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How Did The Heart Become A Symbol of Love?

The history of the “heart” as symbol of love

Love is a beautiful thing. What I believe is that it’s a lifetime experience to all earthlings. This thing L.O.V.E, is shared amongst a variety of parties. It can be expressed between family, amongst friends, amongst lovers and so on; they are all different types of love. However one similarity that is shared across if-not-in-all-types-of-love-then-most, is the fact that it comes from within us, from the deepest parts of us, from our hearts.

Noticed how much the HEART is used when it comes to LOVE? We say, "You have captured my heart, you have stolen my heart, you own my heart, you are in my heart, my heart yearns for you" and it gets deeper and deeper or should I say weirder, but they are just different ways of letting someone know we love them. And when we get disappointed in love, you hear just about how, “Oh my heart is broken, it’s torn into pieces, and it cries out in pain, it dies every single day”. How do we feel it in there? Scientifically - the heart is a muscular organ not meant to carry our emotions but to pump blood around our bodies.

But what is it with love and the heart? How did the heart become a symbol of love? When you think about it, the whole mechanism is art in itself.

Photo Source : Internet

History offers various backgrounds from the Silphium theory to the Medieval anatomical drawings and even to Aristotle’s own history – all these possess statements of pure uniqueness.

Silphium Theory

Silphium – a now extinct plant, was an essential item of trade from the ancient North African city of Cyrene. Shaped in form of a heart, the plant is said have to been a form of contraceptive back then. It was also both used to add flavor to food and as medicine – it supposedly worked wonders as a cough syrup.

Ancient writers and poets showered the plant with praises for its contraceptive powers that it became so popular and was cultivated into extinction by the first century A.D.

Many speculate that the herb’s associations with love and sex may have been what first helped popularize the heart as a symbol of love. During the first century, B.C the Roman Poet Gaius Valerius Catullus, in his poems describes his unrelenting love for his lover Lesbia. He suggests that “they could have an exchange of kisses numbering to as many as there were-grains- of sand on Cyrene’s Silphium shore”.

Photo Source : Internet

The Medieval Anatomical Drawings History

In the 2nd century AD, Greek physician Claudius Galen contributed significantly to the anatomical and physiological knowledge of the cardiovascular system. However, he is said to have made some conceptions, one was that his research depicted the heart’s appearance as that of a pinecone.

In European Art the first illustration of the ‘heart’ to show love comes from around 1255 in a French poem by Thibaut, Le Roman De La Poire (Romance of the Pear). The poem tells of a lover who gives a pear to his partner in place of his heart – signifying his love. The drawing shows the lover kneeling down with his “heart”, the pear literally in his hands giving it to the lady to show his desire.

Photo Courtesy: Bibliothèque Nationale de France - Allegorical image from the Roman de la poire.

Aristotle’s History of the Heart and Love

The heart does play a very significant role in the human body. According to philosopher Aristotle, “the heart is the most important organ of the body”. He identified it as a three chambered organ that was the center of vitality in the body”. His description can be said to be the depictions of today’s drawings of the heart. What the philosopher thought of the heart and love? Aristotle once said “The brain is not responsible for any sensations at all. The correct view is that the seat and source of sensation is the region of the heart. Today, see if you can stretch your heart and expand your love so that it touches not only those to whom you can give it easily, but also to those who need it so much”.

So when you think about it, history has quite some interesting background information on how we relate the love we feel and the heart. We cannot really pin ourselves down to one theory or the other. The good side – we can show endless love to our beloved ones. Give our hearts away in whatever form we want/can – whether it -be sending a heart emoji (❤, ♥️) on text messages or buying heart-shaped chocolate or cake, the love we share is what matters the most. So yes get shot by that cupid arrow, just avoid getting a wounded heart LOL!

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