The history of the handshake

The history of the handshake

The history of the handshake is a fascinating journey through time, culture, and etiquette. This seemingly simple gesture of greeting and agreement has evolved over millennia, reflecting shifts in societal norms and values.

The origins of the handshake can be traced back to ancient civilizations. In ancient Greece, for example, handshakes were a symbol of trust and a gesture of peace. It was customary for Greek warriors to extend their open right hand when meeting to show that they were not carrying a weapon. This practice eventually spread to other Mediterranean cultures, including the Romans, who adopted it as a sign of mutual respect and friendship.

The Roman handshake, known as the “dexiosis,” was a fundamental element of Roman social interaction. It was performed with the right hand, as the left hand was considered impure. Romans believed that the right hand was associated with honor and goodwill, while the left hand was associated with deceit. The act of shaking hands in ancient Rome was a symbol of honesty and the absence of ill intentions.

As the Roman Empire expanded, so did the practice of the handshake. It became a symbol of unity and cooperation among different regions and cultures under Roman rule. This cultural exchange helped the handshake spread throughout Europe and beyond.

However, the practice of handshaking wasn’t universal in all cultures. In Asia, for instance, bowing was the preferred form of greeting and respect. Bowing was seen as more formal and respectful than the Western handshake. This difference in greeting customs highlighted the cultural diversity of human interaction across the world.

The handshake also played a significant role in religious ceremonies and rituals. In Christianity, for example, the handshake became a part of the Christian liturgy, symbolizing reconciliation and peace. It was often used during the Mass as a sign of unity among the congregation. The clasp of hands during religious ceremonies was a way to express faith and solidarity.

During the Middle Ages, the handshake took on additional layers of meaning. Knights and nobles would extend their right hands when meeting to demonstrate that they were not concealing a weapon. This practice evolved into a form of chivalry and courtesy, with knights swearing oaths and making promises by shaking hands.

The Renaissance period in Europe saw a resurgence of interest in ancient Greek and Roman culture, including their customs and gestures. The handshake regained popularity as a symbol of trust and agreement, reflecting the renewed interest in classical values. It was during this time that the handshake became a common part of everyday social interaction.

The 17th century marked a turning point in the history of the handshake. The Quakers, a religious group known for their commitment to simplicity and honesty, adopted the handshake as a form of greeting. They viewed it as a way to demonstrate equality and sincerity, as all participants in the handshake were on equal footing. This practice helped solidify the handshake’s status as a symbol of trust and respect in Western culture.

In the 18th and 19th centuries, as Western societies underwent significant social and industrial changes, the handshake became a standard practice in business transactions. It was seen as a way to seal agreements and establish trust between parties. Handshakes were often accompanied by the exchange of business cards, further formalizing the relationship.

The modern handshake, as we know it today, typically involves a firm grip, a few shakes, and often a direct gaze into the other person’s eyes. This level of physical contact and eye contact is seen as a sign of sincerity and trustworthiness. The strength of the grip can convey confidence and assertiveness.

The 20th century saw the handshake become a global phenomenon. With the advent of globalization and international diplomacy, handshakes became a symbol of international agreements and cooperation. Leaders from around the world would often exchange handshakes as a gesture of goodwill and diplomacy.

However, the COVID-19 pandemic brought about a temporary shift in handshake etiquette. Concerns about the spread of germs led to a decrease in the frequency of handshakes in many parts of the world. People turned to alternative forms of greeting, such as elbow bumps or waves, to maintain social distancing and reduce the risk of infection.

In conclusion, the history of the handshake is a rich tapestry of cultural, social, and historical influences. From its origins in ancient Greece to its role in modern business and diplomacy, the handshake has evolved and adapted to reflect the values and norms of each era. It remains a powerful symbol of trust, respect, and agreement in societies around the world, despite occasional shifts in etiquette due to changing circumstances.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Lyda Dorcas

    Wow 😲 quite a history there

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