Other The Social Order These days everyone has a strong opinion about marriage, but no one seems to be sure what it is, exactly. Is it a sacramental union?
Actually, the institution has been in a process of constant evolution. Pair-bonding began in the Stone Age as a way of organizing and controlling sexual conduct and providing a stable structure for child-rearing and the tasks of daily life. But that basic concept has taken many forms across different cultures and eras.
Polygamy is still common across much of the Muslim world. The idea of marriage as a sexually exclusive, romantic union between one man and one woman is a relatively recent development.
Until two centuries ago, said Harvard historian Nancy Cott, "monogamous households were a tiny, tiny portion" of the world population, found in "just Western Europe and little settlements in North America. The first recorded evidence of marriage contracts and ceremonies dates to 4, years ago, in Mesopotamia.
In the ancient world, marriage served primarily as a means of preserving power, with kings and other members of the ruling class marrying off daughters to forge alliances, acquire land, and produce legitimate heirs.
Even in the lower classes, women had little say over whom they married. The purpose of marriage was the production of heirs, as implied by the Latin word matrimonium, which is derived from mater mother.
When did the church get involved? In ancient Rome, marriage was a civil affair governed by imperial law. But when the empire collapsed, in the 5th century, church courts took over and elevated marriage to a holy union.
But it was only in the 16th century that the church decreed that weddings be performed in public, by a priest, and before witnesses.
What role did love play? For most of human history, almost none at all.
Marriage was considered too serious a matter to be based on such a fragile emotion. A Roman politician was expelled from the Senate in the 2nd century B. And as late as the 18th century, the French philosopher Montesquieu wrote that any man who was in love with his wife was probably too dull to be loved by another woman.
When did romance enter the picture? In the 17th and 18th centuries, when Enlightenment thinkers pioneered the idea that life was about the pursuit of happiness.
They advocated marrying for love rather than wealth or status.
This trend was augmented by the Industrial Revolution and the growth of the middle class in the 19th century, which enabled young men to select a spouse and pay for a wedding, regardless of parental approval. As people took more control of their love lives, they began to demand the right to end unhappy unions.
Divorce became much more commonplace. Did marriage change in the 20th century? For thousands of years, law and custom enforced the subordination of wives to husbands.
Couples could choose how many children to have, and even to have no children at all. If they were unhappy with each other, they could divorce — and nearly half of all couples did.
Marriage had become primarily a personal contract between two equals seeking love, stability, and happiness. This new definition opened the door to gays and lesbians claiming a right to be married, too.
Graff, a lesbian and the author of What Is Marriage For? In one very real sense, Coontz says, opponents of gay marriage are correct when they say traditional marriage has been undermined.
Until the 13th century, male-bonding ceremonies were common in churches across the Mediterranean.- Same-sex marriage inequality is an issue that has been troubling American society since the birth of our country. More recently, the United States Supreme Court has tackled some frequently raised arguments that deal with same-sex .
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