Friday, June 6, 2008


“The Greek word most often translated as ‘love’ is eros. But ‘desire’ is much more accurate in most cases. Eros is a passionate feeling of attraction for another person. Or for one’s city, or for food. When Plato uses eros in his dialogue for the Symposium to express the highest philosophical longings for the Good Itself, longings which transcend the physical and seek the fulfillment of the soul’s deepest needs and capabilities, it’s easy to see why ‘love’ has usually seemed the right translation. And many Greek lovers use eros for their most profound and melting sensations.

But eros is not like ‘love’ in a Romantic or Christian sense. In a sexual context, it is most often described as a sickness, a burning and destructive fire, which is not wanted by the sufferer at all. As a social force, it can be highly destructive. According to modern song lyrics, ‘love makes the world go round’, or ‘love is a many-splendored thing’. For Aeschylus, the tragic poet, ‘Eros destroys and perverts all the yoked bonds of society,’ and for Sophocles, ‘Eros drags the minds of just men into injustice and destruction.’ Tragedy loves to show the violence and misery caused by desire in society. That Eros destroys is a general truth which tragedy displays to the citizens of the city. You can cherish ‘love’, but you should always beware eros.”

From Love, Sex & Tragedy; How the Ancient World Shapes Our Lives by Simon Goldhill

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