Thursday, 13 June 2024

Of all the sensible customs of the old Babylonians, none impressed Herodotus so much as the method by which they married each other. Once a year, in each village, a senior member of the local clergy called together all the girls of marriageable age and all the eligible bachelors. The young beaus then courted and proposed to their sweethearts according to the highest principles of a free society, by a process of open market competitive bidding. The prettiest maiden, in the view of the church, was auctioned off first, then the next prettiest in line, until one came to the block for whom no bid could be raised, at which point the funds collected for those already married were converted to dowries for those unmarried, with each suitor agreeing to the lowest subsidy toward the establishment of his domestic bliss gaining for himself, in turn, a happy new bride. It was a system later streamlined elsewhere by the introduction of women into public life more broadly and the elimination of the clerical middleman. It has been most nearly perfected in those societies that lately have admitted women into the general workforce.