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“Marriage”, “Married”, and “Matrimony” redirect here. For other uses, see Marriage (disambiguation), Married (disambiguation), and Matrimony (disambiguation).
According to Confucius, “Marriage is the union (of the representatives) of two different surnames, in friendship and in love, in order to continue the posterity of former ages and to produce those who shall preside at the sacrifices of heaven and earth.”
In Confessions of an English Opium-Eater (1821), Thomas De Quincey defined marriage as “a union between two persons, who lived in harmony so absolute with each other, as to be independent of the world outside.”
Attempting to encompass the various types of marriage in various cultures without knowing if they have a common origin, anthropologists have proposed several competing definitions of marriage. Edward Westermarck, in his book The History of Human Marriage (1921) had said “The institution of marriage has probably developed out of a primeval habit. The relations between the sexes and parental care among the Invertbrata” including both monogamous and polygamous unions. The anthropological handbook Notes and Queries (1951) defined marriage as “a union between a man and a woman such that children born to the woman are the recognized legitimate offspring of both partners” and due to Nuer of Sudan allowing for homosexual marriages (limited only to females), Kathleen Gough suggested modifying this to “a woman and one or more other persons.” Leach criticized Gough’s definition for being too restrictive in terms of recognized legitimate offspring and suggested that marriage be viewed in terms of the different types of rights it serves to establish. Leach expanded the definition and proposed that “Marriage is a relationship established between a woman and one or more other persons, which provides that a child born to the woman under circumstances not prohibited by the rules of the relationship, is accorded full birth-status rights common to normal members of his society or social stratum” 
Bell also criticized the legitimacy-based definition and has said that some societies do not require marriage for legitimacy. In societies where illegitimacy means only that the mother is unmarried and has no other legal implications, a legitimacy-based definition of marriage is circular. Edmund Leach argued that no one definition of marriage applied to all cultures. He offered a list of ten rights associated with marriage, including sexual monopoly and rights with respect to children, with specific rights differing across cultures. Duran Bell proposed defining marriage in terms of sexual access rights.
The modern English word “marriage” derives from Middle English mariage, which first appears in 1250-1300 C.E. This in turn is derived from Old French marier (to marry) and ultimately Latin marītāre (to marry) and marītus (of marriage).
The way in which a marriage is conducted has changed over time, as has the institution itself. Although the institution of marriage pre-dates reliable recorded history, many cultures have legends or religious beliefs concerning the origins of marriage.
One of the oldest known and recorded marriage laws is discerned from Hammurabi’s Code, enacted during the Mesopotamian world (widely considered as the cradle of civilization). The legal institution of marriage and its rules and ramifications have changed over time depending on the culture or demographic of the time.
Various cultures have had their own theories on the origin of marriage. One example may lie in a man’s need for assurance as to paternity of his children. He might therefore be willing to pay a bride price or provide for a woman in exchange for exclusive sexual access. Legitimacy is the consequence of this transaction rather than its motivation. In Comanche society, married women work harder, lose sexual freedom, and do not seem to obtain any benefit from marriage. But nubile women are a source of jealousy and strife in the tribe, so they are given little choice other than to get married. “In almost all societies, access to women is institutionalized in some way so as to moderate the intensity of this competition.”
For most of European history, marriage was more or less a business agreement between two families who arranged the marriages of their children. Romantic love, and even simple affection, were not considered essential. Historically, the perceived necessity of marriage has been stressed.
In Ancient Greece, no specific civil ceremony was required for the creation of a marriage – only mutual agreement and the fact that the couple must regard each other as husband and wife accordingly. Men usually married when they were in their 20s or 30s  and expected their wives to be in their early teens. It has been suggested that these ages made sense for the Greek because men were generally done with military service by age 30, and marrying a young girl ensured her virginity. Married Greek women had few rights in ancient Greek society and were expected to take care of the house and children. Time was an important factor in Greek marriage. For example, there were superstitions that being married during a full moon was good luck and, according to Robert Flacelière, Greeks married in the winter. Inheritance was more important than feelings: A woman whose father dies without male heirs can be forced to marry her nearest male relative—even if she has to divorce her husband first.
Like with the Greeks, Roman marriage and divorce required no specific government or religious approval. Both marriage and divorce could happen by simple mutual agreement. There were several types of marriages in Roman society. The traditional (“conventional”) form called conventio in manum required a ceremony with witnesses and was also dissolved with a ceremony. In this type of marriage, a woman lost her family rights of inheritance of her old family and gained them with her new one. She now was subject to the authority of her husband. There was the free marriage known as sine manu. In this arrangement, the wife remained a member of her original family; she stayed under the authority of her father, kept her family rights of inheritance with her old family and did not gain any with the new family. A law in the Theodosian Code (C. Th. 9.7.3)