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History of Marriage

How Marriage Has Evolved

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Married couple sharing quality time
Camille Tokerud/Taxi/Getty Images
Most ancient societies needed a secure environment for the perpetuation of the species, a system of rules to handle the granting of property rights, and the protection of bloodlines. The institution of marriage handled these needs.
Example: In ancient Hebrew law required a man to become the husband of a deceased brother's widow.

Some Varieties/Forms of Marriage:

Different periods of time and different cultures have very different histories when it comes to women. Ancient Egypt, in theory, gave women equal rights, but it wasn't always practiced. Medieval women faced dual responsibilities to religion and marriage.

Throughout history, and even today, families arranged marriages for couples. Most couples didn't marry because they were in love but for economic liaisons. The people involved didn't then and don't today have much to say about the decision.

Even today some marriages are by proxy, some involve a dowry (bride's family giving money or presents to the groom or his family), some require a bride price (the groom or his family giving money or a present to the bride's family), few may have any sort of courtship or dating, but most have deep-rooted traditions.

One nearly universal marriage tradition is that of the engagement ring. This custom can be dated back to the ancient Romans. It is believed that the roundness of the ring represents eternity. Therefore, the wearing of wedding rings symbolizes a union that is to last forever. It was once thought that a vein or nerve ran directly from the "ring" finger of the left hand to the heart.

The notion of marriage as a sacrament and not just a contract can be traced St. Paul who compared the relationship of a husband and wife to that of Christ and his church (Eph. v, 23-32).

Joseph Campbell, in the Power of Myth, mentions that the Twelfth century troubadours were the first ones who thought of courtly love in the same way we do now. The whole notion of romance apparently didn't exist until medieval times and the troubadours.

The statement of Pope Nicholas I in which he declared in 866, "If the consent be lacking in a marriage, all other celebrations, even should the union be consummated, are rendered void," shows the importance of a couple's consent to marriage. It has remained an important part of both church teaching and marriage laws through the years.

There appeared to be many marriages taking place without witness or ceremony in the 1500's. The Council of Trent was so disturbed by this, that they decreed in 1563 that marriages should be celebrated in the presence of a priest and at least two witnesses. Marriage took on a new role of saving men and women from being sinful, and of procreation. Love wasn't a necessary ingredient for marriage during this era.

Years later, the Puritans viewed marriage as a very blessed relationship that gave marital partners an opportunity to not only love, but also to forgive.

Many people hold the view that regardless of how people enter into matrimony, marriage is a bond between two people that involves responsibility and legalities, as well as commitment and challenge. That concept of marriage hasn't changed through the ages.

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