Valentine's Day: A Brief History of Love and Lust

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46 minutes


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Valentine's Day. The celebration of romance, eroticism, passion, love that seizes us body and soul. But have such notions of eros always existed? Travel back in time with Cupid, the terrible enchanter himself, to discover the changing nature of love through the ages.

Meet the philosophers of ancient Greece who dissected love, holding aloft the divine variety while eyeing the sexual sort with disdain. Travel eastward where, by contrast, their Mesopotamian counterparts considered the act of sex a means to gain wisdom. Follow the history of love through the early years of the Catholic Church, whose fathers harboured some surprising sentiments: St. Ambrose, for example, believed marriage was a crime against God because it destroyed virginity. More shocking was an 11th century papal decree which, to curtail a trend away from celibacy by the clergy, ordered married ministers to abandon their wives and sell their children into slavery.

Enter the 12th century when women of the French royalty rocked the world by rebelling against marriage. Witness their creation of a new ideal -- courtly love -- by whose principles young knights swore fealty not to their feudal lord but to the lady they loved. These women cast a new mould of passionate, romantic love whose shape was solidified by the tragic tales of Tristan and Iseult and Romeo and Juliet. Romantic love idealized suffering, even dying, in its name, turning love into a fugitive act that threatened individual sanity and social order.

Step at last into the 20th century to trace how influences as diverse as talking pictures, jazz music, World War II, the psychedelic sixties and sex therapy have further adjusted amore.

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