Peloponnesians - Kinship, Marriage, and Family



Kinship. As in the rest of Greece, kinship in the Peloponnesos is bilateral with loosely defined (often patricentric) kindreds being the most significant unit beyond the nuclear Family, although there are vestiges of patrilineal clans in Mani and a definite patricentric bias to most kinship reckoning in general. Kinship terminology is symmetrical and virtually identical to the Eskimo system. Fictive kinship, created through marriage and baptismal sponsorship, is a very Important means of uniting people and often serves as the basis for economic, political, and social relations outside the true family.

Marriage. Marriage is a prime goal of virtually every Greek, and those who do not marry are looked down upon and pitied. In the Peloponnesos arranged marriage has largely given way to a more open system, although the traditional practice was never very severe and individuals were rarely forced into matches against their will. Nevertheless, arranged marriages sometimes united temperamentally incompatible individuals, and although couples rarely divorced or separated, they often lived virtually separate lives under the same roof. The majority of men and women marry young, averaging 27 for males and 22 for females, slightly older than in the Recent past. In the villages postmarital residence is usually Viri-local, with couples settling in the husband's village but in a house of their own rather than in his parents' home. Patrilocal residence is still found, but it occurs most often as a temporary arrangement until the couple can establish their own household. Postmarital residence in towns and cities is neolocal, but it often has an uxorilocal slant in that a couple is apt to end up in the neighborhood of the bride's family, Especially if she has provided a house or apartment as part of her dowry (a standard practice today).

Domestic Unit. The ideal domestic unit is the nuclear family: husband, wife, and unmarried offspring. However, it is not uncommon, both in rural and in urban areas, to find one or two other individuals in the household, usually a widowed parent of the husband or wife.

Inheritance. By custom and law in Greece, inheritance is partible, bilateral, and equivalent—that is, all children receive equal portions of the estate. The difference is that females traditionally receive their portions in the form of dowries at the time of marriage while males often have to wait for the death of one or both parents to receive their shares, although they may get usufruct rights to land before that time.

Socialization. Socialization takes place mostly within the family, although schools and other formal institutions play an increasingly important role in this regard. For young men, military service, universally compulsory, tends to be an Important (and sometimes traumatic) experience that removes them from the indulgent and coddled environment of the family and exposes them to discipline and many new influences.


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