2012/06/01/How marriage has changed over centuries

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When did people start marrying?

The first recorded evidence of marriage contracts and ceremonies dates to 4,000 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. As the church's power grew through the Middle Ages, so did its influence over marriage. In 1215, marriage was declared one of the church's seven sacraments, alongside rites like baptism and penance. But it was only in the 16th century that the church decreed that weddings be performed in public, by a priest, and before witnesses.


"Whenever people talk about traditional marriage or traditional families, historians throw up their hands," said Steven Mintz, a history professor at Columbia University. "We say, 'When and where?'" +
How marriage has changed over centuries +
How marriage has changed over centuries +
June 1, 2012 +
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