Honured position of the Father and the Mother of the Family
Both in regard to the Lord and Lady of the House and other married couples in the joint family group, the privileges and duties assigned to fathers and mothers, equally applied to them all, subject to the superior jurisdiction of the former as determined by the family law of the ancient Iranians. And thatwise too the privileges and duties assigned to mothers in the old Iranian household, again show the honoured, responsible and high position of woman in old Iranian society.
The Duties and Privileges of the Husband and the Father
An Iranian was habitually as well as by intuition a loving husband and affectionate father. Still law had also ordained that he would not deal otherwise with his wife and children. He was the natural guardian of his wife till she lived, of his son till he came of age, and of his daughter till she married. And this duty he discharged intuitively as well as under command of law in a way as to give an air of sanctity, peace, beauty and cheer to the Iranian household.
Both parents and children had mutual responsibilities and privileges. The father was bound to use his property first on the needs of his family: and so he could not give it away as gift or in charity if that deprived his wife and children of proper maintenance, and even if he should do so with the wife's sanction law would intervence and prevence him from doing any such thing, so that even if such gift was already made and given away, it was to be withdrawn under the compulsion of law. So again, a father who criminally neglected maintenance and guardianship of his child had to make good the expense to any one else who fulfilled that duty towards it.
If however the father was in want and the wife and children had some property of their own the father was privileged to take a legitimate portion of it for his own use. It is apparent however that this would not be permitted to the extent which would deprive them of their own means of livelihood; whereas when he could avail of such privilege without causing inconvenience to others he had to return in principal what he had thus taken, when he found the means to do so.
Disinherison of Children not permitted to the Iranian Father
The father was obliged to assign his property to his only child and was required to place it under an executor when that was necessary, and if the child was guilty of misbehaviour he was required to put it in trust for such which trust the child was not allowed to challenge afterwards. It would seem that this interpretation of the text here is more probable than that of taking this as a case of disinherison, which the Roman law had prescribed for undutiful children. Still when the father was an integral part of the joint family and the joint family property was enough to maintain his wife and children, he could dispose of a personal property of his, such as was acquired by gift, in any way he chose.
Father, as his child's guardian, had the right to decline to allow it a gift by another; but when he allowed it, he had to preserve it intact till the child came of age and took it over.
Children of the Family:
The Son and His Duties
In the father's household the son had certain duties to fulfil. He had to administer the father's estate even during his lifetime if asked to do so. And when he was made the residuary legatee, he was bound to administer the father's estate after his death. When he was the eldest son he had to manage the property set apart for the benefit of one's soul. The eldest son had also to undertake the guardianship of the Fire Temple founded by his father. A dutiful son was also expect to under take meeting deficiency in father's debt if he was able to do so, though that was not compulsory on him. Above all, the son who took over the parental property was bounded to undertake guardianship of minor brothers and sisters.
The Daughter's Privileges
Similarly, the daughters had claims both on their parents, and on their brothers and sisters also even as they had to fulfil duties towards them. In the parental home the daughter had the same right as the son till she married, even when she happened to be an adopted child. And when sons and daughters had to be assigned things out of kinship, they had to be given them simultaneously.
Once a father had made a gift to his daughter it could not be withdrawn afterwards. But is she simply held a possessory right in the parental home, that was to be passed on to the father on her getting married. And though her claim on father for maintenance and guardianship ceased on her marriage, his guardianship over her was restored on her becoming a widow, and if she had no means of maintenance as should be provided by her deceased husband's estate or household, it is apparent that she would depend on her parents for it.
The parents directly, or the heads of their joint family, had to make provision for the marriage of every daughter who was actually born or whose birth was expected in it. And when there was no other means of providing a dowry for her, it might be got from a gift made by her father to the mother, if such happened to be the case.
The Daughter could not be Married Against Her Will
As we shall see below, the marriage system of the ancient Iranians had five modes, which made some difference in the married girl's status as wife and mother, as well as in her rights in her parental family. As to in which mode of marriage the father would give his daughter, was left to his choice. Still it was expected of parents that they should not marry their daughter in a mode which would give her a lower status than another which they could afford to marry her in.
It was a wise rule among the ancient Iranians that a daughter could not be compelled to marry against her will, though she was allowed to marry against her parents' will if she chose to do so. She could refuse to marry a husband chosen for her by her father. If she was married in minority in a status which she disapproved on coming of age, her marriage could not be dissolved, but her father's guardianship over her was to be transferred to another person till she was reconciled to him.
Daughters Living in the Parental Home
As a rule a married daughter had of course to go and live with her husband. But there are instances of grown up daughters living in the parental home, and some of these might be married or widowed daughters, living in the parental home owing to peculiar circumstances. A daughter thus living in a parental home could be the executrix of his estate, and a last-born daughter staying with her parents would be entitled to get their undisposed of property on their decease.
A daughter had to discharge a parental debt in proportion to her share in the parental estate, but if she paid it off all by herself, the other legatees would be compelled by law to repay her their shares in the dept.
9- Adoption of Children
There was to be No Monetary Motive behind giving Children in Adoption
Another instance of the concern of the ancient Iranians to see that no father neglected his natural duties towards his child or palmed them off on another individual, is to be seen in the law which forbade a father to give his only minor child in adoption to some person. The father could however appoint a guardian over his minor child, apparently to safeguard its interests in case of his decease; but he could withdraw such guardianship whenever he found proper reason for doing so.
When however a minor child was not the father's only child he could give it in adoption, though law required that he should himself continue as the child's guardian till it came of age, but if he died in the meantime the adoptive father was allowed to be its guardian.
It would appear that children were given in adoption out of no monetary interest in such transaction, because it seems that instead of taking anything from the adoptive father in return, the real father rather assigned the child some gift which the law required to be returned to him if the child died in minority.
Fathers having Children of their Own also could adopt Other Children:
It should also be noted that children were adopted not always because the adoptive persons had none of their own, for, people having legitimate living children were also allowed to adopt children. This probably happened owing to people's desire to admit into their family more intelligent, more desirable or more useful persons.
Adoption could be complete or partial only according as the real father gave away all, or reserved some, of his parental rights in the child. But when it was complete and the adopted person had also given consent to the adoption, the adopted person had equal interest in the adoptive father's property as his real children had. This law applied equally to adopted sons and daughters. It is also said that the adopted child assumed a new name in the adoptive family.
Legal Formalities of Adoption
It may be noted in this connection that an adoption was to be signed, sealed and confirmed before an Episcopal Dignitary according to law. It might however also be registered or left unregistered, and that would make some difference in the adopted child's status and privileges.