278 On the Alleged Evidence for
inheritance, of name, property, title, totem (frequently), and in general membership in clan or family, through the mother and not through the father. But the head of the clan or family is not normally the mother, but the senior male on the distaff side. In Dr. Frazer's words there is aviincidi potestas, not patria potestas. The father is less important than the mother, partly because he is an outsider, (by the workings of exogamy), and partly because his wife and children are not his property, but his brother- in-law's. He in turn is the over-lord of his sister, and her husband and children. Perhaps the most far-reaching result of this arrangement is seen in certain royal families where, descent being through the female, the heir to the throne is the son, not of the reigning king, but of the queen-sister, even though her husband be a commoner ; a state of things whereof Africa gives us some noteworthy examples. To sum up : — Mother-right, while leaving power in the hands of the men as a whole, not the women as a whole, gives the wife in each individual family a certain precedence over her husband ; while in matters of inheritance the important question is not, Who is So-and-So's father } but. Who is his mother .-'
This paper deals only with Greek evidence ; hence I do not treat such matters as the reports of something like mother-right among various Mediterranean peoples, such as the Cantabri in Spain or the doubtfully Aryan Lycians. Neither is it pertinent to ask whether mother-right existed among the pre-Hellenic inhabitants of the Greek peninsula, the neighbouring islands, and the Asiatic coast. It may be safely assumed that the Greeks did not on their arrival adopt mother-right if they found it, for the simple reason that all over the world father-right is the more stable institution, and any change from one system to the other is invariably in its direction. A patrilinear people never becomes matrilinear ; the opposite often happens. The enquiry is limited to those races, known to us under the