[Writing Prompt] What The Greeks Knew About Love

This year during the Superbowl I noticed an ad that used the different types of love, as defined by the Greeks, to advertise their product. And it reminded me that, for those of us without a classical education, it can be useful to review frameworks like this, that underpin our cultural attitudes whether we know it or not. 

eros statue image
Photo by Thomas Vogel on Unsplash

The Prompt

Write a story combining featuring two different types of love relationships from the list. Notice how they interact, how they cause the characters to act, and where those actions are different and similar.

Types of Love

Storgebest described as an empathy bond or ‘affection’, such as the love between a parent and child, or between siblings or other extremely close relationships. It’s a love that is founded in familiarity, and may not have much to do with whether the people involved actually like each other. 

  • The positive aspects of this type of love are that it takes no effort, is not earned, can be counted on.
  • The negative aspects are that it can become too familiar, too expected, a harmful obligation, and that it can be corrupted by jealousy or familiarity.

Philios- this form of love is rooted in friendship. It might be as strong as a familial bond, but is rooted in things other than familiarity. It is typically formed because people have similar values, shared interests and activities. It is typically a love that is chosen rather than imposed (storge) or irresistible (eros). 

  • The positive aspects of this type of love are that it is chosen, you’re never obligated to continue these relationships, and that they tend to thrive on companionship.
  • The negative aspects can include a tendency to become cliquey and exclusive. They may take precedence over other, more socially-minded obligations.

Eros – this is romantic love, the one we are most often accustomed to seeing in movies and books. It arises from the feeling of ‘being in love’, which is not necessarily about sexual attraction, but about that exciting infatuation we get when we first begin to adore someone. It tends to be very physical (that euphoria! The racing heartbeat! The endorphins!), and focused. It really does feel like the rest of the world falls away when we see the object of our affection. It feels like it is imposed by some outside force, not a conscious act.

  • The positive aspects of this type of love are that it is can lead to procreation, that it can mature into a deep bond that becomes familial and that it is an extremely profound, all-encompassing experience.
  • The negative aspects are that its extremity can lead to unhealthy obsession, jealous, even a disdain for the person even while you are physically attracted to them. It can be the source of some of the most terrible things people do.

Philautia – This is about love for one’s self. 

  • The positive aspects of this type of love are that we all need self-respect to thrive. Compassion for oneself can manifest in many ways, from eating well and resting enough, to treating ourselves to little presents.
  • The negative aspects of this are, of course, all about ego and vanity and self-obsession. Social media certainly offers us plenty of settings for the dark side of this love.

Agape – This is a selfless love that exists regardless of changing circumstances. In the Christian era it has been assigned to the love of God for humanity, but in the Greek sense it was an expansive, selfless love that might be found in some of the other relationships listed above. I can certainly see many settings in the modern world the offer opportunities to tell stories involving agape, from families and friend groups to nursing homes, charities and workplaces. 

If you want to inject a little hope and optimism in any story, show us characters with a little agape.

If you share you story somewhere (and here’s why you might not want to) post a link here so we can come and read it.

Leave a comment to let us know what you wrote about today, and how it went!

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