Maxim Monday: Γαμειν μελλε

So this week’s maxim is “intend to get married” (Γαμειν μελλε) according to the list I’m using.

  • Γαμειν – This is amusingly close in the dictionary to γάγγραινα (a gangrene, an eating sore ending in mortification).  If I’m looking things up correctly, this literally is “I shall marry”. First person future active infinitive.
  • μελλε – according to my beloved Greek textbook, this means be about to (+fut. inf.); hesitateintend (+pres. inf.)

So, presumably this maxim could be translated more literally as: intend (think/say/whatever) “I shall marry.” So, again, the source translation works for me as an interpretation of the text.

As for the maxim itself, right off the bat I’m not a fan. Folks who know me know I’m divorced. My bf is too, and both of us are pretty meh on the whole thing. The romantic and fan of beautiful ceremonies in me looooove weddings (well, alternative ones, with all the indications of ownership taken out), but practically, for me? Ehhhhhh.

But, I’m in a completely different context than the maxims’ author(s). Women couldn’t own property in classical Greece. In Athens, women weren’t even considered citizens. They had no citizen rights, couldn’t participate openly in government, etc.

The maxims are probably aimed more at men than women, of course, but either way, it was in everybody’s best interests to get married. For women, it meant you were no longer the property of your father, who (after fifteen years of supporting you) would eventually tire of a spinster dragging on the household income. For men, marrying meant legitimate children and increasing the population of his city-state.

In classical Greece, getting married was far preferable to staying single, at least from a societal point of view. The occasional singleton is fine, but most folks needed to get hitched and have kids to keep the city-state going.

Today, obviously, things are a bit different. Getting married does confer a ton of legal rights and advantages (and if I ever do get married again, that will probably be why), and from a societal point of view, committed pair-bonds are a vital unit for things like raising children (which you can do as a singleton but as any single parent will tell you, it’s fucking hard work).

But, I have the same citizen rights as any man, with the occasional archaic hold-over. There’s sexism, but nothing like the classical world saw. Nowadays, there are plenty of reasons to get married, but it doesn’t need to be compulsory. We have too many people already, and marriage is no longer permanent-except-in-unusual-circumstances. What marriage means is different now than it used to be — and that’s a good thing, I’d say.

So, I don’t agree with this maxim, at least not as something every single person should do.

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