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Heart of the Matter

Posted on: 27th January 2017 By:

The heart is an enduring symbol, culturally, politically, and historically. It conveys sentiments of love, of spirit, of courage and of strength, and is often at the very centre of our emotional and sometimes intellectual lives. Indeed, we are often told to ‘listen to our hearts’, be it to make a decision about love, decisions about life, or decisions about work.

Yet, we seldom take the time to consider the history of these statements, be they verbal such as ‘…most heartfelt…’ or ‘with hearty congratulations…’, or why people can be referred to as either ‘warm hearted’ or ‘cold hearted’.

Many of these ideas, which are still common and in use today, can be traced to Ancient Rome when the heart was regarded as the most important of all the organs, controlling perception, ideas and reasoning as well as the movement and motion of the body.

Indeed, terms such as half-hearted and cold-hearted reflect the early-modern beliefs that the heart was the organ that controlled one's thoughts and feelings. Even during medieval times it was widely believed that the condition of the heart reflected the senses in a direct and literal way. Cold-hearted, half-hearted, faint-hearted, light-hearted, are all related to medical ideas about the mind-body relationship and that the physical state of one's heart dictated a person’s character and overall demeanour.

As medical and scientific investigations have progressed, feelings and thoughts have become associated with the brain, yet the idea of emotions as being the preserve of the heart have continued, illustrating the power of such sentiments culturally, popularly, and historically.

Join us for a talk on the history of the heart on Saturday 11th February, 2.00-3.00pm. Tickets are £3.00 and can be puchased over the phone on 01727 751 810 or in person at Verulamium Museum.