Johann Jakob Bachofen

Johann Jakob Bachofen

Swiss jurist and historian
Date of Birth: 22.12.1815
Country: Switzerland

  1. Biography of Johann Jakob Bachofen
  2. Research on Roman Law and Classical Mythology
  3. Contributions to Social Evolution
  4. Death

Biography of Johann Jakob Bachofen

Johann Jakob Bachofen (1815–1887) was a Swiss jurist and historian, known for his research on Roman law and classical mythology. He was born on December 22, 1815, in Basel, Switzerland. In 1841, he was appointed as a professor of Roman law at the University of Basel, but he left the position in 1844 to become an appellate judge.

Research on Roman Law and Classical Mythology

Bachofen dedicated his research primarily to the study of Roman law and classical mythology. During his investigations, he discovered references to cases of kinship through maternal lines, despite the dominance of patriarchy in the ancient world. These facts, along with examples of similar practices among some contemporary primitive societies, led Bachofen to conclude that matriarchy preceded patriarchy in the social development of humanity.

According to his hypothesis, the dominance of women emerged from an even earlier stage of promiscuity, which he referred to as "heterism." Bachofen believed that the origins of this development could be attributed to the inherent religiousness of women and the cult of female divinity. He argued that the initial social structure was a reflection of religious beliefs.

Contributions to Social Evolution

Bachofen's evolutionary schema of society, presented in his work "Mother Right" (Das Mutterrecht) in 1861, later became part of Marxist theory. This theory proposed that societies evolved from matriarchy to patriarchy, with important factors being the religious beliefs and practices associated with women.

Among Bachofen's other significant works are "Symbolism of Ancient Tombs" (Versuch über die Gräbersymbolik der Alten, 1859) and "Antiquarian Letters, Particularly on the Oldest Concepts of Kinship" (Antiquarische Briefe, vornehmlich zur Kenntniss der altesten Verwandschaftsbegriffe, 1881–1886).


Johann Jakob Bachofen passed away on November 25, 1887, in Basel, Switzerland. His studies and theories continue to contribute to the understanding of social evolution and the role of women in ancient societies.