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Mortal Voyage: Online Identity

Reminder: Don’t use my work as a scholarly source OR plagiarize. At least one university knows about this site and has caught people copying from it. Do your own papers! (But feel free to go to the references, look them up, and use them in your own!) This was my final paper for my BA in Cultural Anthropology and consists of original ethnography. PLEASE do not use it for your own gain.

Mortal Voyage: Online Identity

            Once considered the realm of the socially inept, video games have become a significant source of entertainment that rivals Hollywood in sales (Chatfield, 2009).  With over two-thirds of American households playing video games, and nearly two-thirds of those playing socially, clearly these attitudes are outdated and require recalibration (ESA, as cited by Barnett & Coulson, 2010).  One type of game, the Massively Multiplayer Online Game (MMOG or MMO), is expressly designed with social activity in mind.  These games often have both large- and small-scale groupings of members who play together or have similar ideals.  One of these groups, founded in 2007, is the Mortal Voyage Permadeath Guild (MV) in the game Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO).  Identity formation and role-taking will be analyzed through symbolic interactionism to explore the world inhabited by these “Mortals.”


Using a blend of Kozinets’ “netnography” and Escobar’s cyber-anthropology and ethnology, Mortal Voyage was studied through the time-honored tradition of participant-observation (Kozinets, 1998; Kozinets, 2010; Escobar, 1994).  A “pure” cyberculture, MV exists only online, without a “real life” component besides those that already existed prior to joining the guild (Kozinets, 1998).  The observations took place over a period of four weeks in June and July 2013 within the game of DDO itself as well as the guild’s website and forums.  Since most members of the guild are over thirty-five, hold a normal “day job,” and spend time with family, most observations took place during the evening hours.

A dialogue was maintained between the author and the players through the forums, including surveys and a discussion of ethical concerns.  Every player who commented about privacy stated that the use of their naming convention rather than their “real names” was sufficient.  Though MV does occasionally have minor players, none of the players who participated in filmed sessions, interviews, or surveys were underage.  In addition, when playing with a new group, the author reminded the other players that the session was being filmed and analyzed to allow for questions and requests to stop the film.  There was no noticeable resistance to the study.

The research itself went through several versions of focus, from power structures to social adjustments to the environment, but eventually the social aspect of the guild shone out of the data.  With symbolic interactionism focusing on identity and roles within social circles, the guiding questions became about how people, who can choose to be anyone from the anonymity of the Internet, develop their online identities and how these identities influence their experiences.

Literature Review:

Since the Internet became available for leisure, there have been individuals coming together digitally to discuss their favorites with like-minded people.  These “meeting places” have been called virtual worlds, communities of play, digital communities, virtual cultures, and several other iterations of each (Boellstorff, 2008; Escobar, 1994; Jones, 1997; Muramatsu & Ackerman, 1998; Pearce, 2009; Taylor, 2006; Wilson & Peterson, 2002).  “Communities, ethnicities, societies and nations have always had a virtual element that exists only in the minds of humans,” and the extension of our minds to the cyberspace between our computers does not diminish the community or social world held within these lines of code (Madden, 2010, p. 179).

Social worlds on the Internet leapt forward with the creation of Multi-User Domains, or Dungeons (MUDs), which were effectively chat rooms, often with a fantasy-role-playing basis.  Muramatsu and Ackerman explored one MUD, Illusion, including the ways the game was designed to encourage new players to stay and grow, preventing a stagnation of the community (1998).  They followed the Chicago School of Sociology’s interactionist view to discuss social stratification between players of various levels and impact on the game by players called “mortal” or “immortal” based on the amount of influence they wield (1998).

Virtual worlds experienced another leap forward with graphical interfaces, giving characters avatars to control and visible worlds to explore.  These worlds are split into two categories- Massively Multiplayer Online Worlds (MMOW) and the previously mentioned MMOGs.  An MMOW such as There.com and Second Life is “not goal-oriented; it has no beginning or end, no ‘score,’ and no notion of ‘winning’ or ‘success’ . . . [Such a world] isn’t really a game at all” (Curtis, as cited by Boellstorff, 2008, p. 22).  They also provide the purest form of online community, and as such have been the focus of a few ethnographies such as Boellstorff’s Coming of Age in Second Life and Pearce’s study of a group of players who wandered from a discontinued game into other communities (Boellstorff, 208; Pearce, 2009).  She called this the Uru Diaspora and chronicled how a group of virtual refugees found a new land and changed it to replicate their “lost homeworld” (Pearce, 2009).

Finally, Barnett and Coulson provided an in-depth look at today’s MMOs from a psychological perspective, focusing specifically on social interaction (2010).  They discovered that MMO players are a separate breed of gamer.  While other games are mostly played by adolescent and young adults, typically male, MMOs have a much wider age range, as much as twelve to eighty-three years (Barnett & Coulson, 2010).  In addition, while there are more male MMO players, women tend to play more often and longer hours (Barnett & Coulson, 2010).  Far from being socially isolated while playing games, or socially inadequate in general, MMO players play to “seek social support or generally socialize with other players,” and the “majority of [Yee’s] online gamer sample had successful careers and families” (Barnett & Coulson, 2010, p. 169).  In fact, they found that rather than attracting the socially awkward, MMOs require a set of social skills to succeed because those without will be ostracized within their community and be unable to find groups to progress to the higher leveled content (Barnett & Coulson, 2010).  In addition, “current evidence suggests that social connections formed through such online games can be very deep and meaningful to those involved” (Ferguson, 2010).

Mortal Voyage:

Mortal Voyage itself was created in 2007 by Parvo who had played in other Permadeath guilds prior to founding MV, but wanted specific changes to be made to the ruleset.  Recently, Parvo decided to step down to focus more on real life and other games, appointing Red as his successor.  Red has been in MV since 2010 and is attempting to live up to the mission statement of providing a pen-and-paper-like environment where “character advancement is an accomplishment” (Mortal Voyage, n.d.).

When video games were mainly in arcades and pushing for quarters, they were challenging and there was a limit on how many “lives” a character had.  As gaming moved to the living room, puzzles became plot, and storage space increased, “lives” became “save points,” places where a character would wake up after his death to keep the player engaged in the story.  In MMOs, the goal is to get people in easily and keep them playing (and paying) by getting them to high levels quickly.  This is often done by reducing death penalties to near-negligible levels.  In DDO, if a character dies, his teammates can take him to a “resurrection shrine” which will restore the character to life, allowing him to continue his assault.

To bring challenge back to gaming, Mortal Voyage has decided to institute strict rules and largely ignore the larger game.  The most obvious of these rules, and the one mentioned in the guild’s full name, is that of death.  Any character that dies in the guild must be deleted and started anew at level one.  The name Mortal Voyage, and hence the title of “Mortal” for the player, is a stark contrast to other players who get up from each death as though immortal.  Hectic battles fought with such stakes are also a huge draw to the permadeath playstyle, providing an adrenaline rush that leaves players with pulse racing and hands shaking as they take stock of injuries and decide on their next move.  After experiencing one of these battles in a group, one of the players, Soldiere, stated with emphasis, “That is why we play MV.”  Many players can even recount quests run years ago that ended in glorious victory or agonizing defeat.  As a result, the players in MV are tight-knit and value one another’s characters as much as their own.  “Psychological research suggests that people choose to join groups because they want to feel a sense of belonging, share information, achieve goals, and receive rewards” (Watson & Johnson, as cited by Barnett & Coulson, 2010).

Along with other rules related to teamwork and restoring DDO to its “pen-and-paper” Dungeons & Dragons roots, the guild attracts particular players who prefer the slow, careful dungeon crawl over the so-called “zerg” of the designed game.  The guild attracts a certain type of player, and that starts with its tabletop roots.  Most players have played video games “since Pong” or since they were children for the few who are too young for Pong, and the majority have experience playing tabletop Dungeons & Dragons.  One former member stated that it also draws a player who can develop an emotional attachment, not only to their own characters but to the players he plays with.  He believed that this emotional attachment also meant a player could “burn out” from all the character loss over time, which led to his leaving the guild for a more relaxing experience in the game.

This particular player was the only one to mention a form of “survivor guilt,” feeling ashamed that one of his high level characters had survived not one, but two separate events that left all the other characters in his party dead.  Typically, when a quest “goes wrong,” one or two characters will fall, or everyone will.  It is not at all normal to have a single survivor.  It is, however, common to have a shared sense of grief across the guild for a fallen character.  It is frequently announced in guild chat that a character fell, in which quest, and sometimes how, though with careful attention not to “spoil” per guild rules, which is usually followed by expressions of grief, regret from teammates, and apologies for the loss.  Each character is an investment of several hours of time.  It takes about an hour to reach level two, then the time investment between levels only grows at each step.

This emotional attachment to other players is most easily seen through the answers of a short survey completed by some of the guild members.  When asked why they play in MV, the general answers were challenge and great people.  Interestingly, the longer a player has been in MV, the more likely they were to cite “people” as their top reason for playing, over the challenge.  One long-time, respected member stated:

MV was a way to keep the game challenging and fun, and led to my making some great friendships in the gaming world.  Anyone who sticks around here and plays this style without cheating have consistently been stand up folks.  They also tend to be caring and intelligent people, all in all just great individuals as well as great teammates. (Bragi survey, 2013).


Symbolic interactionism focuses on the interactions between people as actors, specifically for this paper, as they apply to identity formation and roles (McClelland, 2000).  The first step to joining or observing any MMO is the creation of one’s avatar.  An avatar is the graphical representation of “you,” the player at the keyboard.  An avatar can be designed to look as close to the real player as possible, a “better version” of the player, or as wild as the software will allow.  What matters is that for all intents and purposes, this is who other players will see when they see “you.”  As such, the avatar is the one who becomes your agent in the digital world.  His or her personality may be like yours or may be a character you portray as on a stage.

In DDO, players are given several options for avatars.  They can be male or female, one of several races or species, with several customization options and a unique name.  In MV, each player has a chosen naming convention which is incorporated into each character’s name for ease of recognition.  For example, the guild leader’s “name” is Red, and some of his characters are named Redini, Redcicle, Redempsion, and so on.  Another, the aforementioned Soldiere, adds a silent “e” to the end of his names for more flexibility in available titles, and yet another simply chooses names that are twelve letters long, leading to his title, “Twelve.”  As MV operates solely by naming convention and character name, never by given name, this paper will address the players by their chosen naming conventions.

There are only four active female players including the author in MV today, and they all play female avatars.  However, several of the men in the guild also create female avatars, either exclusively or frequently.  As Pearce pointed out, however, this does not indicate cross-dressing or other gender-bending habits outside of the game (2009).  The reasons for male players with female avatars vary from customization options or a fit with the intended identity to preferring to stare at a female’s rear for the hours of play each day, the last mentioned by Barnett and Coulson and confirmed by at least one MV player personally (2010).  One player admitted that his healers were female, while the rest were male, and that he copied this trait from a friend of his, though he also wondered what this said about him.  Ducheneaut, Yee, Nickell and Moore “found that male players who chose healing roles, or other classes that wore light armor, were more likely to “gender-bend” and play female characters” (as cited in Barnett & Coulson, 2010, p. 169).

MV is not a “role-playing” guild.  Guilds like that tend to only speak in character and come up with elaborate back-stories.  Instead MV is focused on the challenge of permadeath and trying to recreate the tabletop games of Dungeons and Dragons as closely as possible.  However, it is not uncommon for one character of a player’s to discard the player’s personality and take on one of its own.  Bragi, a gruff Montanan, is generally a nice fellow, once you get past his surly exterior.  He played a character called Mocker who has the personality of a super-egotistical trickster.  Having many characters in one’s repertoire allows some experimentation as well as some characters to simply let loose and have fun.

Most players are content to keep their identities tied to their online avatar, though it is not unheard of for players to develop strong enough rapport to speak outside of the game, and speaking about “outside the game” is actually quite common.  Just as with any large group of people, some people tend to gravitate to one another though “cliques” are generally discouraged.  Some have exchanged Facebook friendships, e-mail addresses, and so on.  At another level, many players feel comfortable talking about their children, their jobs, and other personal topics to the guild as a whole or just their small party.  Where Muramatsu and Ackerman found shallow relationships within Illusion, “if personal disclosures foster friendships,” MV is certainly an arena where friendships can bloom, given two willing players (1998; p.110).  Interestingly, the opinions of Mortals themselves are split on the subject, some claiming a true friendship requires face-to-face contact, others taking the other side of the argument.


Since DDO is a role-playing video game based on a role-playing tabletop game, it stands to reason that characters would have roles within a group.  These are traditional roles that are present in nearly every role-playing game, MMO or single player.  The most important to MV is the rogue.  The rogue is the only character that can spot and disable traps, allowing the party to venture deep into the dungeons.  Another important role is that of healer, patching up the fighters after and during combat.  There are other roles such as “tank,” the character who is supposed to get the attention of monsters to prevent them from damaging other characters, “DPS” (damage per second), the character who is responsible for killing the enemies quickly, and “controller” for those who use spells to confuse, charm, or otherwise disrupt the enemy.  “Controller” is not generally used in MV as a term, though his role is still applicable.

A group is formed around a rogue, but the other abilities may or may not be represented well.  For example, a level nine rogue may ask if anyone else has level six to nine characters to run a particular quest.  Two may only have fighters, two only arcane magic users, and nobody has a healer or tank.  The group would still run the quest, adjusting tactics as necessary to successfully complete the challenge.  To better accommodate these issues, most players have a large number of characters within the guild at various levels, and many characters can fill two of the roles, such as a wizard-rogue who can be a rogue but also act as a controller.

DDO’s character creation is somewhat different from most other MMOs in the flexibility and creativity permitted.  In many MMOs, a level ten fighter is nearly identical to every other level ten fighter.  In DDO, characters are a collection of ability scores, feats, and skills, and each character can have up to three “classes” that further adjust the way a player can interact with the world.  Many Mortals prefer to “splash” (add a level or two of a synergistic class to an otherwise pure-class build) or build “mutts,” characters with a wide variety of abilities.  This flexibility is certainly a bonus for MV.

Some players have developed an identity around their preferred roles.  For instance, one player prefers to play arcane DPS sorcerers almost exclusively.  Another is typically the rogue in his groups.  Still another has built his identity around his love of the Warforged race, a sort of sentient robot.  There is even a player who is known for his “mutt builds” where most of his characters, like a sorcerer who is a tank, are more than meets the eye.

As stated above, some games have a distinct social stratification, such as Illusion, but this is adjusted to fit MV.  A high level character is certainly a marker of a good player as well as one who has likely been around the guild for some time.  However, because characters are constantly dying and being re-born at level one, there is no “high-level/low-level” divide in the guild.  Once a week, the guild holds a “Lowbie Night” when high level characters are ignored and everyone plays in the low-level areas to help new members learn or old members get their recent deaths back up to level (Muramatsu & Ackerman, 1998).

Similarly, there is no “mortal/immortal” divide as no player has control over the game itself.  Rather there are roles such as “veteran.”  It denotes a player who has spent enough time playing in MV to have a handle on the typical tactics and all the rules within the guild.  These players are made officers in the guild, capable of inviting other players into the guild, though these players are mostly just returning members with a new level one that needs to be invited back.  These roles, while provided for in the game’s programming, are far more organic in nature.  To become a veteran, a player does not have to reach a certain level or play for a pre-determined amount of time.  When they start taking control and stepping up to the social responsibilities of a veteran, they have arrived.


Identity in MV is a tricky subject.  Most players have several characters, and the majority of these characters are interchangeable as far as “personality” is concerned.  Few players go through the effort of maintaining different attitudes with each character, instead focusing on the given role for that character.  A front-line fighter, for instance, may act in a more aggressive manner, but that is the role, not the avatar.

It is easy to play a role for a couple hours across the internet.  Perhaps this ease is the reason so many are fearful of who may be listening in on their conversations.  However, it is much more difficult to play the same role for several hours, day after day.  Most Mortals play at least once a week, many play almost every day after their children are in bed.  Many players learn quite a bit about one another during the lulls in combat when small talk leads to personal disclosure.  A player breaks away from the group to tend to a crying child who woke up with a nightmare, and the whole group starts talking about their own children’s issues with troubled sleep.  Another player, in another group, comments that he and his wife are trying to get pregnant, and later mentions his mother-in-law’s recent passing which sparks a conversation about honoring those family members by naming children after them, including the real names of the children without bothering to falsify them for the sake of “internet security.”

It is for these two reasons that I believe Mortals do not so much “choose” their identities as they carry them forward from their offline lives.  Their online identities are simply an extension of their off-line personalities.  There are certainly some exaggerations and a certain freedom inherent in the knowledge that one will probably never meet the other people they are speaking to, but overall, the members of the guild are as respectful to one another as they would be if they were in the same room.  This virtual community is a place where they go to get away from personal drama, to play their chosen role, and relax.  It is also a place where one’s identity, by way of naming convention, follows from character to character, adding the social pressure to behave properly or risk being ostracized.

A common thought among Mortals is that whether you know the player by the name he chose or the name his mother and father chose, you still know the player.  Within this guild’s ruleset, one can discover whether a person is selfless and brave, willing to rush into certain danger to recover a fallen character’s “body,” or if he is willing to run from battle, leaving his comrades to their fate.  Even if it is not a real person’s life at stake, it is certainly a significant investment of time and effort.

The world of Mortal Voyage is a vastly different one from the world inhabited by other DDO players.  They run past each other on the digital streets of Stormreach since they share a server with hundreds or thousands of other players, but the way they play separates them, literally and figuratively, from the rest.  They do not take part in the festivals and frivolous activities, and they refuse to group with non-Mortals.  The strict rules enhance “member cohesion and encourage positive social communication” which are “important for a guild’s collective well-being” (Barnett & Coulson, 2010, p. 173).  Mortals identify with the guild and although they are already predisposed, since they self-selected for membership, they quickly acclimate to the guild’s culture, internalizing the advice given by veterans.

Without a doubt, its members proudly acknowledge this identity of “Mortal” and this role of “survivor.”  When each quest completion is fought for and earned through teamwork, creative tactics, and gaming skill, each level truly is an accomplishment.  Those who earn these accomplishments and survive tough encounters together cement their bonds as guildmates, perhaps even as friends.


Barnett, J. & Coulson, M. (2010).  Virtually real: A psychological perspective on massively multiplayer online games. Review of General Psychology, 14(2), pp. 167-179.  Retrieved from EBSCOhost doi: 10.1037/a0019442.

Boellstorff, T. (2008).  Coming of age in Second Life [Kindle edition]. Princeton University Press: Princeton, New Jersey.

Bragi Survey.  (2013). MV Survey [Online forum comment].  Retrieved from http://www.mortalvoyage.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=6&t=3777#p37533

Chatfield, T.  (2009, September 26).  Videogames now outperform Hollywood movies.  The Guardian.  Retrieved from http://www.guardian.co.uk

Escobar, A. (1994). Welcome to Cyberia. Current Anthropology, 35(3), pp. 211-231.  Retrieved from EBSCOhost accession number 9406130852.

Ferguson, C. (2010). Blazing angels or resident evil? Can violent video games be a force for good? Review of General Psychology, 14(2), pp. 68-81.  Retrieved from EBSCOhost accession number 2010-11858-003.

Jones, S. (1997).  Virtual culture: Identity & communication in cybersociety.  SAGE Publications Ltd: London.

Kozinets, R. (1998). On netnography: Initial reflections on consumer research investigations of cyberculture.  Advances in Consumer Research, 25(1), pp. 366-371.  Retrieved from EBSCOhost accession number 83386463.

Kozinets, R. (2010). Netnography: Doing ethnographic research online.  SAGE Publications Ltd: London.

Lonic Survey.  (2013). MV Survey [Online forum comment].  Retrieved from http://www.mortalvoyage.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=3&t=3791&p=37626&sid=3ac56345f9cfec9075a7a0dafedab055#p37626

Madden, R. (2010).  Being ethnographic: A guide to the theory and practice of ethnography.  SAGE Publications Ltd: London.

McClelland, K.  (2000).  Symbolic interactionism.  Retrieved from web.grinnell.edu/courses/ soc/s00/soc111-01/IntroTheories/Symbolic.html

Mortal Voyage. (n.d.).  Mortal Voyage Permadeath Gaming Guild home page.  Retrieved from http://www.mortalvoyage.com

Muramatsu, J. & Ackerman, M.  (1998).  Computing, social activity, and entertainment: A field study of a game MUD.  Computer Supported Cooperative Work: The Journal of Collaborative Computing, 7(1/2), pp. 87-122.  Retrieved from EBSCOhost accession number 11357737.

Pearce, C. (2009).  Communities of play: Emergent cultures in multiplayer games and virtual worlds.  MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.

Taylor, T. (2006).  Play between worlds: Exploring online game culture.  MIT Press: Cambridge, MA.

Wilson, S. & Peterson, L. (2002). The anthropology of online communities. Annual Review of Anthropology, 31(1), pp. 449-467.  Retrieved from EBSCOhost doi: 10.1146/annurev.anthro.31.040402.085436.


01/12/2015 Posted by | College Papers | , , , , | Leave a comment

Online Gaming: Anonymous Communication

Online Gaming: Anonymous Communication


“Drink pots if you got ‘em [sic].  I’m down to echoes and having trouble keeping the tank healed.”  The previous statement was recorded during a session of Dungeons & Dragons Online (DDO), a Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (MMO).  Each of the words in the statement is a recognizable term in English, though the usage is not customary.  Each segment of society has its own language and jargon for the world around it.  Online gaming is no exception, and while some terms, such as “tank” are common across an entire genre (MMOs), others like “echoes” are specific to one game or another.  Language, however, is not only about the words that are used, but a number of details, some more subtle than others, which provides the context necessary to understand a particular utterance.  With the understanding that not all potential readers readily understand gaming terminology, and to minimize the amount of space spent in explanation of terms, each highlighted term is explained in the Glossary of Terms prior to the Reference page.  By analyzing several hours of communication taking place within the contexts of two very different video games, one can discover the differences and similarities between the languages of each of the games and the general population. Continue reading

01/07/2013 Posted by | Achieving, College Papers, Learning, Thinking | , | Leave a comment

Interpreting the Hajj

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            Circle the Ka’bah seven times in an anti-clockwise direction, hasten between the hills seven times, and toss pebbles at pillars.  The activities involved in the Muslim pilgrimage, or Hajj, appear to be symbolic of something, yet some Muslim authorities vehemently deny the attribution of meaning (Katz, 2004).  Despite this claim, some other Muslim scholars do believe the actions are more than “blind obedience” to the wishes of their god, Allah, and with the interpretive theory, each aspect of the Hajj will be examined for its importance in the Islamic tradition. Continue reading

12/12/2012 Posted by | College Papers | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Eucharist: Roman Catholic Mass

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

White cloaked men, carrying a large cross and candles enter, followed by a man and two women in suit and dresses enter the church.  They are then followed by three men in green and gold, one of whom carries a gilded Bible.  This is the highly ritualized Sunday Mass of the Roman Catholic Church.  It is as foreign to the average non-believer as a Hindu or Zoroastrian service may be, and possibly as foreign to a Protestant Christian as well.  Gone are the electric guitars and beating drums of a non-denominational Christian church, the long sermons of ministers and pastors replaced by simple Bible readings and responsive prayers.  Roman Catholics ritualize their beliefs, finding meaning in the repetition while many other denominations attempt to dissect their beliefs to restate to their congregations.  By observing seven different Christian services, the differences between Catholicism and other Christian denominations seem clear.  Catholicism places more emphasis on ritual, has a more literal interpretation of the Eucharist, and is generally more akin to the churches of the days before the Reformation than those of the Protestants. Continue reading

09/18/2012 Posted by | College Papers | , , | Leave a comment

Fraternal Polyandry: Common Wives of the Nyinba

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

While over eighty percent of cultures around the world allow polygyny, or the marriage of one man to more than one woman, only four known cultures allow polyandry, the marriage of one woman to more than one man (Pasternak, 1997). Even rarer is the practice of fraternal polyandry, or the marriage of a set of brothers to one wife, which is found exclusively in South Asia (Stockard, 2002). The Nyinba, an ethnically Tibetan patrilineal and patrilocal population that lives in the Humla District of Nepal, not only allow polyandry, it is the cultural ideal (Levine, 1997). While experts are still unsure whether the harsh environment of the Himalayas caused polyandry or not, the Nyinba have certainly adopted their way of life to the unique marriage structure. The Nyinba are raised to cooperate and share, match the ideal number of brothers to their economic opportunities, and divide their labor by gender, and each of these characteristics influences their marriage practices and gender relations. Continue reading

09/18/2012 Posted by | College Papers | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Second Peloponnesian War: Hobbesian Causes

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

Athens and Sparta. The two most well-known city-states of Ancient Greece, and the cornerstones of Western Civilization. They were also the leaders of two alliances that fought head to head in a series of wars. The focus of this paper will be on the Second Peloponnesian War, fought between 431 and 404 BC. The Second Peloponnesian War provides an excellent example for the Hobbesian/Realist theory of war. Continue reading

09/18/2012 Posted by | College Papers | , , , , | Leave a comment

Rite of Passage

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

I suppose you could say that I have been through several rites of passage, from high school graduation to my wedding day, my first period, or my first child. However, I don’t really see these as equivalent to those in most cultures. Especially the ones we saw in videos this week, many cultures have rites that involve some form of challenge- three days of dancing and behaving stoically, actual pain and suffering, the requirement to fend for yourself instead of always relying on your parents (or government) to support you. Continue reading

07/05/2012 Posted by | College Papers, Learning, Thinking | , , | 2 Comments

Kwakwaka’wakw: Masks of Our Ancestors

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Kwakwaka’wakw: Masks of Our Ancestors

            “At the beginning of the world, a bird flew down from the sky and sat on the beach near Tsaxis (Fort Rupert).           The bird took off its mask and became a man.  His name was ‘Namugwis, and he became the founder of an important family of the Kwagu╪” (Umista, n.d., Ṫseka Animal Masks: Xisiwe’ Wolf).  If there is one recurring element of Kwakwaka’wakw myth, it is the ability to transform animals to men and men to animals by removing and donning masks.  The stylized appearance of the masks is also used in family totem poles, describing the animal ancestor that founded the family.  This everyday appearance of the supernatural is not relegated to the artwork of the Kwakwaka’wakw.  They live in a world filled with spirituality as demonstrated by the way they treat their food, the structure of their families and government, and the ceremonies and rituals they take part in.


Known as the Kwakkewlths by Indian Affairs, the Kwakiutl by anthropologists, and rarely by their individual tribal names like Kwagu’ł, Mamalilikala, and ‘Namᶃis, the Kwakwaka’wakw name literally means “people who speak Kwak’wala,” and is the chosen name for the group of tribes living on the northeastern part of Vancouver Island and the mainland directly opposite (U’mista, n.d., The Kwak’wala Speaking Tribes).  As is common with many people on the coast, whether Maryland’s crabs, Louisiana’s crawfish, or Maine’s lobster, the Kwakwaka’wakw rely mostly on seafood, specifically fish for their diet.  The year is broken up into two distinct parts: the summer months of intensive food collection and the winter, which is set aside for spiritual and social activities (Berman, 2000).  Food collection is ritualized, and always proceeds in order from the oolichan, herring, and king salmon to the halibut, sockeye, coho, humpback, and dog salmon (Berman, 2000).

The importance of the first fish, especially to the nineteenth century Kwakwaka’wakw, cannot be overstated.  The birthright of the chief of the Qәmqәmtalał descent group of the Dәʼnaxdaˀʬ was to fill his dipnet with oolichan at the exact position where his ancestor had first fished, and pray to the fish, welcoming them “for [they] were trying to come to [him]” emphasizing the reciprocal nature of the relationship between man and spirit (Berman, 2000, p 60).  The other fishermen would wait for the chief to fill and empty his net four times before beginning, each praying to his first catch as well (Berman, 2000).  Each species of fish also had different rituals involved with the catching, preparing, and eating of the first catch.  After eating the first coho, the fat is not washed or wiped from the hands, dogs and menstruating women were not permitted to eat fresh fish, and some parts of the fish, such as the intestines, were taboo as well (Berman, 2000).  Finally, once the first fish is finished being cleaned, all the remains are placed into a basket, then poured back into the mouth of the river (Berman, 2000).

Inherent in each of these taboos and rituals is the sense that the fish have chosen to bless men with their flesh to use as food for their sustenance, and the proper treatment of their bodies and remains will ensure the spirits decide to bless the men again (Berman, 2000).  By placing the first fish in the water, all the fish would be reincarnated for the next harvest, thanks to the concept of the Water of Life.  In Kwakwaka’wakw myth, many spirits have the Water of Life, which is a liquid that grants the power of resurrection and is usually associated with the urine of the chief of Ghosts, but never the salmon (Berman, 2000).  Salmon have this power in their very skin, activated when they reach water (Berman, 2000).  Many of their spirits, and “deities” if a poor correlation can be made, emphasize their reverence for fish, such as Fish Maker and Oolichan Woman (Berman, 2000).  Their two season cycle and the underlying reciprocal nature of their relationship with the spirits is summed up as “in the summer, man hunts for fish (spirits), and in the winter, spirits hunt for man.”  All creatures must eat to survive, including the spirits who are sustained by the ceremonies, rituals, and belief of the Kwakwaka’wakw.


As is common with many smaller groupings of people, political structure and kinship among the Kwakwaka’wakw are closely related.  The Kwakwaka’wakw as a whole were a collection of different tribes that all spoke the Kwak’wala language (Kwakiutl, n.d.).  The tribes were composed of groups called ‘na’mima, each of which had a head chief, lesser chiefs, commoners, and their families (Kwakiutl, n.d.).  The members of a ‘na’mima, the ‘na’mima itself, as well as the tribes were all ranked against each other in terms of prestige (Codere, 1957).  The Kwagiulth Museum itself has organized its collection into the ranked order of the owners at the time of the potlatch confiscation, emphasizing the view that the rankings and rights to privileges were the backbone of Kwakwaka’wakw society (Mauze, 2003).  A chief gained prestige for his ‘na’mima or his tribe through the tradition of potlatch, discussed in greater detail later in this paper.  Individuals are granted status and nobility by their peers, and the titles are generally passed on to someone else such that even chiefs die as commoners (Codere, 1957).  In addition, warriors could claim the names, positions, family crests, and privileges of their victims as spoils of war, further emphasizing the fluid nature of the so-called “class” system (McLuckie, 2007).

Franz Boas reported that there were four classes of members, chiefs, nobility, commoners, and slaves in 1906, but refused to classify them as such in later work, saying in 1920 that while the ranking system existed, the Kwakwaka’wakw exist as a classless society (Codere, 1957).  The head chiefs were direct descendants of the founding ancestor, usually thought to be animals that removed their masks, like the Thunderbird, the seagull, orca, or grizzly, but may also be descended from humans from distant places (Berman, 2000).  These ancestors were displayed prominently on the totem poles, giving visitors an easy way to tell where they may find kin in a new village by simply looking for their common ancestor (Berman, 2000).  Chiefs were responsible for organizing the management of resources, and were given a portion of the harvest in return, in a sort of government taxation analogy (Kwakiutl, n.d.).  The somewhat misleading term “commoner” in the Kwakwaka’wakw culture refers to a person who, at that very moment, does not hold a “potlach [sic] position, chief’s position, or standing place” or to a person who has a low ranking but still holds a “standing place” or position (Codere, 1957, p. 474).  Slaves were generally prisoners of war, but were not segregated from the family in any way that can be observed except, perhaps, through burial practices (Ames, 2001).  Typically, the slaves would be held for ransom, but even if the expensive ransom were paid, the former slave would have that shame follow throughout his life (Ames, 2001).

In the winter months, when spirits were believed to visit the villages, everything changed, from individuals’ names to the classes of society.  The uninitiated were simply the audience to the ceremonies and dances (Berman, 2000).  The “Seals” were high ranking members that were under the influence of spirits, and the “Sparrows” were hereditary officials that managed the proceedings (Berman, 2000).


The Kwakwaka’wakw may embody spirituality and ritual in everyday life, but they also have intricate ceremonies and celebrations.  In the nineteenth century, when First Nations people were still being discovered and the thrill of finding “savages” still motivated whites, the Hamat’sa, a dance featured in the Winter Ceremonial, was everything those “civilized people” had hoped for.  There still exists quite a bit of controversy over whether the Hamat’sa ever included actual cannibalism, or if it was ceremonial and dramatized, and simply misunderstood by the non-native audience.  Ruth Benedict, a well-known anthropologist, certainly believed that “the Cannibal ate the bodies of slaves who had been killed for the purpose” as late as 1959 (McLuckie, 2007, p. 150).  Other sources state that the “bites” were actually created by use of knife, and every piece of flesh “consumed” was either hidden using sleight-of-hand or was regurgitated after the performance, each piece closely tracked to ensure that none was actually ingested (McLuckie, 2007).  The dance is a reenactment of the origin story of Baxbakualanuxsiwae, the Man-Eater-at-the-Mouth-of-the-River, who was killed by the sons of a chief, Nanwaqawe, with help from a long-lost sister, the qominoqa (McLuckie, 2007).  In the ceremony, one initiate is abducted after being “sacrificed” to the Man-Eater, in reality sequestered away learning the rites and rituals associated with the dance (McLuckie, 2007).  The initiate is always male and has earned the right to participate, either through inheritance, as dowry, or as spoils of war (McLuckie, 2007).  When he enters society again, it is as a wild creature who must be tamed by other members in a ritual dance, providing a metaphor for the effects of a strong society against the unpredictable, often dangerous forces of the spirits (McLuckie, 2007).  McLuckie points out that it is akin to the Greeks dramatizing violence as a way to confirm cultural values and transfer them to the next generation (McLuckie, 2007).  In all, the dance is representative of a common theme- the introduction to the supernatural causes frenzy that is once again tamed by society (McLuckie, 2007).

The Winter Ceremonial itself, of which the Hamat’sa is a part, is part of series of myths about Raven, his friend and possibly younger brother, Mink, and the Wolves.  Raven is seen as a great benefactor for the Kwakwaka’wakw, traveling among the spirits striving for balance and cycles in all things, like the weather, high and low tides, and light and darkness (Berman, 2000).  After a great deal of trickery, insults, and threats between members of both parties, the wolves decided to hold a winter dance, complete with the red-dyed, shredded cedar bark regalia that is worn during the Winter Ceremonial by the Kwakwaka’wakw (Berman, 2000).  They try to keep the dance a secret, especially from their enemy, Raven, but he has already been listening in (Berman, 2000).  Wolf’s children continue to trick Mink, who retaliates by killing the wolves and then dances in the ceremony wearing the eldest son’s head as a mask (Berman, 2000).  Coupled with a two-headed serpent he had captured and used, the wolves ran away in shame, becoming true wolves forever, leaving the dance with Raven and Mink (McLuckie, 2007).  This action brought about the permanent separation between humans and animals in many different versions of the mythology (McLuckie, 2007).

The potlatch has been viewed in many different ways by outsiders, but remains a sort of social contract for the Kwakwaka’wakw.  It was banned by Canada in 1884, partially for economic reasons, but also because of the threat of religious implication in the ceremony (Mauze, 2003).  Many natives continued the tradition, not only because it was a part of their culture, but it was also a part of their record-keeping (Umista, n.d.).  In 1921, Dan Cranmer, a Nimpkish chief of Village Island, organized a large potlatch to repay his wife’s bride-price (Mauze, 2003).  To clarify, while there was a payment made for marriage, it was not the woman who was purchased, but the hereditary rights of the future children created from the union that were purchased from the bride’s family (McLuckie, 2007).  There were between three and four hundred people attending Cranmer’s potlatch, which Indian agent William Halliday heard about, despite the attempts at secrecy (Mauze, 2003).  Thirty-four people were charged with such terrible crimes as “distributing gifts, delivering speeches, singing songs, and so forth,” with all pleading guilty and required to surrender their potlatch “coppers, masks, head dresses [sic], potlach [sic]blankets and boxes and other paraphernalia used solely for potlatch purposes” (Mauze, 2003, p. 505).  Those who agreed were given a suspended sentence, while the others were sent to jail in Vancouver (Mauze, 2003).  While the anti-potlatching law was never officially repealed, it was deleted from the legal codes in 1951, and the Kwakwaka’wakw still potlatch to the present day, and have been mostly successful at repatriating their confiscated potlatch goods (Umista, n.d.).

The potlatch ceremony itself is social, religious, legal, and cultural all in one event.  “[F]amilies gather and names are given, births are announced, marriages are conducted, and … families mourn the loss of a loved one,” (Umista, n.d., The Potlatch).  In addition, the potlatch is where, as mentioned earlier, a chief will pass on his rights, titles, and privileges to his eldest son (Umista, n.d.).  The events occur in a specified order, from the ~seka (or t’seka) dance, which includes the Hamat’sa, the T’╪asala or Peace Dance, the sa╪a mourning ceremony, and the sale or transfer of the ceremonial coppers to marriage ceremonies and feasts and a grand gift-giving (Umista, n.d.).  The gift-giving is often likened to a redistribution of wealth, since the chief receives a portion of all harvests for his management of the resources, which he uses to throw potlatches, but the gifts are given for witnessing, recording, and passing on the events as a sort of social contract (Umista, n.d.).  A chief, and thus his tribe or ‘na’mima, will gain status based on how much they can afford to give away at these gatherings, and it is indeed a wealthy and enviable chief who can afford to have several of these in a relatively short time (Umista, n.d.).


As is common with Native American and First Nations people, the separation between sacred and profane in the world of the Kwak’wala speakers is nonexistent.  Spirituality infuses their entire lives, from the food they eat, to the structure of their tribes, to the ceremonies they take part in.  Attempting to cut a “pagan” religion from the culture of the Kwakwaka’wakw is to cut the culture itself.  The band is currently thriving and committed to bringing their heritage with them into the technological future, updating and upgrading where necessary to ensure their culture and beliefs are still relevant in today’s ever-changing world.


Ames, K.  (2001, June).  Slaves, Chiefs and Labour on the Northern Northwest Coast.  World Archaeology, 33(1), pp. 1-17.  Retrieved June 8, 2012 from JSTOR.

Berman, J.  (2000, May 1).  Red Salmon and Red Cedar Bark: Another Look at the Nineteenth-century Kwakwaka’wakw Winter Ceremonial.  BC Studies, (125/126), p. 53.  Retrieved June 8, 2012 from EBSCOhost.

Codere, H.  (1957, June).  Kwakiutl Society: Rank without Class.  American Anthropologist, 59(3), pp. 473-486.  Retrieved June 8, 2012 from JSTOR.

Kwakiutl. (n.d.).  Kwakiutl Indian Band homepage.  Retrieved June 20, 2012 from http://www.kwakiutl.bc.ca

Lobo, S., Talbot, S., & Morris, T.  (2010).   Native American Voices: A Reader.  Third Edition.  Boston: Prentice Hall.

Mauze, M.  (2003, June 1).  Two Kwakwaka’wakw Museums: Heritage and Politics.  Ethnohistory 50(3), pp. 503-522.  Retrieved June 8, 2011 from EBSCOhost.

McLuckie, A.  (2007).  Reinterpreting the Kwakiutl Hamatsa Dance As an Expression of the Apollonian and Dionysian Synthesis.  Religious Studies and Theology, 26(2), p. 149.  Retrieved June 8, 2012 from ProQuest database.

U’mista (n.d.).  U’Mista Cultural Society.  Retrieved June 8, 2012 from http://www.umista.ca/kwakwakawakw/index/php

Umista.  (n.d.).  Virtual Museum Canada.  The Story of the Masks.  Retrieved June 24, 2012 from http://www.umista.org/masks_story/en/ht/index.html

06/25/2012 Posted by | College Papers, Learning | , , | Leave a comment

Populating the New World: Theories of Initial Migration

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!

Populating the New World: Theories of Initial Migration

            For decades, if not centuries, the origins of man have been some of the most heated scientific battles ever known.  The biggest debate is probably between the “Out of Africa” model and the multiregional theory of the first Homo sapiens, but the debate about the initial population of the North and South American continents cannot be far behind.  Nearly everyone has an idea of the popular “Bering Strait land mass” theory of migration, as it is the one typically taught in schools.  There are actually two theories that stem from the Beringian model, one claiming that the Paleo-Indians found an interior passage that was free of ice, and the other arguing a coastal route.  Finally, there is also a theory that states the first people to make their way to North America were not those from Siberia at all, but Southwestern Europeans by way of the Solutrean culture.  This paper will give a brief overview of the two main theories, followed by an analysis and author’s opinion.

The reigning theory holds that man migrated from the Asian landmass across a land bridge between modern Russia and Alaska.  That is where the semblance of agreement ends.  Until fairly recently, it was generally accepted that the initial migration occurred about 12,900 years ago, after the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) (Schurr, 2004).  The people who migrated found an ice-free corridor into the continent, likely following large animals, and used “Clovis” tools (Schurr, 2004).  Because there were no older sites found, and other early man sites seem to derive from these Clovis people, the Clovis First model claims to be the “earliest occupancy of the Americas by modern human groups” (Schurr, 2004, p. 552).  However, this claim has been contested.  Findings at sites such as Meadowcroft, Cactus Hill, Topper, and Calico make claims of earlier migration, as early as 16,000 years ago.  Again, until recently, this was thought impossible because the migration would predate the earliest known settlement of the Siberian region, but the Yana River site shows human occupation as early as 30,000 years ago, well before the LGM (Schurr, 2004).  The ice-free corridor theory has also taken a hit due to the lack of any animal bones found in the area between 21,000 and 11,500 years ago (Schurr, 2004).  In all, the evidence seems to point towards a coastal method of migration, which would also help to explain the incredibly rapid expansion of man throughout the two continents, which is estimated to have happened in only a few centuries (Schurr, 2004).

Bradley and Stanford have presented a new theory to challenge that notion.  They maintain that the Beringian theory is simply educated conjecture, not evidence, and that as scientists we must be careful not to create dogma and ideology in our studies (Bradley & Stanford, 2004).  In The North Atlantic Ice Edge Corridor, they go into exacting detail about what makes Clovis points so unique, and then explain that no tool like the Clovis point has ever been discovered prior to Clovis except in southwestern Europe (Bradley & Stanford, 2004).  They do not claim that people never came across the Beringian land bridge, just that they were not the first, and were not the ancestors of Clovis (Bradley & Stanford, 2004).  The biggest challenges to the Solutrean migration are the 6,000 year difference in time and the incredible difficulty of a journey across the North Atlantic (Bradley & Stanford, 2004).  The “complexity and difficulty of [overshot flaking to create thin bifaces] and its rarity” lead Bradley and Stanford to believe it is more likely that the Atlantic was crossed than to believe that Clovis points and Solutrean points were independently developed (Bradley & Stanford, 2004, p.465).  The claim is that the Solutrean people took to the sea to hunt seals, and eventually chased their prey “too far” until they found land on the other side, and may have even started a cyclic hunt that spanned the ocean, setting up camps with entire kin groups on the opposite coast (Bradley & Stanford, 2004).  Sites like Meadowcroft (Pennsylvania), Cactus Hill (Virginia) and Page-Ladson (Florida) have been dated to pre-Clovis times and have some of the same tools as have been found in Solutrean sites (Bradley & Stanford, 2004).  Dating of Clovis sites seems to uphold this model, with the oldest dates coming in the east and the youngest at the west (Bradley & Stanford, 2004).

Personally, I believe that minds must always be kept open, particularly in the pursuit of science and history.  There was a time when we knew the world was flat, and a time when we knew that there was no way man was in the Americas before 4,000 years ago.  Now we know both of these claims are false, but we are still claiming to “know” facts that have not been proven.  In any case, I always search out “new” or “controversial” studies because if the truth is true, it will withstand any dissent.  Therefore, I admire Bradley and Stanford for publishing their views.  I also hesitate to “pick sides,” particularly when the answers are not mutually exclusive.  Without years of intensive research, I could not possibly add any insight to this discussion, nor could I determine from two articles which is “more correct,” but I must say that though I had not heard of the Solutrean connection before this paper, I find it fascinating and possible.  If genealogy says Native Americans came from Asia, and tools say they came from Europe, why can it not be said that they both came to the Americas and created the first “melting pot” before the melting pot we refer to now.  Why is it not possible that a smaller group of Solutreans spread their tools to a large group of Asian migrants who wound up overtaking the former?  Without considerable evidence to back either claim, it seems that the discussion will have to wait until “we know” where the Paleo-Indians came from.


Bradley, B. & Stanford, D.  (2004). The North Atlantic Ice-Edge Corridor: A Possible Paleolithic Route to the New World.  World Archaeology 36(4) pp. 459-478.  Retrieved June 1, 2012 from JSTOR.

Schurr, T.  (2004).  The Peopling of the New World: Perspectives from Molecular Anthropology.  Annual Review of Anthropology Vol. 33 pp. 551-583.  Retrieved June 1, 2012 from JSTOR.

06/04/2012 Posted by | College Papers, Learning, Thinking | , , , , | Leave a comment

The Greco-Roman Mediterranean

Warning: Please do not use my work and submit it as your own. Students have been caught plagiarizing from this site, and at least one university knows about this site due to that issue. This blog is not peer-reviewed, and thus is also not acceptable for scholarly research. Feel free to read the articles and papers here, but do your own research for your own schoolwork. Thank you!


The Mediterranean cultures of Greece and Rome have long been considered the foundations for the modern western world.  The cultural traditions, political conventions, and philosophical, religious, ethical and moral standards have survived since the days of Socrates, Plato, Solon, Caesar, and Augustus, and still play a role in our culture today.  The Greeks and Romans were part contemporary, part successive, and sometimes indistinguishable from one another as is seen by the spread of their cultures, the role of women in society, and the effect of social distinctions.  It must be said, however, that when speaking of “Greeks,” more often than not, the Greek polis of Sparta is not included, such as in its equality of women and social distinctions.

The Mediterranean, throughout history, has “acted more as a bridge than a barrier, encouraging trade and social contact between the countries bordering it” (Gilmore, 1982, p. 177).  Both the Greeks and Romans used the sea as a way to spread their culture from one end to the other, but in different ways.  The Greeks were always able seamen, relying on their maritime trade to supplement meager harvests caused by the rocky terrain.  By the mid-eighth century BCE, the Greeks were colonizing areas along the Mediterranean coastline (Bentley, et al., 2008).  These colonies, while maintaining many of the cultural aspects of the Greeks and benefitting from their trade routes, were not part of any Greek kingdom or empire, and were mostly left to their own devices.  On the other hand, the Mediterranean served as an invasion point for Rome against Carthage and many of its other conquests.  At the high point of the Roman Empire, there was a wide strip of Roman land entirely surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, which they referred to as “mare nostrum (“our sea”)” (Bentley, et al., 2008, p. 149).  While the Greeks were content to maintain cultural unity with independent city-states, or poleis, the Romans centralized government power in a Republic, then an Empire, but allowed conquered people to maintain much of their own culture.

Gender equality is both an ancient concept, and a relatively new one.  In the days of hunters and gatherers, the small family units are generally thought of as egalitarian- all members of the family play a role in food production, so all members are considered equal.  With the rise of agriculture, men started doing the heavy outdoors work of tending the fields, and with it, the power within the household and culture.  Both the Greeks and Romans had strong patriarchal traditions, with the Greeks granting citizenship only to men, and giving men total control of their family, including the ability to legally abandon children in the wilderness (Bentley, et al., 2008).  The only public position available to women was priestess, and one of the very few exceptions is Sappho, the 6th century BCE poet, who was eventually ostracized for probable homosexuality, another example of something open to men but unacceptable for women (Bentley, et al., 2008).  However, Greek women did have some power within their households, and upper class women were valued for their “pedigree” (Sanders, Nelson, Morillo & Ellenberger, 2006). In Rome, pater familias were given much authority over their households, including the ability to sell their family members into slavery or even execute them (Bentley, et al., 2008).  Roman women also had some power within the domestic sphere, which gradually extended to small shops and stalls as well as working around the law regarding inheritances until, in the third and second centuries BCE, women owned a considerable amount of property (Bentley, et al., 2008).

Finally, and most applicable to our modern world, is the effect of social distinctions.  Both the Greeks and Romans had an upper class of wealthy landowners and a lower class that was unhappy with their lot (Bentley, et al., 2008).  In both cases, the underprivileged threatened to revolt or secede, and in both cases, additional allowances were granted to help ease the gap between the rich and the poor.  In Greece, a 6th century BCE statesman named Solon compromised, allowing the aristocrats to keep their land, but cancelling all debt, freeing those who were in slavery due to debt, and outlawing debt slavery, and eventually, statesmen were even paid to ensure that “financial hardship would not exclude anyone” from holding office (Bentley, et al., 2008, p. 135).  In Rome, plebeians were granted the ability to elect tribunes, which became eligibility for almost all state offices, and eventually, even one of the consuls could be elected from the plebeians (Bentley, et al., 2008).  By the early third century BCE, plebeians had majority in the Senate, allowing the lower classes political power that bound the rest of the Romans (Bentley, et al., 2008).

The geographic proximity of Greece and Rome likely led to many of their similarities, while time and experimentation can account for many of their differences.  Even the term “Greco-Roman” points toward the inevitable comparison between these two cultural, political and philosophical powerhouses.  From the use of the Mediterranean to spread their cultures, the way women were treated in their societies, and the effect of social distinctions, one can see their similarities, differences, and effect on the western world.

Bentley, J. H., Ziegler, H.F., & Streets, H.E. (2008). Traditions and encounters: A brief global history. Ashford University edition.  Boston: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

Gilmore, D.  (1982).  Anthropology of the Mediterranean area.  Annual Review of Anthropology 11, pp. 175-205. Retrieved January 14, 2012 from JSTOR.

Nowak, B., & Laird, P. (2010). Cultural Anthropology (S. Wainwright & D. Moneypenny, Eds.).  Retrieved from http://content.ashford.edu/books

Sanders, T., Nelson, S. H., Morillo, S. & Ellenberger, N. (2006).  Encounters in world history: Sources and themes from the global past: Vol. 1. To 1500.  Boston: The McGraw-Hill Companies.

01/16/2012 Posted by | College Papers, Learning, Thinking | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment