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Do you know how many words for love had the Ancient Greeks?

Credit: The Birth of Venus, by Sandro Botticelli c. 1485–1486 , Wikipedia



Our language defines the limits of our soul

The more we engage our minds with something, the better we fathom the depths of it, its infinity. We expand our understanding about something and when we reach its momentary limits we define it, we coin a word. Thus, we materialize our consciousness and mark its achievements for future generations. Our thoughts, our perception of the world, our actions, are in direct causal link with the language we have in use. As the Austrian-British philosopher, Ludwig Wittgenstein once said: "The limits of my language define the limits of my world." Well, it seems that ancient Greeks had a lot more interest in the different forms of love than us because these are not only synonyms but words of various perspectives towards the phenomenon of love. What about our contemporary culture? Which are the concepts that we develop the most? It's a pretty long topic, that we could discuss some other time. However, you could ponder over it and share your thoughts with us.

Below you can take a look at the richness of Ancient Greek concepts for one of the most important aspects of what we call humane.


Love is all you need

Though there are more Greek words for love, variants, and possibly subcategories, a general summary considering these Ancient Greek concepts is as follows:

  • Agápe (ἀγάπη; agápē) means "love: esp. brotherly love, charity; the love of God for man and of man for God".[Agape is used in ancient texts to denote feelings for one's children and the feelings for a spouse, and it was also used to refer to a love feast. Agape is used by Christians to express the unconditional love of God for his children. This type of love was further explained by Thomas Aquinas as "to will the good of another".
  • Éros (ἔρως; érōs) means "love, mostly of the sexual passion". The Modern Greek word "erotas" means "intimate love".Eros is passion, lust and pleasure. The ancient Greeks considered Eros to be dangerous and frightening as it involves a "loss of control" through the primal impulse to procreate. Plato refined his own definition: Although eros is initially felt for a person, with contemplation it becomes an appreciation of the beauty within that person, or even becomes appreciation of beauty itself. Plato does not talk of physical attraction as a necessary part of love, hence the use of the word platonic to mean "without physical attraction". In the Symposium, the most famous ancient work on the subject, Plato has Socrates argue that eros helps the soul recall knowledge of beauty and contributes to an understanding of spiritual truth, the ideal form of youthful beauty that leads us, humans, to feel erotic desire – thus suggesting that even that sensually based love aspires to the non-corporeal, spiritual plane of existence; that is, finding its truth, just like finding any truth, leads to transcendence. Lovers and philosophers are all inspired to seek truth through the means of eros.
  • Philia (φιλίαphilía) means "affectionate regard, friendship", usually "between equals". It is a dispassionate virtuous love, a concept developed by Aristotle. In his best-known work on ethics, Nicomachean Ethics, philia is expressed variously as loyalty to friends (specifically, "brotherly love"), family, and community, and requires virtue, equality, and familiarity. Furthermore, in the same text philos is also the root of philautia denoting self-love and arising from it, a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends, a desire or enjoyment of an activity, as well as between lovers.
  • Storge (στοργή; storgē) means "love, affection" and "especially of parents and children". It is the common or natural empathy, like that felt by parents for offspring. Rarely used in ancient works, and then almost exclusively as a descriptor of relationships within the family. It is also known to express mere acceptance or putting up with situations, as in "loving" the tyrant. This is also used when referencing the love for one's country or a favorite sports team.
  • Philautia (φιλαυτία; philautía) means "self-love". To love oneself or "regard for one's own happiness or advantage" has been conceptualized both as a basic human necessity and as a moral flaw, akin to vanity and selfishness, synonymous with amour-propre or egotism. The Greeks further divided this love into positive and negative: one, the unhealthy version, is the self-obsessed love, and the other is the concept of self-compassion.
  • Xenia (ξενία) is an ancient Greek concept of hospitality. It is sometimes translated as "guest-friendship" or "ritualized friendship". It is an institutionalized relationship rooted in generosity, gift exchange, and reciprocity. Historically, hospitality towards foreigners and guests (Hellenes not of your polis) was understood as a moral obligation. Hospitality towards foreign Hellenes honored Zeus Xenios (and Athene Xenia) patrons of foreigners.
  • Mania (μανία) is when love turns to obsession, it becomes mania. Stalking behaviors, co-dependency, extreme jealousy, and violence are all symptoms of Mania.
  • Pragma (Πράγμα) is a love built on commitment, understanding and long-term best interests. It is a love that has aged, matured and is about making compromises to help the relationship work over time, also showing patience and tolerance.
  • Philautia (Φιλαυτία ) The Greeks understood that in order to care for others, we must first learn to care for ourselves. As Aristotle said, "All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man's feelings for himself."
  • Ludus (playful love) The Ancient Roman but also Greeks thought of ludus as a playful form of love. It describes the situation of having a crush and acting on it or the affection between young lovers.


Sources:  Wikipedia, greekcitytimes.com

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