There have been many different things written and said about marriage.
From the sweetly inspirational to the hilariously cynical.
But what many of them have in common is that they sound like they express a universal and timeless truth,
when in fact nearly everything about marriage, from its main purpose to the kinds of relationships it covers to the rights and responsibilities involved,
has varied greatly between different eras, cultures and social classes.
So, let's take a quick look at the evolution of marriage.
Pair bonding and raising children is as old as humanity itself.
With the rise of sedentary agricultural societies about 10,000 years ago,
marriage was also a way of securing rights to land and property by designating children born under certain circumstances as rightful heirs.
As these societies became larger and more complex, marriage became not just a matter between individuals and families,
but also an official institution governed by religious and civil authorities.
And it was already well established by 2100 B.C.
when the earliest surviving written laws in the Mesopotamian Code of Ur-Nammu provided many specifics governing marriage,
from punishments for adultery to the legal status of children born to slaves.
Many ancient civilizations allowed some form of multiple simultaneous marriage.
And even today, less than a quarter of the world's hundreds of different cultures prohibit it.
But just because something was allowed doesn't mean it was always possible.
Demographic realities, as well as the link between marriage and wealth,
meant that even though rulers and elites in Ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt and Israel had multiple concubines or wives,
most commoners could only afford one or two tending towards monogamy in practice.
In other places, the tables were turned, and a woman could have multiple husbands as in the Himalayan Mountains
where all brothers in a family marrying the same woman kept the small amount of fertile land from being constantly divided into new households.
Marriages could vary not only in the number of people they involved but the types of people as well.
Although the names and laws for such arrangements may have differed,
publicly recognized same-sex unions have popped up in various civilizations throughout history.