Monday, July 04, 2016

Interdependence Day

Since you're probably curious, Elisabeth Oberzaucher and Karl Grammer of the University of Vienna, who used mathematical simulations in The Case of Moulay Ismael - Fact or Fancy? to determine whether and how Moulay Ismael the Bloodthirsty, the Sharifian Emperor of Morocco, managed, during the years from 1697 through 1727, to father 888 children, concluded that it's mathematically possible that the Emperor could have reached his notorious reproductive success, and with fewer copulations than assumed so far.  Thus, the historic reports could be fact and not fancy. 

Moulay became Emperor in 1672 at the age 25 and was reported to have four wives and 500 concubines. Daughters by his four wives were allowed to live, but daughters born by his concubines were suffocated by the midwifes at birth.  But Moulay Ismael earned his title "the Bloodthirsty" by the extreme measures he took to ensure paternal security. Men who merely looked at one of his wives or concubines were punished by death.  Among the concubines, any suspicion of adultery was severely punished, often by strangulation by the Emperor himself.  This applied even to former concubines who had already left the harem, which they had to when reaching the age of 30.  

Oberzaucher and Grammer's mathematical simulations show that the size of the harem is less important than previously thought. A harem of 65 to 110 women leads to the maximum reproductive outcome. Increasing the size of the harem beyond that point increases the costs without additional reproductive benefits to outweigh them, highlighting the importance of cost-benefit calculations. 

Having a harem of 500 concubines might have been due to other considerations than maximization of individual reproductive outcome. For example, it could have been a means to remove the additional women from the reach of other men, thus depriving them of reproductive potential. This is a classic case of hoarding of commodities, making Ismael a successful capitalist.

As a point of comparison, there are several figures in the Bible who had multiple wives and concubines and fathered large numbers of children.  We read in 2 Chronicles that Rehoboam the son of Solomon had taken eighteen wives and sixty concubines and fathered twenty-eight sons and sixty daughters.  Gideon had seventy-one sons "who were his own offspring, for he had many wives" (Judges 8:30-31) and Ahab had seventy sons (II Kings 10:1).

Records aren't available, as far as I know, regarding how many children the Founding Fathers, those privileged, white, eighteenth century slave owners, had by their slaves but I'm sure the answer is more than zero but less than the Biblical 70 to 88 or Moulay's ambitious 888.

Anyway, it's July 4th, Interdependence Day, so let's just forget about those pesky facts about slavery and genocide and war and covert operations, and renounce knowledge for knowledge's sake, and just celebrate our heritage.

Happy Fourth everyone!

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