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A Brief History of Courting Rituals

Since Valentine’s Day was only two days ago, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some historical courting rituals that involve a bit more than a text at midnight that says “U up?” We’ll begin with a personal favorite of mine:


Ancient Greece

Now there are a few different wild Ancient Greek stories about two people getting together (or not), but one of the best ones is the story of Atalanta who was just too badass to get married.  She was a ridiculously fast runner. However, she was also really pretty so all of the suitors were lining up to marry her. In order to appease them, she agreed to marry whoever could beat her in a foot race. Any loser would be killed. She was way faster than literally all of them, so you can imagine what a bloodbath that was. Then along came Hippomenes, who asked Aphrodite to help him since she is, after all, the goddess of love, beauty, and general awesomeness. She gave him three golden apples to throw during the race to distract Atalanta and slow her down. Long story short, it works and they get married and are eventually turned into lions. Because of this, it became customary to throw an apple at the woman you had feelings for. If she caught one, then she returned your feelings, and if not, well, sorry bud better luck next time.

The Renaissance

Well to start off, you better be looking your diddily darn best. That means being clean shaven, and wearing tights, pantaloons, a puffy shirt, and a fancy hat...you know, the usual. Or if you’re a woman, your puffiest dress and probably something to make your hair not gross. The first date would be an incredibly romantic meeting between the parents of the two young people, just working out the dowry and potential wedding plans. The parents were most likely the ones arranging this pairing in the first place, so this makes sense. In fact, if the couple had any say at all in the marriage the parents would be considered pretty forward-thinking. Now, if you’re rich, the man would typically send luxurious gifts to his gal including, but not limited to, exotic birds, fine jewelry, leather bound books, or even portraits of himself. Score! Courting generally lasted a few months and then the couple was stuck with each other forever. Then, they inflicted the same thing on their children.


18th Century

Ah, ballroom etiquette. Between dancing with men in powdered wigs and gossiping with your homegirls at a ball, one might find oneself slyly speaking to the cutie across the room using only your fan. Unfortunately, you would not be saying, “Dang your tight pants really get me going,” or, “Meet me in the foyer I want to romantically stroll through the garden with you,” as that would require some pretty fancy fan work. No, instead, you would be asking if they loved you by presenting your shut fan towards them or saying how super mean they are by opening and shutting your fan. I imagine this would be quite like angrily closing a flip phone. There are many more fan signals but most of them are relatively basic and I would imagine that a room full of women passive aggressively opening and closing their fans in various positions would get rather dizzying, so I am not surprised that so many people fainted at balls.

Modern Day

I am going to encompass quite a lot of the 20th–21st century in this section, since it really hasn’t changed TOO much. While we may be debatably becoming less romantic, the general premise is the same. See a guy or gal you find pleasing, perhaps in a dancing situation, and you strike up a conversation, leading to an exchange of information and maybe a kiss if you’re lucky. I would be lying if I said I didn’t want more traditional dancing experiences that involve a dress that goes below my knees and a guy treating me with a little respect; however, we definitely romanticize the past. And who’s to say that your Tinder rendezvous isn’t the greatest love story of our time? I don’t want to bash social media because it is an amazing tool for so many things. But part of me does wish that dating stayed in person rather than on screen. It has become the norm for the exchange of feelings to happen almost entirely over text, and I want to know what happened to the time when people had the guts to literally chuck an apple at you if they liked you. I think I would prefer that.


Image Credit: 1, 2, 3

Juliana is a writer for Her Campus Kenyon and is a proud Classics major on the Ancient Greek track. When she isn't writing, you can find her practicing softball for the Kenyon Ladies Varsity Softball Team or practicing ballroom dancing. Don't ask how she manages to do all this while learning to translate Ancient Greek because even she doesn't know. Check her out on social media! twitter: @hoolianya25 instagram: @jules.delsante tumblr: callowromantic@tumblr.com
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