Sunday, September 4, 2011

Romance Over the Centuries

This week I found a great post on Sapphire Phelan’s Passion Center. She had a great overview of the history of romance over the centuries. She provided insight into the etymology (origin) of words, history of romantic practices, and how love and marriage has changed over the centuries.

The need to procreate and to be close to another person hasn’t changed over the centuries. It's part of who and what we are. What has changed is how we go about it. The romance of it all.

Sapphire’s post starts with the Greek explanation of the four types of love, philia, brotherly or familial love, eros intimate or romantic love, storge an affection or fondness and agape a selfless or spiritual love.

The definition locked down, she begins her march through time. This is what I found so intriguing. She acknowledges the brutality of the ancients raiding villages to capture wives, and moved on to the Medieval custom of arranged marriages for property, monetary and political alliances. She also provided the origin of honeymoon.

I hadn’t realized that today’s courting rituals was rooted in medieval chivalry. “The importance of love in a relationship emerged as a reaction to arranged marriages. Still, it was not considered a prerequisite in matrimonial decisions. Suitors wooed their intended with serenades and flowery poetry… Chastity and honor were highly regarded virtues. In 1228, women first gained the right to propose marriage in Scotland, a legal right that then slowly spread through Europe.”  This era saw the rise of romance in literature and on the stage, albeit only men performing.

Loves spoons were all the rage in 17th century Wales as a way for a suitor to state his case. In England, chivalrous gentlemen sent a pair of gloves to the object of their affection hoping they would wear them to church on Sunday as a sign of their acceptance. The Renaissance had its own customs keeping in mind that the main goal was to produce children.

During the Victorian Era courting was very formal and controlled. As Sapphire mentioned, “It became a sort of art form among the upper classes.” There’s a great web site by Michelle J. Hoppe that gives all the particulars for Courting the Victorian Lady.

Today, romance still blooms. Many of the traditional methods of dating are no longer of much use to either sex these days. Though some of even the oldest ideas are still considered romantic in our times, many are not practiced simply because they do not seem to fit in our modern world. 

To me romance is soft and tender quiet words spoken, small things done without asking, it’s time alone as well as time with friends. It’s a touch, a kiss, a whisper, and sometimes even silence.

How do you like your romance?


  1. Great post!! I especially like the pictures. Didn't know about a woman's right to propose.

  2. I agree 100% with your definition of romance. It's the looks, the touchy-feeling and just feeling contentment when you're with that someone special. I decided my hubby was the man for me the moment I saw him. Now with nearly 43 years of marriage under our belt, I still feel the same way. He never fails to amaze me and when I had cancer surgery, he stepped up and was the best nurse...for someone who never dealt with taking care of someone before he was amazingly gentle and thorough.

  3. @Angelyn

    Glad you liked the post and pictures. Some of them came from Sapphire's post. They were too great to pass up.

  4. @Paisley Kirkpatrick

    I know exactly how you feel. My husband never ceases to amaze me with his determination, gentleness, strength, and love. His support with my writing is not to be believed.

    I'm so glad yours is amazing too! We're some lucky gals.

  5. I'm glad we remain focused on love as an objective and not just procreation.
    Someone got it right when romance became part of the dance. It's like air, and my husband gives me plenty of it.

    Great post!

  6. @Sandy L. Rowland

    We are very lucky women. I try to remember that every day.

  7. It usually amazes me where and when various customs, or words start from.
    Like romance- You summed it all up nicely Ruth.

  8. @Calisa Rhose

    I'm glad you enjoyed it. It was an eye opener for me.

    Hope you're enjoying the holiday weekend.

  9. Great info, Ruth!
    Have a great holiday!

  10. I love it when I seen a couple in their 80s holding hands and when my teenage grandson blushes when his brother teases him about his girlfriend. Some things never change.

  11. @Jennifer Shirk

    I'm so glad you enjoyed it. I'm grasping onto the last of this holiday. I really don't want the summer to end. :(

  12. @Sandy -

    My kids see Paul and kiss and tell us to get a room. When the grand kids see us kiss they try to get in between and catch the kisses. Thanks for making me smile!

  13. I knew my husband was the one for me almost right from the start too. And after 30 years, he still makes my heart race. I broke the tibia in my knee about a month ago and he raced home from work to take me to the ER and was there for the surgery and even the follow-up doctor visits. That's what love is. Being there for each other no matter what.

  14. @Susan Macatee

    You are so right, love is being there no matter what. I'm so glad he was there for you. I hope you well on your way to recovery.

  15. Romance to me is the little things. I don't trust grand gestures. When my husband takes my hand, gives me an unsolicited kiss (in public) or acknowledges something I've done without me fishing for his compliment, then my heart melts. He doesn't say much about my writing, but I caught him the other day gushing to his friends about how proud he was of me taking on this monumental task. I could have taken him right there on the pool deck! Thanks Ruth.

  16. @J. Coleman

    *heavy sigh* isn't it wonderful when they surprise you like that! They have no idea what it does to us.