POLYGAMY (Gr. TroXw, many, and y&nos, marriage), or as it is sometimes termed, POLYGYNY (yvrii, woman), the system under which a man is married to several women at the same time. Derivatively it includes the practice of polyandry, but it has become definitely restricted to expressing what has been, and still is, far the commonest type of relations between the sexes (see FAMILY and MARRIAGE). Among Oriental nations plurality of legal wives is customary. Mahommedans are allowed four. A Hindu can have as many as he pleases: the high-caste sometimes having as many as a hundred. Polygamy is the rule among African tribes, and is common among those of Australia and Polynesia. In China, however, only one wife is lawful. In many polygamous countries the practical obstacle of expense prevents men from taking advantage of their privileges. While polygamy was the rule in biblical days among the ancient Jews, and was permitted and even enjoined in certain cases by the Mosaic law, the Christian Church, though it is nowhere forbidden, except for "bishops," in the New Testament, has always set its face against it. There have, however, been divines who dissented from this general disapproval. The Anabaptists insisted on freedom in the matter, and Bernardino Ochino conditionally defended plurality of wives. When in 1 540 Philip the Magnanimous, the reforming Landgrave of Hesse, determined (with his wife's approval, she being a confirmed invalid) to marry a second wife, Luther and Melanchthon approved "ashis personal friends, though not as doctors of theology"; while Martin Bucer assisted at the marriage. In later times the Mormons (q.v.) in America provide the most notable instance of the revival of polygamy.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)