With Valentine’s Day coming up I thought it might be interesting to look into the history of heart symbology…
Chocolate boxes, little girls’ dresses and bumper stickers are all things we associate with the heart icon these days. Usually either pink or red, it is the universal symbol of love the world over. But how did the shape, in reality hardly resembling a physical heart at all, come to be such a big part of popular culture? It turns out the heart symbol has been around for a lot longer than you would probably think.
We don’t know exactly when the first person scrawled a heart symbol on a cave wall, but we do know it was a long time ago. There is evidence of heart shapes painted by cro-magnon hunters as far back as before the first Ice Age, but unfortunately we don’t know what it meant to them. Although these particular hearts are a mystery, hearts through the ages have represented similar things to many very different people.
The ancient Egyptians held that the heart was the seat of both life and morality. It was similarly important to the Greeks, who believed it kept the body supplied with heat. Aristotle and his fellow philosophers also thought the heart controlled reason, thought and emotion, while the stoics believed that it was where the soul resided. Greek physicians were familiar enough with the heart – probably through their experiments with surgery – to know about its pumping action and connection with the lungs.