In recent years, it has become fashionable for men of all ages to wear beards. In addition, it must be perfectly maintained, trimmed and cared for. Today a sign of seduction, the beard has evolved throughout history.
But aesthetic problems aside, in ancient times, it was something totally different. Let’s go through the history of the beard, its origin, its meanings and its evolution.
The origin of the beard
In the cave paintings, prehistoric man appears both bearded and shaved. Primitive man shaved his beard with shells 20,000 years ago. Something that, as it was done dry, must have been very painful.
In the European Iron Age, warriors were buried with a sword and a razor.
The deities of the ancient world were bearded, as were their sages and kings. The beard was a symbol of virility, bravery and wisdom. Yes, you will be able to pull it out if you have a quarrel with your wife.
In those days, the man, who had chest and chin, cheeks, arms and legs covered with hair, was an honest man. But he was not worthy of respect if the hair covered his whole body, in which case he was suspected of brutality, bad intelligence or indulgence for low passions.
The beard was cut symmetrically from the jawline, curls cascading down to the chest. Hairless people (people with little hair in the beard) resorted to the hairpiece, as the beard was indicative of power and preeminence.
It was so important to wear a dignified beard that even women of the court in the ancient Egyptian world wore beautiful natural hair in false beards at important ceremonies. Even Egyptian queens wore false beards to indicate the nobility with which they were adorned.
Evolution of the Beard
The Egyptian civilization already used the razor six thousand years ago, it was first made of solid gold and then of copper. With it, the nobility shaved their heads to place an elaborate wig on their polished bald skulls.
Priests also shaved their bodies every three days. But not their gods, who wore large beards that pharaohs could also use. One example is the pharaoh Hatshepsut, who wore them as a mark of his rank.
In antiquity, a beard was offered to beardless men and women who wore a false beard. It was given as a distinction or medal.
In various biblical books, God tells men not to shave. But the beard was of great importance among the Semites. It was an ornament of the man, and as such it was frequently perfumed. Anyone who wore it carelessly was called a fool.
Men of honor greeted each other by taking the beard in their right hands and kissing it. In the Second Book of Kings, you can read, « God keep you, my brother; and with his right hand he took Amasa’s beard in the gesture of kissing him. In fact, they used their beards to bring their faces closer to their lips. However, Moses required the Levites, when they were consecrated, to cut off their beards and shave their whole body. A custom learned in Egypt.
Barbarians also shaved their beards according to Diodorus Siculus in his description of the Gallic people. They shaved their cheeks and cared for their enormous whiskers. And Tito Livio asserts that in Rome, shaving was common despite the fact that some sectors of society considered it the practice of Greeks and effeminate men.
A daily practice to entrench shaving use
But shaving took root and even gained prestige when Scipio the African decided to do it every day, assuming the act of shaving for the first time of social importance, as if it were an initiation ceremony.
In fact, the depositio barbae, as the ceremony was called, was celebrated with a large banquet attended by friends and relatives. And which was preceded by the act of cutting off with tonor or at the barber’s a part of the young man’s first beard, hair that was first offered to the deity and then kept in gold, silver or crystal boxes, depending on the wealth of the family in question.
Among the Romans, the beard did not enjoy a popularity… Until the Roman Spaniard Hadrian made it fashionable. But of course, Hadrian grew a beard to hide the scars that disfigured his face. The use of the beard was imposed from Constantine I the Great.
In Christian Rome, clergymen grew beards as a symbol of wisdom. After the oriental schism, the Church of Rome recommended shaving to distinguish itself from the Greeks.
Pope Leo III publicly shaved himself to show his differences from the Patriarch of Constantinople. A behavior officialized by Pope Gregory VI, who even threatened to confiscate the property of those clergymen who did not show up in front of his closely shaved faithful.
In the Middle Ages, knights saw in beards a mark of dignity and swore by them. Muslims also had great respect for beards. They swore by the beards of the Prophet. Huge beards that have been preserved as a precious relic in the city of Srinagar.
Curiosities about the beard
Throughout the history of the beard, many civilizations and peoples have had a multitude of curiosities about it. Here are compiled the most interesting ones:
Cutting off the enemy’s beard was such a serious affront that whoever suffered such a disgrace hid until it grew back. It was like being naked. Only part of it was allowed to be cut in a duel.
In ancient China, a reddish beard was a sign of strength, wisdom and courage. And although the Chinese people were hairless, they always represented their great men and leaders with a pronounced beard.
In ancient Rome, it was different. Already in the time of Tarquinio the Proud, there was a public barber shop where Romans were carefully shaved more than two thousand five hundred years ago. Until the time of Hadrian, it was common to shave.
It should be noted that the first Saturday of September, every year, World Beard Day is celebrated. So you know, it’s a good excuse to let it grow.