it had lots of dif meanings in dif places, times and cultures, to meet the needs of real people in their struggle from savagery toward civilization. you can make snide remarks and thumb your nose at them from your comfortable little perch, or you can try to understand what motivated human behavior and what factors contributed to human culture and institutions.
all the dif forms marriage took were based around establishing a legal basis for the transmission of property from parents to children, and never had any meaning outside children til modern times.
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