Love Line

A timeline embraces centuries of love

| November-December 1996

Scholars believe that in the earliest forms of “marriage” people lived and worked in groups, not pairs. “Therefore shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.”—Genesis 2:24

The wedding ring as we know it may have stemmed from the ancient German practice of offering a ring to a bride on the tip of a sword—a pledge of union. More than 2000 years later, in 1938, the DeBeers diamond company launches a campaign to make the diamond engagement ring as essential as the wedding band.

“By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll become happy, if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.”—Socrates

385 BC
Plato writes: “If there were . . . an army . . . made up of lovers and their loves . . . . Who would desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of danger? The veriest coward would become an inspired hero, equal to the bravest at such a time; Love would inspire him.” Greek men have long been celebrating homosexuality, ideally man-boy love. Marriage, however, is a business deal; men marry women to run their household, rarely for love.

323 BC
The Egyptian wife has plenty of power over her husband: He must pay a fine to his first wife, for example, if he wishes to marry a second one.

With the emergence of Christianity, Roman marriage changes from a procreative duty into a choice. Marriage requires female consent, and the role of “wife” takes on as much dignity as that of “friend.” But “love” isn’t necessary for marriage. Greek essayist Plutarch calls love a “frenzy” and believes that “those who are in love must be forgiven as though ill.” Meanwhile, virginity is glorified, sexual connection deemed foul, and homosexuality is punishable by death.