Admit it: if your family looked like these surprisingly sleek Mycenaean peasants, you’d consider marrying your cousins, too.
Episode 54: In which Juno and Ceres discuss Vikings kissing cousins, and Isis inserts her Egyptian absurdity into the shallow genetic mix.
[SETTING: San Casciano Hot Springs, in Tuscany]
JUNO, GODDESS OF MARRIAGE AND JUPITER’S SISTER-WIFE-QUEEN (you read that right): Did you hear those tourists? They were reading some news on those little flashing boxes they carry around. Apparently they were shocked by a recent discovery that Mycenaean peasants married their first-cousins.
CERES, GODDESS OF CROPS AND ALSO JUPITER’S SISTER-CO-PARENT (you read that right too): How is that even news? And they’re called phones.
JUNO: Well, anything having to do with marriage should be news. But these Phones, or whatever you call them, were disgusted by the idea of cousins marrying each other. As if that isn’t how every ancient society organized themselves.
CERES: No, phones are the little boxes, not the people. And not every ancient society married within the family. In fact, I was just reading about a new study that showed that the Viking gene pool was very diverse, with a large influx of people from the British Isles.
JUNO: People from Britannia were bathing in the Vi King’s green pool? Is that some sort of spa? He should really keep the riffraff out. They’re horribly dirty. Send them to natural hot springs like this one.
CERES: What? No, the Vikings were…you know what, never mind. I don’t know why I bother explaining mortal society to you.
JUNO: I mean, first-cousin marriage is legal here in Italy. It’s legal in California.
CERES: Strange you know details of mortal marriage law, but not the word “phone.” Diverse marriage populations like the Vikings’ had to be more common than the Mycenaean model. Otherwise the mortals would have huge inbreeding problems in the general population.
JUNO: I don’t care about the general population—I don’t make deals with peasants. Ancient elite society married their close cousins frequently. Look at the family tree for the Julio-Claudian dynasty. It’s more like a dense bush. And they turned out fine. They established the first imperial dynasty of Rome.
CERES: I don’t know I would say they were “fine.” Part of the reason they kept on marrying within such a small circle is because so many of them kept dying young. Probably from the inbreeding. Look at the emperors! Tiberius and Claudius were suspected to have been murdered, and Caligula and Nero were publicly murdered. Only Augustus died of old age.
JUNO: Well, murder isn’t a symptom of inbreeding. Probably. And look at our divine families. No signs of problems here.
ISIS, GODDESS OF FERTILITY AND OSIRIS’ SISTER-WIFE-QUEEN (you read that right): Hi guys, I just stopped by to see if the artifact farmers had found more votive penises that people deposited for me in the shrine here. Oh, Juno, I just went on a date with your son Mars. It was so nice! It’s hard to find a guy these days who isn’t bothered by the fact that I once sewed my brother Osiris’s dismembered corpse together and made him a magic penis to replace his missing one so I could conceive our son Horus. You know, Mars probably isn’t threatened by that because he and Venus have had their own incestuous affair going for so long. Although I wanted to ask you, Mars wouldn’t give me a straight answer about whether he and Venus were actually related. I mean, I know she’s still married to his brother Vulcan, but Mars didn’t seem to know for sure whether she’s also his half-sister. Is she Jupiter’s daughter, too?
JUNO: On second thought…
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To learn more about how ancient religions were really into divine inbreeding (???), enroll in CLAS-C 205 Classical Mythology, coming up Fall 2023, and earn GEC credits while you’re at it! Or to learn more about the role of sex, gender, and reproduction in the ancient world, look for CLAS-B 311 Ancient Sex and Gender, also coming in late Fall 2023 with no pre-reqs. While you’re waiting, make sure to check back for the continued adventures of Juno, Ceres, and Isis. Can’t get enough of Ancient Greece and Rome? Earn a Classics Minor in just 15 credits!