The Origin of Sexual Attraction and Love: Plato's Symposium - Aristophanes' speech as a reflection of ancient sexuality

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Classic Greek civilization was focused on the development of the individual; physically,intellectually and emotionally. Sexuality is an intergral part of the individual. Each civilization develops its own views and attitudes on sexuality and love. Aristophanes' speech in the philosopher Plato's Symposium, written around 400 BC, embodied the origin of eros - love, sexual attraction, and desire. These concepts were incorporated into myths as an explanation for the various sexual orientations that existed in the ancient Greek world. Modern ideologies of romance and alternative lifestyles do not connect with the ancient notions and perceptions of eros. Eros in the ancient world was expressed through friendships and physical, emotional, and intellectual connections. The idealization of beauty, including wholeness and perfection, and not gender, was often the foundation for eros. Although Plato's depiction of Aristophanes as a caricature was meant to be a form of entertainment, mythology was still used to explain the evolution of male and female homosexual and heterosexual desires.

The mythological explanations in Aristophanes' speech "provided the Greeks with answers to abiding riddles about human sexuality." This included physical desires, emotional attachment, intellectual love, the need for companionship, people's obsessions with their beloved, and humankind's inability to endure the pain of separation. The attainment of love in the ancient Greek world was regarded as a priority and was thought of as the ultimate happiness and goal in life. Even Aristophanes' speech acknowledged the importance of achieving true love; love "heals those ills whose cure must be the highest happiness of the human race." The Greeks longed to reclaim the feelings they had had for each other before the changes brought about by the first humans' punishment. They felt this could be done by achieving perfection through unity and balance within eros. Plato's Symposium provides a...