The term concubinage comes from the Latin prefix com-, which means “with,” and cubara, “to lie down.”
Both the Ancient Greeks and Romans had concubines, and concubinage also appears in the Christian Bible.
These lesser wives were also widely found in Asia and the Middle East, and concubinal relationships can still be found in some of these regions, although they may be restricted by law.
In ancient China only men of high social status had concubines.
Additional wives required more wealth, especially since a well-outfitted concubine elevates a man’s social status, while an obviously neglected concubine would reflect poorly upon him.
Many concubines had their own homes along with numerous valuable possessions including elegant clothing and jewelry.
Although these women did not enjoy the high status of the first wife of the household, they were still figures of respect, and major life events like childbirth and death were celebrated with lavish ceremonies..
Becoming a concubine might not seem like a very appealing career path, but successful concubines became extremely rich, and were able to use their position to promote the interests of their own family.
In the classic of Chinese literature ‘The Dream of the Red Chamber’, three generations of the Jia family are supported by one favourite concubine of the Emperor.
China’s millennia-old culture of men keeping concubines is back, with many communist party and government officials now keeping at least one “second wife” as a status symbol.Various online sources…
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