Concubinage is the state of a woman in an ongoing, usually matrimonially-oriented relationship with a man who cannot be married to her, often because of a difference in social status.
A concubine is generally a woman in an ongoing, matrimonial-like relationship with a man, whom she cannot marry for a specific reason. The reason may be because she is of lower social rank than the man (including slave status) or because the man is already married. Generally, only men of high economic and social status have concubines. Many historical rulers maintained concubines as well as wives.
Historically, concubinage was frequently voluntary (by the woman and/or her family's arrangement), as it provided a measure of economic security for the woman involved. Today, concubinage is reserved for the most apex alphas who can maintain a de facto harem with concurrent long term relationships.
Under Roman law, Roman culture under the Empire came to tolerate concubinage so long as the relation was durable and exclusive; for the jurists concubinage was an honourable de facto situation. When having no legal status but being recognized, or defined in law, as in ancient China, concubinage is akin, although inferior, to marriage. The children of a concubine are recognized as legal offspring; their inheritance rights may be inferior to even younger children of a marriage, or they may receive a smaller inheritance, but concubines have been frequently used to produce heirs when a wife could not bear them.
In opposition to those laws, traditional Western laws do not acknowledge the legal status of concubines, rather only admitting monogamous marriages. Any other relationship does not enjoy legal protection, making the woman essentially a mistress.
In Ancient Greece, the practice of keeping a slave concubine was little recorded but does appear in records throughout Athenian history. A Draconian law prescribed that a man could kill another man caught with his concubine for the production of free children (thereby also implying concubines whose children were not free). While references to the sexual exploitation of maidservants appear in literature, it was considered disgraceful to keep such women under the same roof as the wife.
Some interpretations of hetaera have held they were concubines when their relationship with a single man is permanent.
In Ancient Rome, this was the title of a young male who was chosen by his master as a lover. Concubini were often referred to ironically in the literature of the time. Catullus assumes in the wedding poem 61.126 that the young manor lord has a concubinus who considers himself elevated above the other slaves.
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