Marxist Internet Archive Reference Archive

Ancient Society

Researches in the Lines of Human Progress from
Savagery through Barbarism to Civilization

Lewis H. Morgan, LL. D

Member of the National Academy of Sciences, Author of “The League of Iroquois”, “The American Beaver and his works,” “Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity of the Human Family,” etc.

Transcribed: for by Ibne Hasan, February 2004;
First published: in 1877, by MacMillan & Company, London. This edition was printed in USA;
This Edition is reproduced from the “First Indian Edition (1944), published by BHARTI LIBRARY, Booksellers & Publishers, 145, Cornwallis Street, Calcutta. Composed by Tariq Sharif, “WATERMARK”, Gujranwala, Pakistan.

Cum prarepserunt primis animalia terris,
Mutum et turpe pcus, glandem atque cubilia propter
Unguibus et pugnis, dein fustibus, atque ita porro
Pugnabant armis, quae post fabricaverat usus;
Donee verba, quibus voces sensusque notarent,
Nominaque invenere: debinc absistere bello,
Oppida coeperunt munire, et ponerc leges,
Ne quis fur esset, neu latro, neu quis adulter.

(As soon as animals crept forth on the first lands, a speechless and degraded crowd, they battled for the acorn and for their lairs with claws and fists, then with clubs and at length with arms, which afterwards practice had made; until they learned to use words by which to indicate vocal sounds and thoughts and to use names. After that they began to refrain from war, and fortify walled towns, and to lay down laws that no one should be a thief, nor a robber nor an adulterer.)
- Horace, Sat, 1, iii, 99.

“Modern science claims to be proving, by the most careful and exhaustive study of man and his works, that our race began its existence on earth at the bottom of the scale, instead of at the top, and has been gradually working upward; that human powers have had a history of development; that all the elements of culture — as the arts of life, art, science, language, religion, philosophy — have been wrought out by slow and painful efforts, in the conflict between the soul and the mind of man on the one hand, and external nature on the other.” — Whitney’s “Oriental and Linguistic Studies,” p. 341.

“These communities reflect the spiritual conduct of our ancestors thousands of times removed. We have passed through the same stages of development, physical and moral, and are what we are today because they lived, toiled, and endeavoured. Our wondrous civilization is the result of the silent efforts of mullions of unknown men, as the chalk cliffs of England arc formed of the contribution of myriads of foraminifera.” — Dr. J. Kames, “Anthropologia,” vol. No. 2. p. 233.


Preface by the Author

About the Author

Table of Contents

Part I
Growth of Intelligence through Inventions and Discoveries

Chapter I. Ethnical Periods

Progress of Mankind from, the Bottom of the Scale. — Illustrated by, Inventions, Discoveries and Institutions. — Two Plans of Government — one Gentile and Social, giving a Society (Societas); the other Political, giving a State (Civitas). — The former founded upon Persons and Gentilism; the Latter upon Territory and Property. — The First, the Plan of Government of Ancient Society. — The Second, that of Modern or Civilized Society. — Uniformity of Human Experience. — Proposed Ethnical Periods — I. Lower Status of Savagery; II. Middle Status of Savagery; III. Upper Status of Savagery; IV. Lower Status of Barbarism; V. Middle Status of Barbarism VI. Upper Status of Barbarism; VII. Status of Civilization.

Chapter II. Arts of Subsistence

Supremacy of Mankind over the Earth. — Control over Subsistence the Condition. — Mankind alone gained that Control. — Successive Arts of Subsistence — I. Natural Subsistence; II. Fish Subsistence; III. Farinaceous Subsistence; IV. Meat and Milk Subsistence; V. Unlimited Subsistence through Field Agriculture. — Long Intervals of Time between them.

Chapter III. Ratio of Human Progress

Retrospect on the Lines of Human Progress. — Principal Contributions of Modern Civilization. — Of Ancient Civilization. — Of Later Period of Barbarism. — Of Middle Period, — Of Older Period — Of Period of Savagery. — Humble Condition of Primitive Man. — Human Progress in a Geometrical Ratio. — Relative Length of Ethnical Periods. — Appearance of Semitic and Aryan Families.

Part II
Growth of the Idea of Government

Chapter I. Organization of Society upon the Basis of Sex

Australian Classes. — Organized upon Sex. — Archaic Character of the Organization. — Australian Gentes. — The Eight Classes. — Rule of Marriage. — Descent in the Female Line. — Stupendous Conjugal Systems — Two Male and Two Female Classes in each Gens. — Innovations upon the Classes. — Gens still Rudimentary.

Chapter II. The Iroquois Gens

The Gentile Organization. — Its Wide Prevalence. — Definition of a Gens. — Descent in the Female Line the Archaic Rule. — Rights, Privileges and Obligations of Members of a Gens. — Right of Electing and Deposing its Sachem and Chiefs. — Obligations not to marry in the Gens. — Mutual Rights of Inheritance of the Property of deceased Members. — Reciprocal Obligations or Help, Defence and Redress of injuries — Right of Naming its Members — Rights of Adopting Strangers into the Gens — Common Religious Rites, Query. — A Common Burial Place. — Council of the Gens — Gentes named after Animals. — Number of Persons in a Gens.

Chapter III. The Iroquois Phratry

Definition of a Phratry — Kindred Gentes Reunited in a Higher Organization. — Phratry of the Iroquois Tribes. — Its Composition. Its Uses and Functions. — Social arid Religious. — Illustrations. — The Analogue of the Grecian Phratry; but in its Archaic Form. Phratries of the Choctas. — Of the Chickasas. — Of the Mohegans. — Of the Thlinkeets. — Their Probable Universality in the Tribes of the American Aborigines.

Chapter IV. The Iroquois Tribes

The Tribe as an Organization — Composed of Gentes Speaking the same Dialect. — Separation in Area tea to Divergence of Speech, and Segmentation. — The Tribe a Natural Growth. — Illustrations. — Attributes of a Tribe — A Territory and Name, — An Exclusive Dialect — The Right to Invest and Depose ifs Sachems and Chiefs. — A Religious Faith and Worship. — A Council of Chiefs — A Head-Chief of Tribe in some Instances. — Three successive Forms of Gentile Government; First, a Government of One Power; Second, of Two Powers; Third, of Three Powers.

Chapter V. The Iroquois Confederacy

Confederacies Natural Growths. — Founded upon Common Gentes, and a Common Language. — The Iroquois Tribes. — Their Settlement in New York — Formation of the Confederacy. — Its Structure and Principles. — Fifty Sachemships Created — Made Hereditary in certain Gentes. — Number assigned to each Tribe. — These Sachems formed the Council of the Confederacy. — The Civil, Council. — Its Mode of Transacting Business. Unanimity Necessary to its Action. — The Mourning Council. — Mode of Raising up Sachems. — General Military Commanders. — This Office the Germ of that of a Chief Executive Magistrate, — Intellectual Capacity of the Iroquois.

Chapter VI. Gentes in Other Tribes of the Ganowanian Family

Divisions of American Aborigines. — Gentes in Indian Tribes; with their Rules of Descent and Inheritance — 1, Hodenosaunian Tribes. — 2, Dakotian — 3, Gulf 4, Pawnee — 5, Algonlcin — 6, Athapasco-Apache — 7, Tribes of Northwest Coast — Eskimos a Distinct Family — 8, Salish, Sahaptin, and Kootenay Tribes. — 9, Shoshonee. — 10, Village Indians of New Mexico, Mexico and Central America. — 11, South American Indian Tribes. — Probable Universality of the Organization in Gentes in the Ganowanian Family.

Chapter VII. The Aztec Confederacy

Misconception of Aztec Society. — Condition of Advancement. — Nahuatiac Tribes. — Their Settlement in Mexico. — Pueblo of Mexico founded, A.D. 13.25. — Aztec Confederacy established A.D. 1426. — Extent of Territorial Domination. — Probable Number of the People. — Whether or not the Aztec were organized in Gentes and Phratries. — The Council of Chiefs. — Its probable Functions. — Office held by Montezuma. — Elective in Tenure. — Deposition of Montezuma. — Probable Functions of the Office. — Aztec Institutions essentially Democratical. — The Government a Military Democracy.

Chapter VIII. The Grecian Gens

Early Condition of Grecian Tribes. — Organized into Gentes. — Changes in the Character of the Gens. — Necessity for a Political System. — Problem to be Solved. — The Formation of a State — Grote’s Description of the Grecian Gentes. — Of their Phratries and Tribes. — Rights, Privileges and Obligations of the Members of the Gens. — Similar to those of the Iroquois Gens. — The Office of Chief of the Gens — Whether Elective or Hereditary. — The Gens die Basis of the Social System, — Antiquity of the Gentile Lineage. — Inheritance of Property. — Archaic and Final Rule. — Relationships between the Members of a Gens. — The Gens the Centre of Social and Religious Influence.

Chapter IX. The Grecian Phratry, Tribe and Nation

The Athenian Phratry — How Formed. — Definition of Dikaearchus. — Objects chiefly Religious. — The Phratriarch. — The Tribe. — Composed of Three Phratries — The Phylo-Basileus. — The Nation — Composed of Four Tribes. — Boule, or Council of Chiefs, — Agora, or Assembly of the People. — The Basileus. — Tenure of die Office. Military and Priestly Functions. — Civil Functions not shown. — Governments of the Heroic Age, Military Democracies. — Aristotle’s Definition of a Basileus. — Later Athenian Democracy. — Inherited from the Gentes. — Its Powerful Influence upon Athenian Development.

Chapter X. The Institution of Grecian Political Society

Failure of the Gentes as a Basis of Government. — Legislation of Theseus. — Attempted Substitution of Classes. — Its Failure. — Abolition of the Office of Basileus. — The Archonship, — Naucraries and Trittyes. — Legislation of Solon. — The Property Classes. — Partial Transfer of Civil Power from the Gentes to the Classes. — Persons unattached to any Gens. — Made Citizens. — The Senate. — The Ecclesia. — Political Society partially attained, — Legislation of Cleisthenes. — Institution of Political Society. — The Attic Deme or Township. — Its Organization and Powers. — Its Local Self-government — The Local Tribe or District. — The Attic Common-wealth. — Athenian Democracy.

Chapter XI. The Roman Gens

Italian Tribes Organized in Gentes. — founding of Rome. — Tribes Organized into a Military Democracy — The Roman Gens. — Definition of a Gentilis by Cicero. — By Festus. — By Varro. Descent in Male Line. — Marrying out of the Gens. — Rights, Privileges and Obligations of the Members of a Gens — Democratic Constitution of Ancient Latin Society. — Number of Persons in a Gens.

Chapter XII. The Roman Curia, Tribe and Populus

Roman Gentile Society. — Four Stages of Organization. — 1, The Gens; 2, The Curia, consisting of Ten Gentes; 3, The Tribe composed of Ten Curia; 4, The Populus Romanus, composed of Three Tribes. — Numerical Proportions. — How Produced. — Concentration of Gentes at Rome. — The Roman Senate. — Its Functions. — The Assembly of the People. — Its Powers, — The People Sovereign, — Office of Military Commander (Rex). — Its Powers and Functions. — Roman Gentile Institutions essentially Democratical.

Chapter XIII. The Institution of Roman Political Society

The Populus — The Plebeians. — The Clients. — The Patricians. — Limits of the Order. — Legislation of Servius Tullius. — Institution of Property Classes. — Of the Centuries — Unequal Suffrage — Comitia Curiata. — Supersedes Comitia Curiata. — Classes supersede the Gentes. — The Census. — Plebeians made Citizens. — Institution of City Wards — Of Country Townships. — Tribes increased to Four. — Made Local instead of Consanguine, — Character of New Political System. — Decline and Disappearance of Gentile Organization. — The Work it Accomplished.

Chapter XIV. Change of Descent from the Female to the Male Line

How the Change might have been made. — Inheritance of Property the Motive. — Descent in the Female Line among the Lycians. — The Cretans. — The Etruscans — Probably among the Athenians in the time of Cecrops. — The Hundred Families of the Locrians. — Evidence from Marriages, — Turanian System of Consanguinity among Grecian Tribes. — Legend of the Danaidae.

Chapter XV. Gentes in Other Tribes of the Human Family

The Scottish Clan — The Irish Sept. — Germanic Tribes. — Traces of a prior Gentile System, — Gentes in Southern Asiatic Tribes. — In Northern. — In Uralian Tribes. — Hundred Families of Chinese. — Hebrew Tribes. — Composed of Gentes and Phratries Apparently. — Gentes in African Tribes. — In Australian Tribes. — Subdivisions of Fejees and Rewas. — Wide Distribution of Gentile Organization.

Part III
Growth of the Idea of the Family

Chapter I. The Ancient Family

Five successive Forms of the Family — First the Consanguine Family. — It created the Malayan System of Consanguinity and Affinity. — - Second, the Punaluan. — It created the Turanian and Ganowanian System- — Third, the Monogamian. — It created the Aryan, Semitic, and Uralian system. — The Syndyasmian and Patriarchal Families Intermediate — Both failed to create a System of Consanguinity, — These Systems Natural Growths. — Two Ultimate Forms. — One Classificatory the other Descriptive. — General Principles of these Systems — Their Persistent Maintenance.

Chapter II. The Consanguine Family

Former Existence of this Family. — Proved by Malayan System of Consanguinity. — Hawaiian System used as Typical. — Five Grades of Relations. — Details of System. — Explained in its origin by the Intermarriage of Brothers and Sisters in a Group. — Early State of Society in the Sandwich Islands. — Nine Grades of Relations of the Chinese. — Identical in Principle with the Hawaiian. — Five Grade of Relations in Ideal Republic of Plato. — Table of Malayan System of Consanguinity and Affinity.

Chapter III. The Punaluan Family

The Punaluan Family supervened upon the Consanguine. — Transition, how Produced. — Hawaiian Custom of Punalua. — Its probable ancient Prevalence over wide Areas. — The Gentes originated probably in Punaluan Groups. — The Turanian System of Consanguinity. — Created by the Punaluan Family. — It proves the Existence of this Family when the System was formed. — Details of System. — Explanation of its Relationships in their Origin. — Table of Turanian and Ganowanian Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity.

Chapter IV. The Syndyasmian and the Patriarchal Families

The Syndyasmian Family. — How Constituted- — Its Characteristics. — Influence upon it of the Gentile Organization. — Propensity to Pair a late Development. — Ancient Society should be Studied where the highest Exemplifications are found. — The Patriarchal Family. — Paternal Power its Essential Characteristic. — Polygamy subordinate. — The Roman Family similar — Paternal Power unknown in previous Families.

Chapter V. Monogamian Family

This family comparatively Modern. — The term Familia. — Family of Ancient Germans — Of Homeric Greeks. — Of Civilized Greeks. — Seclusion of Wives. — Obligations of Monogamy not respected by the males. — The Roman Family. — Wives under Power. — Aryan System of Consanguinity. — It came in under Monogamy. — Previous System probably Turanian. — Transition from Turanian into Aryan. Roman and Arabic Systems of Consanguinity. — Details of the Former. — Present Monogamian Family. — Table of Roman And Arabic Systems.

Chapter VI. Sequence of Institutions Connected with the Family

Sequence in part Hypothetical. — Relation of these Institutions in the Order of their Origination. — Evidence of their Origination in the Order named. — Hypothesis of Degradation Considered. — The Antiquity of Mankind.

A Note. On Mr. J. F. McLennan’s “Primitive Marriage.”.

Part IV
Growth of the Idea of Property

Chapter I. The Three Rules of Inheritance

Property in the Status of Savagery. — Slow Rate of Progress. — First Rule of Inheritance. — Property Distributed among the Gentiles. — Property in the Lower Status of Barbarism. — Germ of Second Rule of Inheritance. — Distributed among Agnatic Kindred. — Improved Character of Man. — Property in Middle Status. — Rule of Inheritance imperfectly Known. — Agnatic Inheritance probable.

Chapter II. Three Rules of Inheritance — Continued

Property in the Upper status of Barbarism. — Slavery. — Tenure of Lands in Grecian Tribes. — Culture of the Period. — Its Brilliancy. — Third Rule of Inheritance. — Exclusively in Children. — Hebrew Tribes. — Rule of Inheritance. — Daughters of Zelophehad. — Property remained in the phratry and probably in the Gens. — The Reversion. — Athenian Inheritance. — Exclusively in Children. — The Reversion — Inheritance remained in the Gens. — Heiresses. — Wills. — Roman Inheritance. — The Reversion. — Property remained in the Gens. — Appearance of Aristocracy. — Property Career of Human Race. — Unity of Origin of Mankind.

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