The origin of the Love symbol (The Heart Shape)

The Love symbol (the heart shape) is an ideograph used to express the idea of the "heart" in its metaphorical or symbolic sense as the center of emotion, including affection and love, especially romantic love.

It is the universal symbol of romantic love. It can be seen all around us, but mostly as a heart emoticon on social networks. People send millions of digital hearts over the web every day to express their adoration to someone, or to something.

It recognize the world over as a symbol of romantic love and affection, but its historical origins are difficult to pin down. Some believe the iconic pictogram is derived from the shape of ivy leaves, which are associated with fidelity, while others contend it was modeled after breasts, buttocks or other parts of the human anatomy.

In the 6th-5th century BC, the heart shape was used to represent the heart-shaped fruit of the plant Silphium, a plant possibly used as a contraceptive Many species in the parsley family have estrogenic properties, and some, such as wild carrot, were used to induce abortion. Silver coins from Cyrene of the 6 - 5th BC bear a similar design, sometimes accompanied by a silphium plant and is understood to represent its seed or fruit.

We all know the meaning of this symbol today, but where does it originate from and what was the meaning of the symbol?? There are few theories about the origin of the heart shape, The following two theories reveals the historical facts;

One of the theory suggests that the origin of the heart symbol can be traced back to an ancient plant called silphium (Silphium theory). Silphium was a species of giant fennel that used to grow on the North African coastline near the Greek colony of Cyrene. The Greeks and Romans used it as a spice, medicine, but also as a form of birth control. Its protective properties have been mentioned by various ancient writers and poets. The fact that it was extinct by the first century A.D. speaks about its popularity. On some of the ancient depictions, the seed of the silphium resembles the modern heart shape.

Ancient writers and poets hailed the plant for its contraceptive powers, and it became so popular that it was cultivated into extinction by the first century A.D. (legend has it that the Roman Emperor Nero was presented with the last surviving stalk). Silphiums seedpod bore a striking resemblance to the modern Valentines heart, leading many to speculate that the herbs associations with love and sex may have been what first helped popularize the symbol. The ancient city of Cyrene, which grew rich from the silphium trade, even put the heart shape on its money. Silphium theory is certainly compelling the true origins of the heart shape and it is more straightforward.

Another theory suggests that Pierre Vinken proposed it and Martin Kemp explains that the heart symbol is probably shaped according to the writings of Galen and Aristotle. These ancient philosophers described the human heart as an organ with three chambers and a dent in the middle. Vinken and Kemp believed that the heart shape was created during the Middle Ages by scientists who tried to visualize ancient texts. For example, Guido da Vigevano, a 14th-century Italian physicist, made some anatomical drawings of a heart that are very similar to the descriptions made by Aristotle. These depictions, along with the presumption that the human heart is connected with emotion and pleasure, transformed the heart shape into a symbol of medieval love.

According to this theory (Pierre and Martin kemp theory), the heart shape may have been born when artists and scientists from the Middle Ages attempted to draw representations of ancient medical texts. In the 14th century, for example, the Italian physicist Guido da Vigevano made a series of anatomical drawings featuring a heart that closely resembles the one described by Aristotle.

Since the human heart has long been associated with emotion and pleasure, the shape was eventually co-opted as a symbol of romance and medieval courtly love. It grew especially popular during the Renaissance, when it was used in religious art depicting the Sacred Heart of Christ and as one of the four suits in playing cards. By the 18th and 19th centuries, up to this moment, the symbol has often been used on Valentine's Day cards, love notes, candy boxes, and similar popular culture artifacts as a symbol of romantic love.

Posted by: Lusubilo A. Mwaijengo

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