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ANAHITA  January 1998

ANAHITA January 1998

Subject:

Re: Age of Menarche

From:

David Meadows <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Women and Gender in the Ancient World <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Thu, 29 Jan 1998 22:13:13 -0500

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (125 lines)

Scripsit SS inter alia:
"I do think that the respondants are right, & that any number we get will come
with numerical or other cultural expectations, as the South Indian celebration
might.

As for the age of menarch & marriage being co-incident, that is not reliable,
either, as we know that in many countries the masses of poor girls are given
to their marriage families as soon as they can work.  It is a matter of
economics, rather than biology.  Unfortunately, girls around the world are
giving birth before they even begin their menses.  (Not within this purview
are the girls of five or so who are being sold into prostitution.)"

Respondeo:
There is a contradiction here ... on the one hand you suggest that the age
will be coincident with some cultural expectation and then in the next
breath, as it were, you seem to deny that marriage (and its attendant
minimum age) was a cultural expectation. I think in a Roman context (which
arguably, 4th century Alexandria would also be), the minimum age for
marriage -- which is done "for the sake of creating children" -- *must* be
connected with some perceived minimum age for bearing children and, given
that menarche was connected with the ability to bear children, there must
be a connection between menarche and the minimum age for marriage. It
really is useless to use modern societies -- no matter how exotic they
might seem -- to use them to judge the Romans, especially in regards to
matters such as this. We have texts (and inscriptions) which point to an
answer ... let's use them.

Scripsit iterum:
"This is to say, that in the absence of information which is not culturally
weighted, my own rule of thumb has been something-like-16, unless there is
evidence to the contrary, such as graves of younger mothers (i.e., of upper &
middle-class girls)."

But your rule of thumb is itself culturally weighted the wrong way,
apparently based on your experience in India. Why look to other cultures
when you have legal texts and medical texts which point towards something
younger (i.e. evidence which *is* culturally-specific)? As for graves of
younger mothers, here's CIL 5.7936:

CLEMENTILLAE....
    QVAE VIXIT ANN XV M V D V
.....VERA MATER FIL PIISSIMAE
ET MOCCIA VERA MATRI
POSVERVNT

Although framentary, the daughter Moccia Vera seems to be taking part in
the commemoration of her mother who died at 15 years, 5 months of age ...

CIL 10.155:

CISATIAE POLLAE QVAE BIXIT ANN
XXXVIII MES VIIII FIGELIVS
ATIMETVS COIVGI CVM QVO VIXIT
A XXVII M XI ET FIGELLIA
PROCVLA FILIA MATRI B M

The math suggests they cut it close on the minimum 12 years thing; I wonder
how old the Figellia Procula (the daughter) is at the time of commemoration?
The reason I ask is primarily because of a number of other inscriptions
where a father and children commemorate a dead wife/mother: CIL 6.3577
(father and daughter; mother is 18 at death), 6.17591 (father and son;
mother 17), 6.2194 (father plus 2 sons; mother died at eighteen). In CIL
6.18703 a hubby commemorates a 19 year old wife with whom he lived for six
years (any children aren't mentioned). Now if we assume that all these
women died in childbirth (a reasonable possibility) and these are their
first children (also reasonable) you get marriages at the 15-16 age range.
It is also reasonable to assume that menarche had begun by then. But it is
also a rather realistic possibility (given the vagaries of fertility in the
ancient world) that they were married younger and had reached menarche
younger as well. I could probably give more details on this sort of thing,
but this should be sufficient to 'point in a general direction' no?

dm


Sheila Shiki y Michaels

In a message dated 98-01-29 01:07:59 EST, you write:

<< General theory (Tanner et al) would have it that it came later, even
 much later than it does in the western world today.

 Does anyone have references that would provide more direct evidence? >>

<< shouldn't there be a reasonable assumption that the
minimum age for marriage (in Roman law at least) is probably an indication
of the minimum age of menarche at that time as well?>>

<<But I think the problem is that works such as this relies on medical
writers' statements of when it SHOULD occur, which are based on ideas
about the division of the human life cycle into 7 year units - hence 'the
14th year' as the stated norm for menarche. From 'modern' work we
would indeed expect menarche later than this. This turn suggests that the
medical texts state the ideal, and then - perhaps - intervene with
therapies to create that ideal when it is not found.>>

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