practiced in the early days and gradually prohibited by increasingly strict laws.“

    pg. 147-48:

    “Langobardic [Lombardian] laws concerning forbidden marriages also became stricter over time. Liutprand 33 [8th century] forbade marriage with the widow of a cousin, but no further prohibitions were reflected in the laws. We know, however, that more extended prohibitions were made compulsory by the Church….

    “This shows that both Church and State were interested in forbidding close kin marriages. Their common concern becomes clear when one bears in mind the recognized difficulty the Church had, from the fourth century onwards, in expanding into the countryside….

    “In conclusion, the strenuous effort [by the Church] to penetrate the countryside entailed a long-drawn battle against traditional religion, whose vehicle was the kin group, and substituting the authority of the elders of the kin group with that of a religious elder, the presbyteros. At the same time the king’s rule was undermined by revolts on the part of the most powerful kin groups, clans or sections, whose conspiracies and murders menaced the power of the state. Thus Church and State became allies in trying to do aways with the political power of extended kin groups utilizing all manners of impositions. One of the most effective among them was to destroy their cohesiveness by prohibition of close kin marriage.“

    In “The Development of the Family and Marriage in Europe,” Jack Goody is in agreement with giorgio ausenda that the german tribes had had endogamous marriage practices, including cousin marriage, before the arrival of christianity. (they also had a lot of other good stuff like polygamy and concubinage. oh those wacky germans!)

    goody suggests that cross cousin marriage (mother’s brother’s daughter marriage, for instance) was probably a common form amongst the germans since it is the most common form of cousin marriage in general — but, like ausenda, he doesn’t rule out father’s brother’s daughter (fbd) marriage as a possibility.

    personally, i’m leaning towards the conclusion that fbd marriage was not so common amongst the germans since they had a bilateral kinship system — in other words, an individual would reckon his extended family on both his father’s and mother’s sides (like most westerners do today). in societies where fbd marriage is common — like arab countries — kinship systems tend to be unilateral, in particular patrilateral, i.e. the father’s lineage is the most important. on the other hand, ausenda showed that the father’s brothers were the most significant family members after one’s immediate family in germanic society, so maybe the germans did tend towards a patrilateral system. perhaps their most common cousin marriage was patrilateral cross cousin marriage, i.e. father’s sister’s daughter, tho and not fbd marriage. dunno.

    ausenda looked at the early german law codes to see what he could infer about germanic marriage patterns and kinship systems; goody looked at some law codes (like those of the anglo-saxons in britain) plus some other primary and secondary sources like correspondence between the early church fathers and the venerable bede’s “Ecclesiastical History of the English Church and People” completed in 731 a.d.

    here’s what goody had to say [pgs. 34-7]:

    “Bede tells of some of the problems involved in converting the pagan English. He explains how after Augustine, the first archbishop of Canterbury, arrived in 597, he sent messengers back to Pope Gregory at Rome seeking advice on certain current questions, including ones relating to marriage….

    “[T]he Letter of Gregory provides us with some very valuable evidence….

    “Four of the nine questions on which Augustine asked advice from the Pope had to do with sex and marriage…. Augustine’s fifth question was more complicated and more revealing: ‘Within what degree may the faithful marry their kindred; and is it lawful for a man to marry a step-mother or a sister-in-law?’

    “Pope Gregory’s reply clearly indicates the change that Christianity had brought to Rome and presumably to the other countries of western Europe. ‘A certain secular law in the Roman State allows that the son and daughter of a brother and sister, or of two brothers or two sisters may be married. But we have learned from experience that the offspring of such marriages cannot thrive. Sacred law forbids a man to uncover the nakedness of his kindred. Hence it is necessary that the faithful should only marry relations three or four times removed, while those twice removed must not marry in any case, as we have said….’

    “Since a special dispensation had to be given to those who had contracted such unions before conversion, it is clear that the practices of close marriage (presumably to cross-cousins, and possibly, as in Rome, to parallel cousins, at least to the father’s brother’s daughter) and of marriage to the widow of the brother or father (though not one’s own mother) must have been common in English, and indeed German, society. But they are now forbidden, the arguments against them being framed partly in physical terms (the likelihood of infertility) and partly in religious ones (on grounds of incest…).”

    further, on how the political powers-that-be were also in on the action (along with the church) — we already saw this in all the law codes that ausenda looked at [pgs. 39-40]:

    “Yet marriage to any close kin was forbidden by the Church and its proscriptions were given legal sanction by Christian monarchs. In Anglo-Saxon England the punishment for breaking these rules was very heavy, namely slavery, with the man passing into the ownership of the king and the woman into that of the bishop. Eventually these extensive prohibitions, which varied in extent over time, were relaxed as a result of the Protestant Reformation….”

    finally, here’s a summary of how the regulations on cousin- and other close-family marriage became more restrictive throughout the medieval period [pg. 56]:

    “In the sixth century the ban [on cousin marriage by the Church] was extended to the third canonical degree, that is, to second cousins, the offspring of a common great-grandparent ‘in imitation of Roman law which limited inheritance to the sixth degree of kinship’ (Oesterle 1949: 233), calculated in the Roman manner, that is, the third degree reckoned by the German or canonical method, which became dominant in the medieval period. Later the prohibition was pushed out still further to the fourth degree and then, in the eleventh century, to the seventh canonical degree, when the later method was used to recalculate the earlier prohibitions. Not only were these enormously extended prohibitions attached to blood or consanguineal ties, but they were assigned to affinal and spiritual kinship as well, producing a vast range of people, often resident in the same locality, that were forbidden to marry.”

    william jervis jones shows that a linguistic shift in kinship terminology took place in german starting in the 12th century and continuing through, at least, the 15th century. to give a really broooad summary of his work, he found that, starting in the 12th century, more specific kinship terms shifted in meaning to be more inclusive or have wider definitions [pg. 195+].

    just one example [pg. 190]:

    “(3) From late in the 13th century, evidence begins to accumulate for a set of ‘downward’ extensions, in which a given Ego employs the same term for Alter and for Alter’s children (or Alter’s sibling’s children) of like sex. Interestingly, the earliest recorded cases have the linkage via the sibling, and are exclusively on the maternal side. Thus about 1300 we have signs of aeheim … being used with reference to the ‘mother’s sister’s son’, though its sense is still predominantly ‘mother’s brother.” A similar extension of muome to ‘mother’s brother’s daughter’ dates from 1336….”

    kinship terms generally outline who you can and cannot marry [<< link opens powerpoint file]. in the case of the germans, before the medieval period, they had rather specific terms for people like "mother's sister's son" and "mother's brother's daughter" in order to distinguish these individuals — because some of them were probably more likely to be spouse material than others.

    starting in the 1100s and onwards, these terms became increasingly fuzzy and less specific, prolly because you could no longer marry any of them, so what’s the point of distinguishing between them! nowadays all we say (in english) is "cousin" for a broad variety of people, both male and female, from either side of our family. we don't bother to distinguish between them, because most of us don’t consider any of them to be marriable (or, depending on where you live, there are even laws against it).

    (presumably the same was true for the hawaiians, on an even broader scale. i'm guessing that they couldn't marry anyone of their own generation in their own village/sub-clan — all referred to as “brother” or “sister” — because any of those individuals might have been a sibling. the arabs, on the other hand, with their strong preference for fbd marriage have very specific kinship terms for all the players.)

    german peoples were probably tribal once-upon-a-time because they practiced, not just endogamous marriage, but cousin-marriage. their tribes, however, don’t seem to have had quite the same flavor as arab tribes which practice fbd marriage, so i’m guessing the germans didn’t marry in that way much. tribes are tribes because people inbreed; but there are different sorts of tribes because different peoples inbreed in different ways.

    european populations used to be tribal, but because we stopped inbreeding so much (thanks to the holy roman catholic church and other powers-that-be), we’re not so tribal anymore.


    Source: Inbreeding Amongst Germanic Tribes - HBD Chick

    See also: Whatever happened to European Tribes?

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    Roman sources are great because they do give us a window into the ancient Germanics. But the glass in those windows are stained by the Romans, if you follow my analogy.

    We can test for degrees of inbreeding using genetic methods. I have never heard Germanics anywhere were more inbred than any other Europeans.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow View Post
    Roman sources are great because they do give us a window into the ancient Germanics. But the glass in those windows are stained by the Romans, if you follow my analogy.

    We can test for degrees of inbreeding using genetic methods. I have never heard Germanics anywhere were more inbred than any other Europeans.
    Wouldn't have to be - Germanics Christianised early. Cousin marriage is attested in IE records from Ireland to Medistan. Germany and Gothia are hardly likely to have differed.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow View Post
    Roman sources are great because they do give us a window into the ancient Germanics. But the glass in those windows are stained by the Romans, if you follow my analogy.

    We can test for degrees of inbreeding using genetic methods. I have never heard Germanics anywhere were more inbred than any other Europeans.
    Everything I've read (some of which has been posted here) suggests Germanics and those closest to them are the least inbred in Europe. Of course you have pointed out there are different kinds of "inbreeding". There's bottlenecks from natural selection, and then there's oil-rich welfare states where anyone and everyone is encouraged to marry their cousins.

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    Which cousin is considered inbreeding? 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th? According to AncestryDNA, I have 30 4th cousins on their site.

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    Folks, inbreeding doesn't mean a thing if there are no bad genes (alleles) in either parent. The traits of the children will look strongly like their ancestors but that is not necessarily bad.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Flag-Soil View Post
    Which cousin is considered inbreeding? 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th? According to AncestryDNA, I have 30 4th cousins on their site.
    Google is a lovely intention. 2nd cousin and closer.



    Quote Originally Posted by Shadow View Post
    Folks, inbreeding doesn't mean a thing if there are no bad genes (alleles) in either parent. The traits of the children will look strongly like their ancestors but that is not necessarily bad.
    Ah there is a saying of how ignorance is bliss.

    No "bad" alleles. Yet we haven't identified all the bad alleles wondrous one and if you are going off of physical appearance alone laugh with me. Or is it possible some people have never heard of recessive genes?

    I can, after all, think of many people who seem mentally and physically appealing but genetically their genes are far from okay. There's a guy I know. Always gets the girls cause he is charming & handsome. He has a defective heart. Inbreeding within his family group well all his descendants will be handsome & charming and will likely keel over if they engage in any strenuous activity.

    Recessive genes. Look up the white hicks of the Australian outback. Four generations of inbreeding. If you think that is appealing well then you must have really loved the persons found in the "Hills have Eyes" movies.

    That isn't a one off either. Plenty of similar closely knit families in the southern States whose members aren't just short a few screws but have other issues.

    Inbreeding results in infertility of course regardless of how nice a genetic base you have, rise in recessive genes (autosomal recessive disorder) means weaker inferior offspring, structural problems, mental problems, and other issues known as inbreeding depression.

    The only "saving grace" in a way is some of those recessive genes prove fatal in the womb not unlike when two bobtail genes of a corgi mating match up. The kid dies in the womb or soon after.


    Inbreeding may not have obvious issues for some generations but trust me darling, as someone with genetic training, it won't be a may you will be biting the bullet.

    Or have you forgotten what humans have done to animals with inbreeding?

    Dogs at a good example of just what happens. Particularly those pure breeds. Some are plagued with so many issues that a number of the breeds are not just inferior but completely utterly useless mockeries of what they once were. Don't believe me about dogs? Just look up the history on any number of the popular pure breeds. I can list a baker's dozen so ruined off the top of my head right now.

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    You know, you should really stop pretending to know something about genetics, you don't.

    Let me say this again and then you can try to refute it. If there are no bad alleles between the mating pair, there will be no problems with the children. This is fact and it has nothing to do with how closely related the parents are. Work it out with Hardy-Weinberg or with Gregor Mendel's Square or however you wish. When you can make something out of nothing, get back to me.

    Dogs, great example. I have a Canadian Eskimo Dog (CED) also called Inuit Dogs. They have been around for at least 1000 years, maybe longer. Eskimos do no selective breeding but they do culling. Yet these dogs are highly inbred. Hip Dysplasia is a homozygous recessive. Yet these dogs have no, NONE, hip dysplasia. Explain that in your "inbred is bad" system of genetics. Then run Hardy-Weinberg and assume the homozygous recessive is .01 with a negative selection factor of .09 and you tell me how to get rid of it. The Eskimos did.

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    I have always failed to understand why people keep equating recessive genes with defects. Dominant genes carry defects as well.
    Lieber tot als Sklave!

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    Good question. Dominant genes are by definition expressive. So if you have a dominant gene which causes a problem which you can see, you will see it, right. You then can decide if you want to reproduce or reproduce with this person who may carry it. In most cases dominant alleles which are considered negative have been weeded out of the population.

    Recessive alleles on the other hand only manifest themselves if both alleles (talking about a simple two allele gene) are present. Since recessive alleles can be carried in the heterozygous situation without the carrier knowing it, these alleles are statistically almost impossible to weed out of the population.

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