Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Primitive Love and Love-Stories by Henry Theophilus Finck

Part 16 out of 19

Adobe PDF icon
Download this document as a .pdf
File size: 2.2 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

is the most touching, the most inspired, the most sentimental and
modern passage not only in the Homeric poems, but in all Greek
literature. Benecke has aptly remarked (10) that the relation between
Hector and Andromache is unparalleled in that literature; and he adds:

"At the same time, how little really sympathetic to the
Greek of the period was this wonderful and unique passage is
sufficiently shown by this very fact, that no attempt was
ever made to imitate or develop it. It may sound strange to
say so, but in all probability we to-day understand
Andromache better than did the Greeks, for whom she was
created; better, too, perhaps than did her creator himself."

Benecke should have written Hector in place of Andromache. There was
no difficulty, even for a Greek, in understanding Andromache. She had
every reason, even from a purely selfish point of view, to dread
Hector's battling with the savage Greeks; for while he lived she was a
princess, with all the comforts of life, whereas his fall and the fall
of Troy meant her enslavement and a life of misery. What makes the
scene in question so modern is the attitude of Hector--his dividing
his caresses equally between his wife and his son, and assuring her
that he is more troubled about her fate and anguish than about what
may befall his father, mother, and brothers. That is an utterly
un-Greek sentiment, and that is the reason why the passage was not
imitated. It was not a realistic scene from life, but a mere product
of Homer's imagination and glowing genius--like the pathetic scene in
which Odysseus wipes away a tear on noting that his faithful dog Argos
recognized him and wagged his tail. It is extremely improbable that a
man who could behave so cruelly toward women as Odysseus did could
have thus sympathized with a dog.

Certainly no one else did, not even his "faithful" Penelope. As long
as Argos was useful in the chase, the poet tells us, he was well taken
care of; but now that he was old, he "lay neglected upon a pile of
dung," doomed to starve, for he had not strength to move. Homer alone,
with the prophetic insight of a genius, could have conceived such a
touch of modern sentiment toward animals, so utterly foreign to
ancient ideas; and he alone could have put such a sentiment of
wife-love into the mouth of the Trojan Hector--a barbarian whose ideal
of manliness and greatness consisted in "bringing home blood-stained
spoils of the enemy."


It seems like a touch of sarcasm that Homer incarnates his isolated
and un-Greek ideal of devotion to a wife in a _Trojan_, as if to
indicate that it must not be accepted as a touch of _Greek_ life. From
our point of view it is a stroke of genius. On the other hand it is
obvious that attributing such a sentiment to a Trojan likewise cannot
be anything but a poetic license; for these Trojans were quite as
piratical, coarse, licentious, and polygamous as the Greeks, Hector's
own father having had fifty children, nineteen of whom were borne by
his wife, thirty-one by various concubines. Many pages of the _Iliad_
bear witness to the savage ferocity of Greeks and Trojans alike--a
ferocity utterly incompatible with such tender emotions as Homer
himself was able to conceive in his imagination. The ferocity of
Achilles is typical of the feelings of these heroes. Not content with
slaughtering an enemy who meets him in honorable battle, defending his
wife and home, he thrust thongs of ox-hide through the prostrate
Hector's feet, bound him to his chariot, lashed his horses to speed,
and dragged him about in sight of the wailing wife and parents of his
victim. This he repeated several times, aggravating the atrocity a
hundredfold by his intention--in spite of the piteous entreaties of
the dying Hector--to throw his corpse to be eaten by the dogs, thus
depriving even his spirit of rest, and his family of religious
consolation. Nay, Achilles expresses the savage wish that his rage
might lead him so far as to carve and eat raw Hector's flesh. The
Homeric "hero," in short, is almost on a level in cruelty with the red

But it is in their treatment of women--which Gladstone commends so
highly--that the barbarous nature of the Greek "heroes" is revealed in
all its hideous nakedness. The king of their gods set them the example
when he punished his wife and queen by hanging her up amid the clouds
with two anvils suspended from her feet; clutching and throwing to the
earth any gods that came to her rescue. (_Iliad,_ XV., 15-24.) Rank
does not exempt the women of the heroic age from slavish toil.
Nausicaea, though a princess, does the work of a washerwoman and drives
her own chariot to the laundry on the banks of the river, her only
advantage over her maids being that they have to walk.[296] Her
mother, too, queen of the Phoeaceans, spends her time sitting among
the waiting maids spinning yarn, while her husband sits idle and "sips
his wine like an immortal." The women have to do all the work to make
the men comfortable, even washing their feet, giving them their bath,
anointing them, and putting their clothes on them again (_Odyssey,_
XIX., 317; VIII., 454; XVII., 88, etc.),[297] even a princess like
Polycaste, daughter of the divine Nestor, being called upon to perform
such menial service (III., 464-67). As for the serving-maids, they
grind corn, fetch water, and do other work, just like red squaws; and
in the house of Odysseus we read of a poor girl, who, while the others
were sleeping, was still toiling at her corn because her weakness had
prevented her from finishing her task (XX., 110).

Penelope was a queen, but was very far from being treated like one.
Gladstone found "the strongest evidence of the respect in which women
were held" in the fact that the suitors stopped short of violence to
her person! They did everything but that, making themselves at home in
her house, unbidden and hated guests, debauching her maidservants, and
consuming her provisions by wholesale. But her own son's attitude is
hardly less disrespectful and insulting than that of the ungallant,
impertinent suitors. He repeatedly tells his mother to mind her own
business--the loom and the distaff--leaving words for men; and each
time the poet recommends this rude, unfilial speech as a "wise saying"
which the queen humbly "lays to heart." His love of property far
exceeds his love of his mother, for as soon as he is grown up he begs
her to go home and get married again, "so troubled is he for the
substance which the suitors waste." He urges her at last to "marry
whom she will," offering as an extra inducement "countless gifts" if
she will only go.

To us it seems topsy-turvy that a mother should have to ask her son's
consent to marry again, but to the Greeks that was a matter of course.
There are many references to this custom in the Homeric poems. Girls,
too, though they be princesses, are disposed of without the least
regard to their wishes, as when Agamemnon offers Achilles the choice
of one of his three daughters (IX., 145). Big sums are sometimes paid
for a girl--by Iphidamas, for instance, who fell in battle, "far from
his bride, of whom he had known no joy, and much had he given for her;
first a hundred kine he gave, and thereafter promised a thousand,
goats and sheep together." The idea, too, occurs over and over again
that among the suitors the one who has the richest gifts to offer
should take the bride. How much this mercenary, unceremonious, and
often cruel treatment of women was a matter of course among these
Greeks is indicated by Homer's naive epithet for brides, [Greek:
parthenoi alphesiboiai], "virgins who bring in oxen." And this is the
state of affairs which Gladstone sums up by saying "there is a certain
authority of the man over the woman; but it does not destroy freedom"!

The early Greeks were always fighting, and the object of their wars,
as among the Australian savages, was usually woman, as Achilles
frankly informs us when he speaks of having laid waste twelve cities
and passed through many bloody days of battle, "_warring with folk for
their women's sake_." (_Iliad,_ IX., 327.) Nestor admonishes the
Greeks to "let no man hasten to depart home till each have lain by
some Trojan's wife" (354-55). The leader of the Greek forces issues
this command regarding the Trojans:

"Of them let not one escape sheer estruction at our hands,
not even the man-child that the mother beareth in her womb;
let not even him escape, but all perish together out of
Ilios, uncared for and unknown" (VI., 57);

while Homer, with consummate art, paints for us the terrors of a
captured city, showing how the women--of all classes--were maltreated:

"As a woman wails and clings to her dear husband, who
falls for town and people, seeking to shield his home
and children from the ruthless day; seeing him dying,
gasping, she flings herself on him with a piercing cry;
while men behind, smiting her with the spears on back
and shoulder, force her along to bondage to suffer toil
and trouble; with pain most pitiful her cheeks are
thin...." (_Odyssey,_ VIII., 523-30.)[298]


Having failed to find any traces of romantic love, and only one of
conjugal affection, in the greatest poet of the Greeks, let us now
subject their greatest poetess to a critical examination.

Sappho undoubtedly had the divine spark. She may have possibly
deserved the epithet of the "tenth Muse," bestowed on her by ancient
writers, or of "the Poetess," as Homer was "the Poet." Among the one
hundred and seventy fragments preserved some are of great beauty--the
following, for example, which is as delightful as a Japanese poem and
in much the same style--suggesting a picture in a few words, with the
distinctness of a painting:

"As the sweet apple blushes on the end of the bough,
the very end of the bough, which the gatherers
overlooked, nay overlooked not, but could not
reach."[299] It is otherwise in her love-poems, or
rather fragments of such, comprising the following:

"Now love masters my limbs, and shakes me, fatal
creature, bitter-sweet."
"Now Eros shakes my soul, a wind on the mountain
falling on the oaks."
"Sleep thou in the bosom of thy tender girl-friend."
"Sweet Mother, I cannot weave my web, broken as I am
by longing for a maiden, at soft Aphrodite's will."
"For thee there was no other girl, bridegroom, like

"Bitter-sweet," "giver of pain," "the weaver of fictions," are some
expressions of Sappho's preserved by Maximus Tyrius; and Libanius, the
rhetorician, refers to Sappho, the Lesbian, as praying "that night
might be doubled for her." But the most important of her love-poems,
and the one on which her adulators chiefly base their praises, is the
following fragment addressed [Greek: Pros Gunaika Eromenaen] ("to a
beloved woman"):

"That man seems to me peer of gods, who sits in thy
presence, and hears close to him thy sweet speech and
lovely laughter; that indeed makes my heart flutter in
my bosom. For when I see thee but a little I have no
utterance left, my tongue is broken down, and
straightway a subtle fire has run under my skin, with
my eyes I have no sight, my ears ring, sweat bathes me,
and a trembling seizes all my body; I am paler than
grass, and seem in my madness little better than one
dead. But I must dare all, since one so poor ..."

The Platonist Longinus (third century) said that this ode was "not one
passion, but a congress of passions," and declared it the most perfect
expression in all ancient literature of the effects of love. A Greek
physician is said to have copied it into his book of diagnoses "as a
compendium of all the symptoms of corroding emotion." F.B. Jevons, in
his history of Greek literature (139), speaks of the "marvellous
fidelity in her representation of the passion of love." Long before
him Addison had written in the _Spectator_ (No. 223) that Sappho "felt
the passion in all its warmth, and described it in all its symptoms."
Theodore Watts wrote: "Never before these songs were sung, and never
since, did the human soul, in the grip of a fiery passion, utter a cry
like hers." That amazing prodigal of superlatives, the poet Swinburne,
speaks of the

"dignity of divinity, which informs the most passionate
and piteous notes of the unapproachable poetess with
such grandeur as would seem impossible to such

And J.A. Symonds assures us that "Nowhere, except, perhaps, in some
Persian or Provencal love-songs, can be found more ardent expressions
of overmastering passion."

I have read this poem a score of times, in Greek, in the Latin version
of Catullus, and in English, German, and French translations. The more
I read it and compare with it the eulogies just quoted, the more I
marvel at the power of cant and conventionality in criticism and
opinion, and at the amazing current ignorance in regard to the
psychology of love and of the emotions in general. I have made a long
and minute study of the symptoms of love, in myself and in others; I
have found that the torments of doubt and the loss of sleep may make a
lover "paler than grass"; that his heart is apt to "flutter in his
bosom," and his tongue to be embarrassed in presence of the beloved;
but when Sappho speaks of a lover bathed in sweat, of becoming blind,
deaf, and dumb, trembling all over, and little better than one dead,
she indulges in exaggeration which is neither true to life nor poetic.

An amusing experiment may be made with reference to this famous poem.
Suppose you say to a friend:

"A woman was walking in the woods when she saw
something that made her turn pale as a sheet; her heart
fluttered, her ears rang, her tongue was paralyzed, a
cold sweat covered her, she trembled all over and
looked as if she would faint and die: what did she

The chances are ten to one that your friend will answer "a bear!" In
truth, Sappho's famous "symptoms of love" are laughably like the
symptoms of fear which we find described in the books of Bain, Darwin,
Mosso, and others--"a cold sweat," "deadly pallor," "voice becoming
husky or failing altogether," "heart beating violently," "dizziness
which will blind him," "trembling of all the muscles of the body," "a
fainting fit." Nor is fear the only emotion that can produce these
symptoms. Almost any strong passion, anger, extreme agony or joy, may
cause them; so that what Sappho described was not love in particular,
but the physiologic effects of violent emotions in general. I am glad
that the Greek physician who copied her poem into his book of
diagnoses is not my family doctor.

Sappho's love-poems are not psychologic but purely physiologic. Of the
imaginative, sentimental, esthetic, moral, altruistic, sympathetic,
affectional symptoms of what we know as romantic love they do not give
us the faintest hint. Hegel remarked truly that "in the odes of Sappho
the language of love rises indeed to the point of lyrical inspiration,
yet what she reveals is rather the slow consuming flame of the blood
than the inwardness of the subjective heart and soul." Nor was Byron
deceived: "I don't think Sappho's ode a good example." The historian
Bender had an inkling of the truth when he wrote (183):

"To us who are accustomed to spiritualized love-lyrics after
the style of Geibel's this erotic song of Sappho may seem
too glowing, too violent; but we must not forget that love
was conceived by the Greeks altogether in a less spiritual
manner than we demand that it should be."

That is it precisely. These Greek love-poems do not depict romantic
love but sensual passion. Nor is this the worst of it. Sappho's
absurdly overrated love-poems are not even good descriptions of normal
sensual passion. I have just said that they are purely physiologic;
but that is too much praise for them. The word physiologic implies
something healthy and normal, but Sappho's poems are not healthy and
normal; they are abnormal, they are pathologic. Had they been written
by a man, this would not be the case; but Sappho was a woman, and her
famous ode is addressed to a woman. A woman, too, is referred to in
her famous hymn to Venus in these lines, as translated by Wharton:

"What beauty now wouldst thou draw to love thee? Who
wrongs thee, Sappho? For even if she flies, she shall
soon follow, and if she rejects gifts shall yet give,
and if she loves not shall soon love, however loth."

In the five fragments above quoted there are also two at least which
refer to girls. Now I have not the slightest desire to discuss the
moral character of Sappho or the vices of her Lesbian countrywomen.
She had a bad reputation among the Romans as well as the Greeks, and
it is a fact that in the year 1073 her poems were burnt at Rome and
Constantinople, "as being," in the words of Professor Gilbert Murray,
"too much for the shaky morals of the time." Another recent writer,
Professor Peck of Columbia University, says that

"it is difficult to read the fragments which remain of her
verse without being forced to come to the conclusion that a
woman who could write such poetry could not be the pure
woman that her modern apologists would have her."

The following lament alone would prove this:

Deduke men a Selana
kai Plaeiades, mesai de
nuktes, para d' erxet ora
ego de mona katheudo.]


Several books and many articles have been written on this topic,[300]
but the writers seem to have overlooked the fact that in the light of
the researches of Krafft-Ebing and Moll it is possible to vindicate
the character of Sappho without ignoring the fact that her passionate
erotic poems are addressed to women. These alienists have shown that
the abnormal state of a masculine mind inhabiting a female body, or
_vice versa_, is surprisingly common in all parts of the world. They
look on it, with the best of reasons, as a diseased condition, which
does not necessarily, in persons of high principles, lead to vicious
and unnatural practices. In every country there are thousands of girls
who, from childhood, would rather climb trees and fences and play
soldiers with the boys than fondle dolls or play with the other girls.
When they get older they prefer tobacco to candy; they love to
masquerade in men's clothes, and when they hear of a girl's
love-affair they cannot understand what pleasure there can be in
dancing with a man or kissing him, while they themselves may long to
kiss a girl, nay, in numerous cases, to marry her.[301] Many such
marriages are made between women whose brains and bodies are of
different sexes, and their love-affairs are often characterized by
violent jealousy and other symptoms of intersexual passion. Not a few
prominent persons have been innocent victims of this distressing
disease; it is well-known what strange masculine proclivities several
eminent female novelists and artists have shown; and whenever a woman
shows great creative power or polemic aggressiveness the chances are
that her brain is of the masculine type. It is therefore quite
possible that Sappho may have been personally a pure woman, her mental
masculinity ("mascula Sappho" Horace calls her) being her misfortune,
not her fault. But even if we give her the benefit of the doubt and
take for granted that she had enough character to resist the abnormal
impulses and passions which she describes in her poems, and which the
Greeks easily pardoned and even praised, we cannot and must not
overlook the fact that these poems are the result of a diseased
brain-centre, and that what they describe is not love, but a phase of
erotic pathology. Normal sexual appetite is as natural a passion as
the hunger for food; it is simply a hunger to perpetuate the species,
and without it the world would soon come to an end; but Sapphic
passion is a disease which luckily cannot become epidemic because it
cannot perpetuate itself, but must always remain a freak.[302]


There is considerable uncertainty regarding the dates of the earliest
Greek poets. By dint of ingenious conjectures and combinations
philologists have reached the conclusion that the Homeric poems, with
their interpolations, originated between the dates 850 and 720
B.C.--say 2700 years ago. Hesiod probably flourished near the end of
the seventh century, to which Archilochus and Alcman belong, while in
the sixth and fifth centuries a number of names appear--little more
than names, it is true, since of most of them fragments only have come
down to us--Alcaeus, Mimnermus, Theognis, Sappho, Stesichorus,
Anacreon, Ibycus, Bacchylides, Pindar, and others. Best known of all
these, as a poet of love, is Anacreon, though in his case no one has
been so foolish as to claim that the love described in his poems (or
those of his imitators) is ever supersensual. Professor Anthon has
aptly characterized him as "an amusing voluptuary and an elegant
profligate," and Hegel pointed out the superficiality of Anacreontic
love, in which there is no conception of the tremendous importance to
a lover of having this or that particular girl and no other, or what I
have called individual preference. Benecke puts this graphically when
he remarks (25) regarding Mimnermus: "'What is life without love?' he
says; he does not say, 'What is life without your love?'" Even in
Sappho, I may add here, in spite of the seeming violence of her
passion, this quality of individual preference is really lacking or
weak, for she is constantly transferring her attention from one girl
to another. And as Sappho's poems are addressed to girls, so are
Anacreon's and those of the other poets named, to boys, in most cases.
The following, preserved by Athenaeus (XIII., 564D), is a good

"O pai parthenion blepon,
dixemai se, su d' ou koeis,
ouk eidos hoti taes emaes
psuchaes haeniocheueis."]

Such a poem, even if addressed properly, would indicate nothing more
than simple admiration and a longing which is specified in the

Alla propine
radinous, o phile, maerous.]

It would hardly be worth while, even if the limitations of space
permitted, to subject the fragments of the other poets of this period
to analysis. The reader has the key in his hands now--the altruistic
and supersensual ingredients of love pointed out in this volume; and
if he can find those ingredients in any of these poems, he will be
luckier than I have been. We may therefore pass on to the great tragic
poets of the sixth and fifth centuries B.C.


In the _Frogs_ of Aristophanes, Aeschylus is made to declare that he
had never introduced a woman in love into any of his plays--[Greek:
ouk oid' oudeis haentin erosan popt' epoiaesa gunaika]. He certainly
has not done so in any one of the seven plays which have survived of
the ninety that he wrote, according to Suidas; and Aristophanes would
not have put that expression in his mouth had it not been true of the
others, too. To us it seems extraordinary that an author should boast
of having kept out of his writings the element which constitutes the
greatest fascination of modern literature; but after reading his seven
surviving tragedies we do not wonder that Aeschylus should not have
introduced a woman in love, or a man either, in plays wherewith he
competed for the state prize on the solemn occasions of the great
festivals at Athens; for love of an exalted kind, worthy of such an
occasion, could not have existed in a community where such ideas
prevailed about women as Aeschylus unfolds in the few places where he
condescends to notice such inferior beings. The only kind of sexual
love of which he shows any knowledge is that referred to in the
remarks of Prometheus and Io regarding the designs of Zeus on the

An apparent exception seems at first sight to exist in the cordial
reception Clytaemnestra accords to her husband, King Agamemnon, when
he returns from the Trojan war. She calls the day of his return the
most joyous of her life, asserts her complete fidelity to him during
his long absence, declares she is not ashamed to tell her fond
feelings for her spouse in public, and adds that she has wept for him
till the gushing fountains of her eyes have been exhausted. Indeed,
she goes so far in her homage that Agamemnon protests and exclaims,
"Pamper me not after the fashion of women, nor as though I were a
barbaric monarch.... I bid thee reverence me as a man, not a god." But
ere long we discover (as in the case of Achilles), that all this fine
talk of Clytaemnestra is mere verbiage, and worse--deadly hypocrisy.
In reality she has been living with a paramour, and the genuineness
and intensity of her "fond feelings" for her husband may be inferred
from the fact that hardly has he returned when she makes a murderous
assault on him by throwing an artfully woven circular garment over
him, while he is taking a bath, and smiting him till he falls dead.
"And I glory in the deed" she afterwards declares, adding that it "has
long since been meditated."

Agamemnon, for his part, not only brought back with him from Troy a
new concubine, Cassandra, and installed her in his home with the usual
Greek indifference to the feelings of his legitimate wife, but he
really was no better than his murderous wife, since he had been
willing to kill her daughter and his own, Iphigenia, to please his
brother, curb a storm, and expedite the Trojan war. In the words of
the Chorus,

"Thus he dared to become the sacrificer of his daughter
to promote a war undertaken for the avenging of a
woman, and as a first offering for the fleet: and the
chieftains, eager for the fight, set at naught her
supplications and her cries to her father, and her
maiden age. But after prayer her father bade the
ministering priests with all zeal, to lift, like a kid,
high above the altar, her who lay prostrate wrapped in
her robes, and to put a check upon her beauteous mouth,
a voice of curses upon the house, by force of muzzles
and strength which allowed no vent to her cry."

The barbarous sacrifice of an innocent maiden is of course a myth, but
it is a myth which doubtless had many counterparts in Greek life.
Aeschylus did not live so very long after Homer, and in his age it was
still a favorite pastime of the Greeks to ravage cities, a process of
which Aeschylus gives us a vivid picture in a few lines, in his _Seven
against Thebes_:

"And for its women to be dragged away captives, alas!
alas! both the young and the aged, like horses by their
hair, while their vestments are rent about their
persons. And the emptied city cries aloud, while its
booty is wasted amid confused clamors.... And the cries
of children at the breast all bloody resound, and there
is rapine, sister of pell-mell confusion ... And young
female slaves have new sorrows ... so that they hope
for life's gloomy close to come, a guardian against
these all-mournful sorrows."

For women of rank alone is there any consideration--so long as they
are not among the captives; yet even queens are not honored as women,
but only as queens, that is, as the mothers or wives of kings. In _The
Persians_ the Chorus salutes Atossa in terms every one of which
emphasizes this point: "O queen, supreme of Persia's deep-waisted
matrons, aged mother of Xerxes, hail to thee! spouse to Darius,
consort of the Persians, god and mother of a god thou art," while
Clytaemnestra is saluted by the chorus in _Agamemnon_ in these words:
"I have came revering thy majesty, Clytaemnestra; for it is right to
honor the consort of a chieftain hero, when the monarch's throne has
been left empty."

We read in these plays of such unsympathetic things as a
"man-detesting host of Amazons;" of fifty virgins fleeing from
incestuous wedlock and all but one of them cutting their husbands'
throats at night with a sword; of the folly of marrying out of one's
own rank. In all Aeschylus there is on the other hand only one
noticeable reference to a genuine womanly quality--the injunction of
Danaus to his daughters to honor modesty more than life while they are
travelling among covetous men; an admonition much needed, since, as
Danaus adds--characterizing the coarseness and lack of chivalry of the
men--violence is sure to threaten them everywhere, "and on the
fair-formed beauty of virgins everyone that passes by sends forth a
melting dart from his eyes, overcome by desire." Masculine coarseness
and lack of chivalry are also revealed in such abuse of woman as
Aeschylus--in the favorite Greek manner, puts in the mouth of

"O ye abominations of the wise. Neither in woes nor in
welcome prosperity may I be associated with woman-kind;
for when woman prevails, her audacity is more than one
can live with; and when affrighted she is still a
greater mischief to her home and city."


Unlike his predecessor, Sophocles did not hesitate, it seems, to bring
"a woman in love" on the stage. Not, it is true, in any one of the
seven plays which alone remain of the one hundred and twenty-three he
is said to have written. But there are in existence some fragments of
his _Phaedra_, which Rohde (31) and others are inclined to look on as
the "first tragedy of love." It has, however, nothing to do with what
we know as either romantic or conjugal love, but is simply the story
of the adulterous and incestuous infatuation of Phaedra for her
stepson Hippolytus. It is at the same time one of the many stories
illustrating the whimsical, hypocritical, and unchivalrous attitude of
the early Greeks of always making woman the sinful aggressor and
representing man as being coyly reserved (see Rohde, 34-35). The
infatuation of Phaedra is correctly described (_fr_., 611, 607 Dind.)
as a [Greek: Theaelatos nosos]--a maddening disease inflicted by an
angry goddess.

Among the seven extant tragedies of Sophocles there are three which
throw some light on the contemporary attitude toward women and the
different kinds of domestic attachment--the _Ajax_, the _Trachiniae_
and _Antigone_. When Ajax, having disgraced himself by slaughtering a
flock of sheep and cattle in the mad delusion that they were his
enemies, wishes he might die, Tecmessa, his concubine, declares, "Then
pray for my death, too, for why should I live if you are dead?" She
has, however, plenty of egotistic reasons for dreading his death, for
she knows that her fate will be slavery. Moreover, instead of being
edified by her expression of attachment, we are repelled when we bear
in mind that Ajax slew her father when he made her his concubine. The
Greeks were too indelicate in their ideas about concubines to be
disturbed by such a reflection. Nor were they affected disagreeably by
the utter indifference toward his concubine which Ajax displays. He
tells her to attend to her own affairs and remember that silence is a
woman's greatest charm, and before committing suicide he utters a
monologue in which he says farewell to his parents and to his country,
but has no last message for Tecmessa. She was only a woman, forsooth.

Only a woman, too, was Deianira, the heroine of the _Trachiniae_, and
though of exalted rank she fully realized this fact. When Hercules
first took her to Tiryns, he was still sufficiently interested in her
to shoot a hydra-poisoned arrow into the centaur Nessus, who attempted
to assault her while carrying her across the river Evenus. But after
she had borne him several children he neglected her, going off on
adventures to capture other women. She weeps because of his absence,
complaining that for fifteen months she has had no message from him.
At last information is brought to her that Hercules, inflamed with
violent love for the Princess Iole, had demanded her for a secret
union, and when the king refused, had ravaged his city and carried off
Iole, to be unto him more than a slave, as the messenger gives her to
understand distinctly. On receiving this message; Deianira is at first
greatly agitated, but soon remembers what the duty of a Greek wife is.
"I am well aware," she says in substance, "that we cannot expect a man
to be always content with one woman. To antagonize the god of love, or
to blame my husband for succumbing to him, would be foolish. After
all, what does it amount to? Has not Hercules done this sort of thing
many times before? Have I ever been angry with him for so often
succumbing to this malady? His concubines, too, have never received an
unkind word from me, nor shall Iole; for I freely confess, resentment
does not become a woman. Yet I am distressed, for I am old and Iole is
young, and she will hereafter be his actual wife in place of me." At
this thought jealousy sharpens her wit and she remembers that the
dying centaur had advised her to save some of his blood and, if ever
occasion should come for her to wish to bring back her husband's love,
to anoint his garment with it. She does so, and sends it to him,
without knowing that its effect will be to slowly burn the flesh off
his body. Hearing of the deadly effect of her gift, she commits
suicide, while Hercules spends the few remaining hours of his life
cursing her who murdered him, "the best of all men," and wishing she
were suffering in his place or that he might mutilate her body. Nor
was his latest and "violent love" for Iole more than a passing
appetite quickly appeased; for at the end he asks his son to marry

This drama admirably illustrates the selfish view of the marital
relation entertained by Greek men. Its moral may be summed up in this
advice to a wife:

"If your husband falls in love with a younger woman and
brings her home, let him, for he is a victim of Cupid
and cannot help it. Display no jealousy, and do not
even try to win back his love, for that might annoy him
or cause mischief."

In other words, _The Trachiniae_ is an object-lesson to Greek wives,
telling us what the men thought they ought to be. Probably some of the
wives tried to live up to that ideal; but that could hardly be
accepted as genuine, spontaneous devotion deserving the name of
affection. Most famous among all the tragedies of the Greeks, and
deservedly so, is the _Antigone_. Its plot can be told in such a way
as to make it seem a romantic love-story, if not a story of romantic
love. Creon, King of Thebes, has ordered, under penalty of death, that
no one shall bestow the rites of burial on Prince Polynices, who has
fallen after bearing arms against his own country. Antigone, sister of
Polynices, resolves to disobey this cruel order, and having failed to
persuade her sister, Ismene, to aid her, carries out her plan alone.
Boldly visiting the place where the body is exposed to the dogs and
vultures, she sprinkles dust on it and pours out libations, repeating
the process the next day on finding that the guards had meanwhile
undone her work. This time she is apprehended in the act and brought
before the king, who condemns her to be immured alive in a tomb,
though she is betrothed to his son Haemon. "Would you murder the bride
of your own son?" asks Ismene; but the king replies that there are
many other women in the world. Haemon now appears and tries to move
his father to mercy, but in vain, though he threatens to slay himself
if his bride is killed. Antigone is immured, but at last, moved by the
advice of the Chorus and the dire predictions of the seer Tiresias,
Creon changes his mind and hastens with men and tools to liberate the
virgin. When he arrives at the tomb he sees his son in it, clinging to
the corpse of Antigone, who had hanged herself. Horrified, the king
begs his son to come out of the tomb, but Haemon seizes his sword and
rushes forward to slay his father. The king escapes the danger by
flight, whereupon Haemon thrusts the sword into his own body, and
expires, clasping the corpse of his bride.

If we thus make Haemon practically the central figure of the tragedy,
it resembles a romantic love-story; but in reality Haemon is little
more than an episode. He has a quarrel with his father (who goes so
far as to threaten to kill his bride in his presence), rushes off in a
rage, and the tomb scene is not enacted, but merely related by a
messenger, in forty lines out of a total of thirteen hundred and
fifty. Much less still have we here a story of romantic love. Not one
of the fourteen ingredients of love can be found in it except
self-sacrifice, and that not of the right kind. I need not explain
once more that suicide from grief over a lost bride does not benefit
that bride; that it is not altruistic, but selfish, unmanly, and
cowardly, and is therefore no test whatever of love. Moreover, if we
examine the dialogue in detail we see that the motive of Haemon's
suicide is not even grief over his lost bride, but rage at his father.
When on first confronting Creon, he is thus accosted: "Have you heard
the sentence pronounced on your bride?" He answers meekly: "I have, my
father, and I yield to your superior wisdom, which no marriage can
equal in excellence;" and it is only gradually that his ire is aroused
by his father's abusive attitude; while at the end his first intention
was to slay his father, not himself. Had Sophocles understood love as
we understand it, he would have represented Haemon as drawing his
sword at once and moving heaven and earth to prevent his bride from
being buried alive.

But it is in examining the attitude of Antigone that we realize most
vividly how short this drama falls of being a love-story. She never
even mentions Haemon, has no thought of him, but is entirely absorbed
in the idea of benefiting the spirit of her dead brother by performing
the forbidden funeral rites. As if to remove all doubt on that point,
she furthermore tells us explicitly (lines 904-912) that she would
have never done such a deed, in defiance of the law, to save a husband
or a child, but only for a brother; and why? because she might easily
find another husband, and have new children by him, but another
brother she could never have, as her parents were dead.[303]


Of Euripides it cannot be said, as of his two great predecessors, that
woman plays an insignificant role in his dramas. Most of the nineteen
plays which have come down to us of the ninety-two he wrote are named
after women; and Bulwer-Lytton was quite right when he declared that
"he is the first of the Hellenic poets who interests us
_intellectually_ in the antagonism and affinity between the sexes."
But I cannot agree with him when he says that with Euripides commences
"the distinction between love as a passion and love as a sentiment."
There is true sentiment in Euripides, as there is in Sophocles, in the
relations between parents and children, friends, brothers and sisters;
but in the attitude of lovers, or of husband and wife, there is only
sensuality or at most sentimentality; and this sentimentality, or sham
sentiment, does not begin with Euripides, for we have found instances
of it in the fond words of Clytaemnestra regarding the husband she
intended to murder, and did murder, and even in the Homeric Achilles,
whose fine words regarding conjugal love contrast so ludicrously with
his unloving actions. These, however, are mere episodes, while
Euripides has written a whole play which from beginning to end is an
exposition of sentimentality.

The Fates had granted that when the Thessalian King Admetus approached
the ordained end of his life it should be prolonged if another person
voluntarily consented to die in his place. His aged parents had no
heart to "plunge into the darkness of the tomb" for his sake. "It is
not the custom in Greece for fathers to die for children," his father
informs him; while Adinetus indulges in coarse abuse: "By heaven, thou
art the very pattern of cowards, who at thy age, on the borderland of
life, would'st not, nay, could'st not find the heart to die for thy
own son; but ye, my parents, left to this stranger, whom henceforth I
shall justly hold e'en as mother and as father too, and none but her."
This "stranger" is his wife Alcestis, who has volunteered to die for
him, exclaiming:

"Thee I set before myself, and instead of living have
ensured thy life, and so I die, though I need not have died
for thee, but might have taken for my husband whom I would
of the Thessalians, and have had a home blest with royal
power; reft of thee, with my children orphans, I cared not
to live."

The world has naively accepted this speech and the sacrifice of
Alcestis as belonging to the region of sentiment; but in reality it is
nothing more than one of those stories shrewdly invented by selfish
men to teach women that the object of their existence is to sacrifice
themselves for their husbands. The king's father tells us this in so
many words: "By the generous deed she dared, hath she made her life _a
noble example for all her sex_;" adding that "such marriages I declare
are gain to man, else to wed is not worth while." If these stories,
like those manufactured by the Hindoos, were an indication of existing
conjugal sentiment, would it be possible that the self-sacrifice was
invariably on the woman's side? Adinetus would have never dreamt of
sacrificing _his_ life for his wife. He is not even ashamed to have
her die for him. It is true that he has one moment when he fancies his
foe deriding him thus:

"Behold him living in his shame, a wretch who quailed at
death himself, but of his coward heart gave up his wedded
wife instead, and escaped from Hades; doth he deem himself a
man after that?"

It is true also that his father taunts him contemptuously,

"Dost thou then speak of cowardice in me, thou craven
heart!... A clever scheme hast thou devised to stave off
death forever, if thou canst persuade each new wife to die
instead of thee."

Yet Admetus is constantly assuring everyone of his undying attachment
to his wife. He holds her in his arms, imploring her not to leave him.
"If thou die," he exclaims,

"I can no longer live; my life, my death, are in thy hands; thy
love is what I worship.... Not a year only, but all my life will
I mourn for thee.... In my bed thy figure shall be laid full
length, by cunning artists fashioned; thereon will I throw myself
and, folding my arms about thee, call upon thy name, and think I
hold my dear wife in my embrace.... Take me, O take me, I
beseech, with thee 'neath the earth;"

and so on, _ad nauseam_--a sickening display of sentimentality,
_i.e._, fond words belied by cowardly, selfish actions.

The father-in-law of Alcestis, in his indignation at his son's
impertinence and lack of filial pity, exclaims that what made Alcestis
sacrifice herself was "want of sense;" which is quite true. But in
painting such a character, Euripides's chief motive appears to have
been to please his audience by enforcing a maxim which the Greeks
shared with the Hindoos and barbarians that "a woman, though bestowed
upon a worthless husband, must be content with him." These words are
actually put by him into the mouth of Andromache in the play of that
name. Andromache, once the wife of the Trojan Hector, now the
concubine of Achilles's son, is made to declare to the Chorus that "it
is not beauty but virtuous acts that win a husband's heart;" whereupon
she proceeds to spoil this fine maxim by explaining what the Greeks
understood by "virtuous acts" in a wife--namely, subordinating herself
even to a "worthless husband." "Suppose," she continues, "thou hadst
wedded a prince of Thrace... where one lord shares his affections with
a host of wives, would'st thou have slain them? If so, thou would'st
have set a stigma of insatiate lust on all our sex." And she proceeds
to relate how she herself paid no heed in Troy to Hector's amours with
other women: "Oft in days gone by I held thy bastard babes to my own
breast, to spare thee any cause for grief. By this course I bound my
husband to me by virtue's chains." To spare _him_ annoyance, no matter
how much his conduct might grieve _her_--that was the Greek idea of
conjugal devotion--all on one side. And how like the Hindoos, and
Orientals, and barbarians in general, is the Greek seen to be in the
remarks made by Hermione, the legitimate wife, to Andromache, the
concubine--accusing the latter of having by means of witchcraft made
her barren and thus caused her husband to hate her.

With the subtle ingenuity of masculine selfishness the Greek dramatist
doubles the force of all his fine talk about the "virtuous acts" of
wives by representing the women themselves as uttering these maxims
and admitting that their function is self-denial--that woman is
altogether an inferior and contemptible being. "How strange it is,"
exclaims Andromache,

"that, though some god has devised cures for mortals against
the venom of reptiles, no man ever yet hath discovered aught
to cure a woman's venom, which is far worse than viper's
sting or scorching flame; so terrible a curse are we to

Hermione declares:

"Oh! never, never--this truth will I repeat--should men
of sense, who have wives, allow women-folks to visit
them in their homes, for they teach them mischief; one,
to gain some private end, helps to corrupt their honor;
another having made a slip herself, wants a companion
in misfortune, while many are wantons; and hence it is
men's houses are tainted. Wherefore keep strict guard
upon the portals of your houses with bolts and bars."

Bolts and bars were what the gallant Greek men kept their wives under,
hence this custom too is here slyly justified out of a woman's mouth.
And thus it goes on throughout the pages of Euripides. Iphigenia, in
one of the two plays devoted to her, declares: "Not that I shrink from
death, if die I must,--when I have saved thee; no, indeed! for a man's
loss from his family is felt, while a woman's is of little moment." In
the other she declares that one man is worth a myriad of
Women--[Greek: heis g' anaer kreisson gunaikon murion]--wherefore, as
soon as she realizes the situation at Aulis, she expresses her
willingness to be immolated on the altar in order that the war against
Troy may no longer be delayed by adverse minds. She had, however, come
for a very different purpose, having been, with her queen mother,
inveigled from home under the pretext that Achilles was to make her
his wife. Achilles, however, knew as little of the plot as she did,
and he is much surprised when the queen refers to his impending
marriage. A modern poet would have seen here a splendid, seemingly
inevitable, opportunity for a story of romantic love. He would have
made Achilles fall in love at sight of Iphigenia and resolve to save
her life, if need be at the cost of his own. What use does Euripides
make of this opportunity? In his play Achilles does not see the girl
till toward the close of the tragedy. He promises her unhappy mother
that "never shall thy daughter, after being once called my bride, die
by her father's hand;" But his reason for this is not love for a girl
or a chivalrous attitude toward women in distress, but offended
vanity. "It is not to secure a bride that I have spoken thus," he
exclaims; "there be maids unnumbered, eager to have my love--no! but
King Agamemnon has put an insult on me; he should have asked my leave
to use my name as a means to catch the child." In that case he "would
never have refused" to further his fellow-soldiers' common interest by
allowing the maiden to be sacrificed.

It is true that after Iphigenia has made her brave speech declaring
that a woman's life was of no account anyway, and that she had
resolved to die voluntarily for the army's sake, Achilles assumes a
different attitude, declaring,

"Some god was bent on blessing me, could I but have won
thee for my wife.... But now that I have looked into
thy noble nature, I feel still more a fond desire to
win thee for my bride,"

and promising to protect her against the whole army. But what was it
in Iphigenia that thus aroused his admiration? A feminine trait, such
as would impress a modern romantic lover? Not in the least. He admired
her because, like a man, she offered to lay down her life in behalf of
the manly virtue of patriotism. Greek men admired women only in so far
as they resembled men; a truth to which I shall recur on another page.

It would be foolish to chide Euripides for not making of this tragedy
a story of romantic love; he was a Greek and could not lift himself
above his times by a miracle. To him, as to all his contemporaries,
love was not a sentiment, "an illumination of the senses by the soul,"
an impulse to noble actions, but a common appetite, apt to become a
species of madness, a disease. His _Hippolytus_ is a study of this
disease, unpleasant but striking; it has for its subject the lawless
pathologic love of Phaedra for her step-son. She is "seized with wild
desire;" she "pines away in silence, moaning beneath love's cruel
scourge;" she "wastes away on a bed of sickness;" denies herself all
food, eager to reach death's cheerless bourn; a canker wastes her
fading charms; she is "stricken by some demon's curse;" from her eyes
the tear-drops stream, and for very shame she turns them away; on her
soul "there rests a stain;" she knows that to yield to her "sickly
passion" would be "infamous;" yet she cannot suppress her wanton
thoughts. Following the topsy-turvy, unchivalrous custom of the Greek
poets, Euripides makes a woman--"a thing the world detests"--the
victim of this mad passion, opposing to it the coy resistance of a
man, a devotee of the chaste Diana. And at the end he makes Phaedra,
before committing suicide, write an infamous letter which, to save her
reputation, dooms to a cruel death the innocent victim of her

To us, this last touch alone would demonstrate the worldwide
difference between lust and love. But Euripides knows no such
difference. To him there is only one kind of love, and it varies only
in being moderate in some cases, excessive in others. Love is "at once
the sweetest and the bitterest thing," according as it is one or the
other of the two. Phaedra's nurse deplores her passion, chiefly
because of its violence. The chorus in _Medea_ (627 _seqq_.) sings:

"When in excess and past all limits Love doth come, he
brings not glory or repute to man; but if the Cyprian
queen in moderate might approach, no goddess is so full
of charm as she."

And in _Iphigenia at Aulis_ the chorus declares:

"Happy they who find the goddess come in moderate might,
sharing with self-restraint in Aphrodite's gift of marriage
and enjoying calm and rest from frenzied passions.... Be
mine delight in moderate and hallowed [Greek: hosioi]
desires, and may I have a share in love, but shun excess

To Euripides, as to all the Greeks, there is no difference in the
loves of gods and goddesses or kings and queens on the one hand, and
the lowest animals on the other. As the chorus sings in _Hippolytus_:

"O'er the land and booming deep, on golden pinion
borne, flits the god of love, maddening the heart and
beguiling the senses of all whom he attacks, savage
whelps on mountains bred, ocean's monsters, creatures
of this sun-warmed earth, and man; thine, O Cypris,
thine alone, the sovereign power to rule them


The Greeks, instead of confuting my theory that romantic love is the
last product of civilization, afford the most striking confirmation of
it. While considering the love-affairs of Africans, Australians, and
other uncivilized peoples, we were dealing with races whose lack of
intelligence and delicacy in general made it natural to expect that
their love, too, must be wanting in psychic qualities and refinement.
But the Greeks were of a different calibre. Not only their men of
affairs--generals and statesmen--but their men of thought and
feeling--philosophers and poets--were among the greatest the world has
ever seen; yet these philosophers and poets--who, as everywhere, _must
have been far above the emotional level of their countrymen in
general_--knew nothing of romantic love. What makes this the more
remarkable is that, so far as their minds were concerned, they were
quite capable of experiencing such a feeling. Indeed, they were
actually familiar with the psychic and altruistic ingredients of love;
sympathy, devotion, self-sacrifice, affection, are sometimes
manifested in their dramas and stories when dealing with the love
between parents and children, brothers and sisters, or pairs of
friends like Orestes and Pylades. And strangest of all, they actually
had a kind of romantic love, which, except for one circumstance, is
much like modern romantic love.

Euripides knew this kind of romantic love. Among the fragments that
remain to us of his lost tragedies is one from _Dictys_, in which
occurs this sentiment:

"He was my friend, and never did love lead me to folly
or to Cypris. Yes, there is another kind of love, love
for the soul, honorable, continent, and good. Surely
men should have passed a law that only the chaste and
self-contained should love, and Cypris [Venus] should
have been banished."

Now it is very interesting to note that Euripides was a friend of
Socrates, who often declared that his philosophy was the science of
love, and whose two pupils, Xenophon and Plato, elucidated this
science in several of their works. In Xenophon's _Symposium_
Critobulus declares that he would rather be blind to everything else
in the world than not to see his beloved; that he would rather _give_
all he had to the beloved than _receive_ twice the amount from
another; rather be the beloved's slave than free alone; rather work
and dare for the beloved than live alone in ease and security. For, he
continues, the enthusiasm which beauty inspires in lovers

"makes them more generous, more eager to exert
themselves, and more ambitious to overcome dangers,
nay, it makes them purer and more continent, causing
them to avoid even that to which the strongest appetite
urges them."

Several of Plato's dialogues, especially the _Symposium_ and
_Phaedrus_, also bear witness to the fact that the Socratic conception
of love resembled modern romantic love in its ideal of purity and its
altruistic impulses. Especially notable in this respect are the
speeches of Phaedrus and Pausanius in the _Symposium_ (175-78), in
which love is declared to be the source of the greatest benefits to
us. There can be no greater blessing to a young person, we read, than
a virtuous lover. Such a lover would rather die a thousand deaths than
do a cowardly or dishonorable deed; and love would make an inspired
hero out of the veriest coward. "Love will make men dare to die for
the beloved--love alone." "The actions of a lover have a grace which
ennobles them." "From this point of view a man fairly argues that in
Athens to love and be loved is a very honorable thing." "There is a
dishonor in being overcome by the love of money, or of wealth, or of
political power." "For when the lover and beloved come together ...
the lover thinks that he is right in doing any service which he can to
his gracious loving one." And in the _Republic_ (VI., 485): "He whose
nature is amorous of anything cannot help loving all that belongs or
is akin to the object of his affections."[305]

All this, as I have said, suggests romantic love, except for one
circumstance--a fatal one, however. Modern romantic love is an
ecstatic adoration of a woman by a man or of a man by a woman, whereas
the romantic love described by Xenophon and Plato--so-called "Platonic
love"--has nothing whatever to do with women. It is a passionate,
romantic friendship between men and boys, which (whether it really
existed or not) the pupils of Socrates dilate upon as the only noble,
exalted form of the passion that is presided over by Eros. On this
point they are absolutely explicit. Of course it would not do for a
Greek philosopher to deny that a woman may perform the noble act of
sacrificing her life for her husband--_that_ is her ideal function, as
we have seen--so Alcestis is praised and rewarded for giving up her
life; yet Plato tells us distinctly (_Symp_., 180) that this phase of
feminine love is, after all, inferior to that which led Achilles to
give his life for the purpose of avenging the death of his friend
Patroclus.[306] What chiefly distinguishes the higher love from the
lower is, in the opinion of the pupils of Socrates, purity; and this
kind of love does not exist, in their opinion, between men and women.
In discussing this higher kind of love both Plato and Xenophon
consistently and persistently ignore women, and not only do they
ignore them, but they deliberately distinguish between two goddesses
of love, one of whom, the celestial, presides--not over refined love
between men and women, as we would say--but over the friendships
between men only, while the feelings toward women are always inspired
by the common goddess of sensual love. In Plato's _Symposium_ (181)
this point is made clear by Pausanias:

"The Love who is the offspring of the common Aphrodite
is essentially common, and has no discrimination, being
such as the meaner sort of men feel, and is apt to be
of women as well as of youths, and is of the body
rather than of the soul.... But the offspring of the
heavenly Aphrodite is derived from a mother in whose
birth the female has no part,--she is from the male
only; this is that love which is of youths, and the
goddess being older, there is nothing of wantonness in


In thus excluding women from the sphere of pure, super-sensual
romantic love, Plato shows himself a Greek to the marrow. In the Greek
view, to be a woman was to be inferior to man from every point of
view--even personal beauty. Plato's writings abound in passages which
reveal his lofty contempt for women. In the _Laws_ (VI., 781) he
declares that "women are accustomed to creep into dark places, and
when dragged out into the light they will exert their utmost powers of
resistance, and be far too much for the legislator." While unfolding,
in _Timaeus_ (91), his theory of the creation of man, he says
gallantly that "of the men who came into the world, those who were
cowards or led unrighteous lives may with reason be supposed to have
changed into the nature of women in the second generation;" and on
another page (42) he puts the same idea even more insultingly by
writing that the man

"who lived well during his appointed time was to return
and dwell in his native star, and there he would have a
blessed existence. But if he failed in attaining this,
at the second birth he would pass into a woman, and if,
when in that state of being, he did not desist from
evil, he would continually be changed into some brute
who resembled him in the evil nature which he had

In other words, in Plato's mind a woman ranks half-way between a man
and a brute. "Woman's nature," he says, "is inferior to that of men in
capacity for virtue" (_Laws_, VI., 781); and his idea of ennobling a
woman consists in making her resemble a man, giving her the same
education, the same training in athletics and warlike exercises, in
wrestling naked with each other, even though the old and ugly would be
laughed at (_Republic_, Bk. V.). Fathers, sons, mothers, daughters,
will, in his ideal republic, go to war together.

"Let a man go out to war from twenty to sixty years,
and for a woman if there appear any need of making use
of her in military service, let the time of service be
after she shall have brought forth children up to fifty
years of age" (_Laws_, VI., 785).

Having thus abolished woman, except as a breeder of sons, Plato
proceeds to eliminate marriage and morality. "The brave man is to have
more wives than others, and he is to have first choice in such matters
more than others" (_Republic_, V., 468). All wives, however, must be
in common, no man having a monopoly of a woman. Nor must there be any
choice or preference for individuals. The mothers are to be arranged
by officials, who will see that the good pair with the good, the bad
with the bad, the offspring of the latter being destroyed, just as is
done in the breeding of animals. Maternal and filial love also must be
abolished, infants being taken from their mothers and educated in
common. Nor must husband and wife remain together longer than is
necessary for the perpetuation of the species. This is the only object
of marriage in Plato's opinion; for he recommends (_Laws_, VI., 784)
that if a couple have no children after being married ten years, they
should be "divorced for their mutual benefit."

In all history there is not a more extraordinary spectacle than that
presented by the greatest philosopher of Greece, proposing in his
ideal republic to eliminate every variety of family affection, thus
degrading the relations of the sexes to a level inferior in some
respects even to that of Australian savages, who at least allow
mothers to rear their own children. And this philosopher, the most
radical enemy love has ever known--practically a champion of
promiscuity--has, by a strange irony of fate, lent his name to the
purest and most exalted form of love![307]


Had Plato lived a few centuries earlier he might have visited at least
one Greek state where his barbarous ideal of the sexual relations was
to a considerable extent realized. The Spartan law-maker Lycurgus
shared his views regarding marriage, and had the advantage of being
able to enforce them. He, too, believed that human beings should be
bred like cattle. He laughed, so Plutarch tells us in his biographic
sketch, at those who, while exercising care in raising dogs and
horses, allowed unworthy husbands to have offspring. This, in itself,
was a praiseworthy thought; but the method adopted by Lycurgus to
overcome that objection was subversive of all morality and affection.
He considered it advisable that among worthy men there should be a
community of wives and children, for which purpose he tried to
suppress jealousy, ridiculing those who insisted on a conjugal
monopoly and who even engaged in fights on account of it. Elderly men
were urged to share their wives with younger men and adopt the
children as their own; and if a man considered another's wife
particularly prolific or virtuous he was not to hesitate to ask for
her. Bridegrooms followed the custom of capturing their brides. An
attendant, after cutting off the bride's hair and putting a man's
garment on her, left her alone in the dark, whereupon her bridegroom
visited her, returning soon, however, to his comrades. For
months--sometimes until after children had been born--the husband
would thus be unable to see his wife.

Reading Greek literature in the light of modern science, it is
interesting to note that we have in the foregoing account unmistakable
allusions to several primitive customs which have prevailed among
savages and barbarians in all parts of the world.[308] The Greek
writers, ignorant of the revelations of anthropology regarding the
evolution of human habits, assumed such customs to have been
originated by particular lawgivers. This was natural enough and
pardonable under the circumstances; but how any modern writer can
consider such customs (whether aboriginal or instituted by lawgivers)
especially favorable to love, passes my comprehension. Yet one of the
best informed of my critics assured me that "in Sparta love was made a
part of state policy, and opportunities were contrived for the young
men and women to see each other at public games and become enamored."
As usual in such cases, the writer ignores the details regarding these
Spartan opportunities for seeing one another and falling in love,
which would have spoiled his argument by indicating what kind of
"love" was in question here.

Plutarch relates that Lycurgus made the girls strip naked and attend
certain festivals and dance in that state before the youths, who were
also naked. Bachelors who refused to marry were not allowed to attend
these dances, which, as Plutarch adds with characteristic Greek
naivete, were "a strong incentive to marriage." The erudite C.O.
Mueller, in his history of the Doric race (II., 298), while confessing
that in all his reading of Greek books he had not come across a single
instance of an Athenian in love with a free-born woman and marrying
her because of a strong attachment, declares that Sparta was somewhat
different, personal attachments having been possible there because the
young men and women were brought together at festivals and dances; but
he has the acumen to see that this love was "not of a romantic


Romantic love, as distinguished from friendship, is dependent on
sexual differentiation, and the highest phases of romantic love are
possible only, as we have seen, where the secondary and tertiary
sexual qualities, physical and mental, are highly developed. Now the
Spartans, besides maintaining all the love-suppressing customs just
alluded to, made special and systematic efforts to convert their women
into Amazons devoid of all feminine qualities except such as were
absolutely necessary for the perpetuation of the species. One of the
avowed objects of making girls dance naked in the presence of men was
to destroy what they considered as effeminate modesty. The law which
forbade husbands to associate with their wives in the daytime
prevented the growth of any sentimental, sympathetic attachment
between husband and wife. Even maternal feeling was suppressed, as far
as possible, Spartan mothers being taught to feel proud and happy if
their sons fell in battle, disgraced and unhappy if they survived in
case of defeat. The sole object, in brief, of Spartan institutions
relating to women was to rear a breed of healthy animals for the
purpose of supplying the state with warriors. Not love, but
patriotism, was the underlying motive of these institutions. To
patriotism, the most masculine of all virtues, the lives of these
women were immolated, and what made it worse was that, while they were
reared as men, these women could not share the honors of men. Brought
up as warriors, they were still despised by the warriors, who, when
they wanted companionship, always sought it in association with
comrades of their own sex. In a word, instead of honoring the female
sex, the Spartans suppressed and dishonored it. But they brought on
their own punishment; for the women, being left in charge of affairs
at home during the frequent absence of their warlike husbands and
sons, learned to command slaves, and, after the manner of the African
Amazons we have read about, soon tried to lord it over their husbands

And this utter suppression of femininity, this glorification of the
Amazon--a being as repulsive to every refined mind as an effeminate
man--has been lauded by a host of writers as emancipation and

"If your reputation for prowess and the battles you have fought were
taken away from you Spartans, in all else, be very sure, you have not
your inferiors," exclaims Peleus in the _Andromache_ of Euripides,
thus summing up Athenian opinion on Sparta. There was, however, one
other respect in which the enemies of Sparta admired her. C.O. Mueller
alludes to it in the following (II., 304):

"Little as the Athenians esteemed their own women, they
involuntarily revered the heroines of Sparta, such as
Gorgo, the wife of Leonidas; Lampito, the daughter of
Leotychidas, the wife of Archidamus and mother of

This is not surprising, for in Athens, as among the Spartans and all
other Greeks, patriotism was the supreme virtue, and women could be
compared with men only in so far as they had the opportunity and
courage to participate in this masculine virtue. Aristotle appears to
have been the only Greek philosopher who recognized the fact that
"each sex has its own peculiar virtues in which the other rejoices;"
yet there is no indication that even he meant by this anything more
than the qualities in a woman of being a good nurse and a chaste
housemaid.[310] Plato, as we have seen, considered woman inferior to
man because she lacked the masculine qualities which he would have
liked to educate into her; and this remained the Greek attitude to the
end, as we realize vividly on reading the special treatise of
Plutarch--who flourished nearly half a thousand years after Plato--_On
the Virtues of Women_, in which, by way of proving "that the virtues
of a man and a woman do not differ," a number of stories are told of
heroic deeds, military, patriotic, and otherwise, performed by women.

Greek ideas on womanhood are admirably symbolized in their theology.
Of their four principal goddesses--using the more familiar Latin
names--Juno is a shrew, Venus a wanton, while Minerva and Diana are
Amazons or hermaphrodites--masculine minds in female bodies. In Juno,
as Gladstone has aptly said, the feminine character is strongly
marked; but, as he himself is obliged to admit, "by no means on its
higher side." Regarding Minerva, he remarks with equal aptness that
"she is a goddess, not a god; but she has nothing of sex except the
gender, nothing of the woman except the form." She is the goddess,
among other things, of war. Diana spends all her time hunting and
slaughtering animals, and she is not only a perpetual virgin but
ascetically averse to love and feminine tenderness--as unsympathetic a
being as was ever conceived by human imagination--as unnatural and
ludicrous as her devotee, the Hippolytus of Euripides. She is the
Amazon of Amazons, and was represented dressed as an Amazon. Of course
she is pictured as the tallest of women, and it is in regard to the
question of stature that the Greeks once more betray their
ultra-masculine inability to appreciate true femininity; as, for
example, in the stupid remark of Aristotle _(Eth. Nicom_., IV., 7),
[Greek: to kallos en megalo somati, hoi mikroi d' asteioi kai
summetroi, kaloi d' ou.]--"beauty consists in a large body; the petite
are pretty and symmetrical, but not beautiful."[311]


Both Diana and Venus were brought to Greece from Asia. Indeed, when we
examine Greek life in the light of comparative _Culturgeschichte_, we
find a surprising prevalence of Oriental customs and ideas, especially
in Athens, and particularly in the treatment of women. In this respect
Athens is the antipode of Sparta. While at Sparta the women wrestled
naked with the men, in Athens the women were not even permitted to
witness their games. The Athenians moreover had very decided opinions
about the effect of Spartan customs. The beautiful Helen who caused
the Trojan war by her adulterous elopement was a Spartan, and the
Athenian Euripides makes Peleus taunt her husband Menelaus in these

"Thou who didst let a Phrygian rob thee of thy wife,
leaving thy home without bolt or guard, as if forsooth
the cursed woman thou hadst was a model of virtue. No!
a Spartan maid could not be chaste, e'en if she would,
who leaves her home and bares her limbs and lets her
robe float free, to share with youth their races and
their sports--customs I cannot away with. Is it any
wonder that ye fail to educate your women in virtue?"

The Athenian, to be sure, did not any more than the Spartan educate
his women in virtue. What he did was to compel them to be virtuous by
locking them up in the Oriental style. Unlike the Spartan, the
Athenian had a regard for paternity and genealogy, and the only way he
knew to insure it was the Asiatic. He failed to make the discovery
that the best safeguard of woman's virtue is education--as witness
America; and to this failure is due to a large extent the collapse of
Greek civilization. Athenian women were more chaste than Spartans
because they had to be, and they were superior also in being less
masculine; but the topsy-turvy Athenian men looked down on them
because they were _not_ more masculine and because they lacked the
education which they themselves perversely refused to give them! Few
Athenian women could read or write, nor had they much use for such
accomplishments, being practically condemned to life-long
imprisonment. The men indorsed the Oriental idea that educating a
woman is an unwise and reprehensible thing.[312]

Widely as the Athenian way of treating women differed from the
Spartan, the result was the same--the frustration of pure love. The
girls were married off in their early teens, before what little mind
they had was developed, to men whom they had never seen before, and in
the selection of whom they were not consulted; the result being, in
the words of a famous orator, that the men married respectable women
for the sake of rearing legitimate offspring, keeping concubines for
the daily wants and care of the body, and associating with hetairai
for pleasant companionship. Hence, as Becker justly remarks (III.,
337), though we come across stories of passionate love in the pages of
Terence (_i.e._ Menander) and other Greek writers, "sensuality was
always the soil from which such passion sprang, and none other than a
sensual love between a man and a woman was even acknowledged."


Although dogs are the most intelligent of all animals and at the same
time proverbial for their faithful attachment to their masters, they
are nevertheless, as I have before pointed out, in their sexual
relations utterly incapable of that approximation to conjugal love
which we find instinctive in some birds. Most readers of this book,
too, are probably acquainted with men and women, who while highly
educated and refined, as well as devoted to the members of their
family, are strangers to romantic love; and I have pointed out (302)
that men of genius may in this respect be in the same boat as ordinary
mortals. In view of these considerations, and of the rarity of true
love even in modern Europe and America, it surely is not unnatural or
reckless to assume that there may have been whole nations in this
predicament, though they were as advanced in many other respects as
were the Greeks and as capable of other forms of domestic attachment.
Yet, as I remarked on page 6, several writers, including so eminent a
thinker as Professor William James, have held that the Greeks could
have differed from us only in their _ideas_ about love, and not in
their feelings themselves. "It is incredible," he remarks in the
review referred to,

"that individual women should not at all times have had the
power to fill individual manly breasts with enchanted
respect.... So powerful and instinctive, an emotion can
never have been recently evolved. But our ideas _about_ our
emotions, and the esteem in which we hold them, differ very
much from one generation to another."

In the next paragraph he admits, however, that "no doubt the
way in which we think about our emotions reacts on the emotions
themselves, dampening or inflaming them, as the case may be;" and in
this admission he really concedes the whole matter. The main object of
my chapter "How Sentiments Change and Grow" is to show how men's
_ideas_ regarding nature, religion, murder, polygamy, modesty,
chastity, incest, affect and modify their _feelings_ in relation to
them, thus furnishing indirectly a complete answer to the objection
made to my theory.[313]

Now the ideas which the Greeks had about their women could not but
dampen any elevated feelings of love that might otherwise have sprung
up in them. Their literature attests that they considered love a
degrading, sensual passion, not an ennobling, supersensual sentiment,
as we do. With such an _idea_ how could they have possibly _felt_
toward women as we do? With the _idea_ firmly implanted in their minds
that women are in every respect the inferiors of men, how could they
have experienced that _emotional_ state of ecstatic adoration and
worship of the beloved which is the very essence of romantic love? Of
necessity, purity and adoration were thus entirely eliminated from
such love as they were capable of feeling toward women. Nor can they,
though noted for their enthusiasm for beautiful human forms, have
risen above sensualism in the admiration of the personal beauty of
women; for since their girls were left to grow up in utter ignorance,
neither their faces nor their minds can have been of the kind which
inspires supersensual love. With boys it was different. They were
educated mentally as well as physically, and hence as
Winckelmann--himself a Greek in this respect--has remarked, "the
supreme beauty of Greek art is male rather than female." If the
healthy Greek mind could be so utterly different from the healthy
modern mind in regard to the love of boys, why not in regard to the
love of women? The perverseness of the Greeks in this respect was so
great that, as we have seen, they not only adored boys while despising
women, but preferred masculine women to feminine women.

But the most serious oversight of the champions of Greek love is that
they regard love as merely an emotion, or group of emotions, whereas,
as I have shown, its most essential ingredients and only safe criteria
are the altruistic impulses of gallantry and self-sacrifice, allied
with sympathy and affection. That there was no gallantry and
self-sacrifice in Greek love of women I have already indicated (188,
197, 203, 163); and that there was no sympathy in it is obvious from
the heartless way in which the men treated the women--in life I mean,
not merely in literature--refusing to allow them the least liberty of
movement, or choice in marriage, or to give them an education which
would have enabled them to enjoy the higher pleasures of life on their
own account. As for affection, it is needless to add that it cannot
exist where there is no sympathy, no gallant kindness and courtesy,
and no willingness to sacrifice one's selfish comfort or pleasures for

Of course we know all these things only on the testimony of Greek
literature; but it would surely be the most extraordinary thing in the
world if these altruistic impulses had existed in Greek life, and
Greek literature had persistently and absolutely ignored them, while
on the other hand it is constantly harping on the other ingredients of
love which also accompany lust. If literature has any historic value
at all, if we can ever regard it as a mirror of life, we are entitled
to the inference that romantic love was unknown to the Greeks of
Europe, whereas the caresses and refinements and ardent longings of
sensual love--including hyperbole and the mixed moods of hope and
despair---were familiar to them and are often expressed by them in
poetic language (see 137, 140-44, 295, 299). I say the Greeks of
Europe, to distinguish them from those of Greater Greece, whose
capacities for love we still have to consider.


It is amusing to note the difference of opinion prevailing among the
champions of Greek love as to the time when it began to be sentimental
and "modern." Some boldly go back to Homer, at the threshold of
literature. Many begin with Sappho, some with Sophocles, and a host
with Euripides. Menander is the starting-point to others, while
Benecke has written a book to prove that the credit of inventing
modern love belongs to Antimachus of Colophon. The majority hesitate
to go back farther than the Alexandrian school of the fourth century
before Christ, while some modestly content themselves with the
romancers of the fourth or fifth centuries after Christ--thus allowing
a latitude of twelve or thirteen hundred years to choose from.

We for our part, having applied our improved chemical test to such
love as is recorded in the prose and verse of Classical Greece, and
having found the elements of romantic sentiment missing, must now
examine briefly what traces of it may occur in the much-vaunted erotic
poems and stories of Greater Greece, notably the capital of Egypt in
the third century before Christ.

It is true that of the principal poets of the Alexandrian
school--Theocritus, Callimachus, and Apollonius--only the last named
was probably a native of Alexandria; but the others made it their home
and sphere of influence, being attracted by the great library, which
contained all the treasures of Greek literature, and other inducements
which the Ptolemies held out to men of letters. Thus it is permissible
to speak of an African or Alexandrian period of Greek literature, all
the more as the cosmopolitan influences at work at Alexandria gave
this literature a peculiar character of its own, erotically as well as
otherwise, which tinged Greek writings from that time on.

In reading Homer we are struck by the utter absence not only of
stories of romantic love but of romantic love-stories. Even the
relations of Achilles and Briseis, which offered such fine romantic
opportunities, are treated in an amazingly prosaic manner. An emphatic
change in this respect is hardly to be noted till we come to
Euripides, who, though ignorant of romantic love, gave women and their
feelings more attention than they had previously received in
literature. Aristophanes, in several of his plays, gave vent to his
indignation at this new departure, but the tendency continued in the
New Comedy (Menander and others), which gave up the everlasting
Homeric heroes and introduced everyday contemporary scenes and people.
Thus the soil was prepared for the Alexandrians, but it was with them
that the new plant reached its full growth. Not content with following
the example of the New Comedy, they took up the Homeric personages
again, gods as well as heroes, but in a very different fashion from
that of their predecessors, proceeding to sentimentalize them to their
hearts' content, the gods being represented as sharing all the amorous
weaknesses of mortals, differing from them only, as Rohde remarks
(107), in being even more fickle than they, eternally changing their

The infusion of this romantic spirit into the dry old myths
undoubtedly brings the poems and stories of the Alexandrians and their
imitators a step nearer to modern conditions. The poets of the
Alexandrian period must also be credited with being the first who made
love (sensual love, I mean)--which had played so subordinate a role in
the old epics and tragedies--the central feature of interest, thus
setting a fashion which has continued without interruption to the
present day. As Couat puts it, with the pardonable exaggeration of a
specialist (155): "Les Alexandrins n'ont pas invente l'amour dans la
litterature ... mais ils ont cree la litterature de l'amour." Their
way of treating love was followed in detail by the Roman poets,
especially Ovid, Catullus, Propertius, and Tibullus, and by the Greek
novelists, Xenophon Ephesius, Heliodorus, Achilles Tatius, Chariton,
Longus, etc., up to the fourth or fifth centuries (dates are
uncertain) of our era.

There is a "suprising similarity" in the descriptions of love-affairs
by all these writers, as is noted by Rohde, who devotes twenty pages
(145-165, chiefly foot-notes, after the fashion of German professors)
to detailed proof of his assertion. The substance of these pages, may,
however be summed up very briefly, under seventeen heads. In all these
writings, if the girl is represented as being respectable, (1) the
lovers meet or see each other for the first time at religious
festivals, as those were practically the only occasions where such
women could appear in public. (2) The love is sudden, at first sight,
no other being possible under circumstances that permit of no
prolonged courtship. (3) The youth is represented as having previously
felt a coy, proud aversion to the goddess of love, who now avenges
herself by smiting him with a violent, maddening passion. (4) The love
is mutual, and it finds its way to the heart through the eyes. (5)
Cupid with his arrows, urged on by Venus, is gradually relegated to
the background as a shadowy abstraction. (6) Both the youth and the
maiden are extraordinarily beautiful. No attempt is made, however, to
describe the points of beauty in detail, after the dry fashion of the
Oriental and the later Byzantine authors. Hyperbole is used in
comparing the complexion to snow, the cheeks to roses, etc; but the
favorite way of picturing a youth or maiden is to compare the same to
some one of the gods or goddesses who were types familiar to all
through pictures and statues--a characteristically Greek device, going
back as far as Hesiod and Homer. (7) The passion of the lovers is a
genuine disease, which (8) monopolizes their souls, and (9) makes them
neglect the care of the body, (10) makes pallor alternate with
blushes, (11) deprives them of sleep, or fills their dreams with the
beloved; (12) it urges them to seek solitude, and (13) to tell their
woes to the trees and rocks, which (14) are supposed to sympathize
with them. (15) The passion is incurable, even wine, the remedy for
other cares, serving only to aggravate it. (16) Like Orientals, the
lovers may swoon away or fall into dangerous illness. (17) The lover
cuts the beloved's name into trees, follows her footsteps, consults
the flower oracle, wishes he were a bee so he could fly to her, and at
the banquet puts his lips to the spot where she drank from the cup.

Having finished his list of erotic traits, Rohde confesses frankly
that it "embraces, to be sure, only a limited number of the simplest
symptoms of love." But instead of drawing therefrom the obvious
inference that love which has no other symptoms than those is very far
from being like modern love, he adds perversely and illogically that
"in its _essential_ traits, this passion _is presumably_ the same at
all times and with all nations."[314]


It is in the Alexandrian period of Greek literature and art that,
according to Helbig (194), "we first meet traits that suggest the
adoration of women (_Frauencultus_) and gallantry." This opinion is
widely prevalent, a special instance being that ecstatic exclamation
of Professor Ebers: "Can we assume even the gallantry of love to have
been unknown in a country where the hair of a queen, Berenice, was
transferred as a constellation to the skies?" In reality this act was
inspired by selfish adulation and had not the remotest connection with

The story in brief is as follows: Shortly after his marriage to
Berenice, Ptolemy went on an expedition into Syria. To insure his safe
return to Egypt Berenice vowed to consecrate her beautiful hair to
Venus. On his return she fulfilled her vow in the temple; but on the
following day her hair could not be found. To console the king and the
queen, and to _conciliate the royal favor_, the astronomer Conon
declared that the locks of Berenice had been removed by divine
interposition and transferred to the skies in the form of a

A still more amusing instance of Alexandrian "gallantry" is to be
found in the case of the queen Stratonice, whose court-poets were
called upon to compete with each other in singing of the beauty of her
locks. The fact that she was bald, did not, as a matter of course,
make the slightest difference in this kind of homage.

Unlike his colleagues, Rohde was not misled into accepting such
_adulation of queens_ as evidence of _adoration of women in general_.
In several pages of admirable erudition (63-69), which I commend to
all students of the subject, he exposes the hollowness and
artificiality of this so-called Alexandrian chivalry. Fashion ordained
that poems should be addressed to women of exalted rank:

"As the queens were, like the kings, enrolled among the
gods, the court-poets, of course, were not allowed to
neglect the praise of the queens, and they were called upon
to celebrate the royal weddings;[316] nay, in the
extravagance of their gallant homage they rose to a level of
bad taste the pinnacle of which was reached by Callimachus
in his elegy--so well-known through the imitation of
Catullus--on the hair of queen Berenice placed among the
constellations by the courtesy of the astronomer Conon."

He then proceeds to explain that we must be careful
not to infer from such a courtly custom that other women enjoyed the
freedom and influence of the queen or shared their compliments.

"In actual life a certain chivalrous attitude toward women
existed at most toward hetairai, in which case, as a matter
of course, it was adulterated with a very unpleasant
ingredient of frivolous sentimentality.... Of an essential
change in the position of respectable girls and women there
is no indication."

Though there were a number of learned viragoes, there is "absolutely
no evidence" that women in general received the compliment and benefit
of an education. The poems of Philetas and Callimachus, like those of
Propertius and Ovid, so far as they referred to women, appealed only
to the wanton hetairai. As late as our first century Plutarch felt
called upon to write a treatise, oti kai gunaikas paideuteon--"that
women too should be educated." Cornelius Nepos still speaks of the
gynaikonitis as the place where women spend their time.

"In particular, the emancipation of virgins from the
seclusion of their jealous confinement would have implied a
revolution in all social arrangements of the Greeks of which
we have no intimation anywhere,"

including Alexandria (69). In another chapter, Rohde comments
(354-356) with documentary proof, on the "extraordinary tenacity,"
with which the Greeks down to the latest periods of their literature,
clung to their custom of regarding and treating women as inferiors and
servants--a custom which precluded the possibility of true chivalry
and adoration. That sympathy also--and consequently true, altruistic
affection--continued to be wanting in their emotional life is
indicated by the fact, also pointed out by Rohde, that "the most
palpable mark of a higher respect," an education, was withheld from
the women to the end of the Hellenic period.[317]


Another current error regarding the Alexandrian period both in Egypt
and in Greece (Menander and the New Comedy) is that a regard for
purity enters as a new element into its literature. It does, in some
instances, less, however, as a virtue than as a _bonne bouche_ for
epicures,[318] as is made most patent in that offshoot of the
Alexandrian manner, the abominably _raffine_ story of Daphnis and
Chloe. There may also be traces of that "longing for an ennobling of
the passion of love" of which Rohde speaks (though I have not found
any in my own reading, and the professor, contrary to his favorite
usage, gives no references); but apart from that, the later Greek
literature differs from the older not in being purer, but by its
coarse and shameless eroticism, both unnatural and natural. The old
epics and tragedies are models of purity in comparison, though
Euripides set a bad example in his _Hippolytus_, and still more his
_Aeolus_, the coarse incestuous passion of which was particularly
admired and imitated by the later writers.[319] Aristophanes is
proverbial for his unspeakable license and obscenity. Concerning the
plays of Menander (more than a hundred, of which only fragments have
come down to us and Latin versions of several by Terence and Plautus),
Plutarch tells us, indeed, that they were all tied together by one
bond--love; but it was love in the only sense known to the Greeks, and
always involving a hetaira or at most a [Greek: pseudokorae] or
_demie-vierge_, since respectable girls could not be involved in
realistic Greek love-affairs.

Professor Gercke has well remarked (141) that the charm of elegance
with which Menander covers up his moral rottenness, and which made him
the favorite of the _jeunesse doree_ of his time, exerted a bad
influence on the stage through many centuries. There are a few
quasi-altruistic expressions in the plays of Terence and Plautus, but
they are not supported by actions and do not reach beyond the sphere
of sentimentality into that of sentiment. Here again I may adduce
Rohde as an unbiassed witness. While declaring that there is "a
longing for the ennobling of the passion in actual life" he admits

"really _sentimental effusions_ of love are strikingly rare
in Plautus and Terence.[320] One might think the authors of
the Latin versions had omitted the sentimental passages,
were it not that in the remnants of the Newer Comedy of the
Attic writers themselves there are, apart from general
references to Eros, no traces whatever of sentimental


Let us now return from Athens and Rome to Alexandria, to see whether
we can find a purer and more genuinely romantic atmosphere in the
works of her leading poets. Of these the first in time and fame is
Theocritus. He, like Sappho, has been lauded as a poet of love; and he
does resemble Sappho in two respects. Like her, he often glorifies
unnatural passion in a way which, as in the twelfth and twenty-third
Idyls, for example, tempts every normal person who can read the
original to throw the whole book away in disgust. Like Sappho and the
Hindoos (and some modern Critics) he also seems to imagine that the
chief symptoms of love are emaciation, perspiration, and paralysis, as
we see in the absurdly overrated second Idyl, of which I have already
spoken (116). Lines 87-88 of Idyl I., lines 139-142 of Idyl II., and
the whole of Idyl XXVII., practically sum up the conception of love
prevailing in the bucolic school of Theocritus, Bion, and Moschus,
except that Theocritus has an idea of the value of coyness and
jealousy as stimulants of passion, as Idyl VI. shows. Crude coyness
and rude jealousy no doubt were known also to the rustic folk he sings
about; but when he makes that ugly, clumsy, one-eyed monster, the
Cyclops Polyphemus, fall in love with the sea-nymph Galatea (Idyl XI.)
and lament that he was not born with fins that he might dive and kiss
her hand if his lips she refused, he applies Alexandrian
pseudo-gallantry to pastoral conditions where they are ludicrously out
of place. The kind of "gallantry" really to be expected under these
conditions is realistically indicated in Idyl XIV., where Aeschines,
after declaring that he shall go mad some day because the beautiful
Cyniska flouted him, tells his friend how, in a fit of jealousy, he
had struck the girl on the cheek twice with clenched fist, while she
was sitting at his own table. Thereupon she left him, and now he
laments: "If I could only find a cure for my love!"

Another quaintly realistic touch occurs in the line (Idyl II.) in
which Battis declares that Amaryllis, when she died, was as dear to
him as his goats. In this line, no doubt, we have the supreme ideal of
Sicilian pastoral love; nor is there a line which indicates that
Theocritus himself knew any higher phases of love than those which he
embodies in his shepherds. In a writer who has so many poetic
charms[322] this may seem strange, but it simply bears out my theory
that romantic love is one of the latest products of civilization--as
late as the love of romantic scenery, which we do not find in
Theocritus, though he writes charmingly of other kinds of scenery--of
cool fountains, shady groves, pastures with cattle, apple trees, and
other things that please the senses of man--as women do while they are
young and pretty.

Callimachus, the younger contemporary of Theocritus, is another
Alexandrian whose importance in the history of love has been
exaggerated. His fame rests chiefly on the story of Acontius and
Cydippe which occurred in the collection of legends and tales he had
brought together in his [Greek: Aitia]. His own version is now lost,
like most of his other works; and such fragments of the story as
remain would not suffice for the purpose of reconstruction were we not
aided by the two epistles which the lovers exchange with each other in
the _Heroides_ of Ovid, and more still by the prose version of
Aristaenetus, which appears to be quite literal, judging by the
correspondence of the text with some of the extant fragments of the
original.[323] The story can be related in a few lines. Acontius and
Cydippe are both very beautiful and have both been coy to others of
the opposite sex. As a punishment they are made to fall in love with
each other at first sight in the Temple of Diana. It is a law of this
temple that any vow made in it must be kept. To secure the girl,
Acontius therefore takes an apple, writes on it a vow that she will be
his bride and throws it at her feet. She picks it up, reads the vow
aloud and thus pledges herself. Her parents, some time after, want to
marry her to another man; three times the wedding arrangements are
made, but each time she falls ill. Finally the oracle at Delphi is
consulted, which declares that the girl's illness is due to her not
keeping her vow; whereupon explanations follow and the lovers are

In the literary history of love this story may be allowed a
conspicuous place for the reason that, as Mahaffy remarks (_G.L. &
T._, 230), it is the first literary original of that sort of tale
which makes falling in love and happy marriage the beginning and the
end, while the obstacles to this union form the details of the plot.
Moreover, as Couat points out (145), the later Greek romances are mere
imitations of this Alexandrian elegy--Hero and Leander, Leucippe and
Clitophon, and other stories all recall it. But from my point of
view--the evolutionary and psychological--I cannot see that the story
told by Callimachus marks any advance. The lovers see each other only
a moment in the temple; they do not meet afterward, there is no real
courtship, they have no chance to get acquainted with each other's
mind and character, and there is no indication whatever of
supersensual, altruistic affection. Nor was Callimachus the man from
whom one would have expected a new gospel of love. He was a dry old
librarian, without originality, a compiler of catalogues and legends,
etc.--eight hundred works all told--in which even the stories were
marred by details of pedantic erudition. Moreover, there is ample
evidence in the extant epigrams that he did not differ from his
contemporaries and predecessors in the theory and practice of love.
Instead of having the modern feeling of abhorrence toward any
suggestion of [Greek: paiderastia], he glorified it in the usual Greek
style. The fame he enjoyed as an erotic poet among the coarse and
unprincipled Roman bards does not redound to his credit, and he
himself tells us unmistakably what he means by love when he calls it a
[Greek: philopaida noson] and declares that fasting is a sure remedy
for it (_Epigr._, 47).


Another writer of this period who has been unduly extolled for his
insight into the mysteries of love, is Apollonius Rhodius, concerning
whom Professor Murray goes so far as to say (382), that "for romantic
love on the higher side he is without a peer even in the age of
Theocritus."(!) He owes this fame to the story of Medea and Jason,
introduced in the third book of his version of the Argonautic
expedition (275 _seq_.). It begins in the old-fashioned way with Cupid
shooting his arrow at Medea's heart, in which forthwith the
destructive passion glows. Blushes and pallor alternate in her face,
and her breast heaves fast and deep as she incessantly stares at Jason
with flaming eyes. She remembers afterwards every detail about his
looks and dress, and how he sat and walked. Unlike all other men he
seemed to her. Tears run down her cheeks at the thought that he might
succumb in his combat with the two terrible bulls he will have to tame
before he can recover the Golden Fleece. Even in her dreams she
suffers tortures, if she is able to sleep at all. She is distracted by
conflicting desires. Should she give him the magic salve which would
protect his body from harm, or let him die, and die with him? Should
she give up her home, her family, her honor, for his sake and become
the topic of scandalous gossip? or should she end it all by committing
suicide? She is on the point of doing so when the thought of all the
joys of life makes her hesitate and change her mind. She resolves to
see Jason alone and give him the ointment. A secret meeting is
arranged in the temple of Hecate. She gets there first, and while
waiting every sound of footsteps makes her bosom heave. At last he
comes and at sight of him her cheek flames red, her eyes grow dim,
consciousness seems to leave her, and she is fixed to the ground
unable to move forward or backward. After Jason has spoken to her,
assuring her that the gods themselves would reward her for saving the
lives of so many brave men, she takes the salve from her bosom, and
she would have plucked her heart from it to give him had he asked for
it. The eyes of both are modestly turned to the ground, but when they
meet longing speaks from them. Then, after explaining to him the use
of the salve, she seizes his hand and begs him after he shall have
reached his home again, to remember her, as she will bear him in mind,
even against her parents' wishes. Should he forget her, she hopes
messengers will bring news of him, or that she herself may be able to
cross the seas and appear an unexpected guest to remind him how she
had saved him.

Such was the love of Medea, which historians have proclaimed such a
new thing in literature--"romantic love on the higher side." For my
part I cannot see in this description--in which no essential trait is
omitted--anything different from what we have found in Homer, in
Sappho, and in Euripides. The unwomanly lack of coyness which Medea
displays when she practically proposes to Jason, expecting him to
marry her out of gratitude, is copied after the Nausicaea of the
_Odyssey_. The flaming cheeks, dim eyes, loss of consciousness, and
paralysis are copied from Sappho; while the _Hippolytus_ of Euripides
furnished the model for the dwelling on the subjective symptoms of the
"pernicious passion of love." The stale trick too, of making this love
originate in a wound inflicted by Cupid's arrows is everlastingly
Greek; and so is the device of representing the woman alone as being
consumed by the flames of love. For Jason is about as unlike a modern
lover as a caricaturist could make him. His one idea is to save his
life and get the Fleece. "Necessity compels me to clasp your knees and
ask your aid," he exclaims when he meets her; and when she gives him
that broad hint "do not forget me; I shall never forget you," his
reply is a long story about his home. Not till after she has
threatened to visit him does he declare "But _should you_ come to my
home, you would be honored by all ... _in that case_ I hope you may
grace my bridal couch." And again in the fourth book he relates that
he is taking Medea home to be his wife "in accordance with her
wishes!" Without persiflage, his attitude may be summed up in these
words: "I come to you because I am in danger of my precious life. Help
me to get back the Golden Fleece and I promise you that, on condition
that I get home safe and sound, I will condescend to marry you." Is
this, perhaps, the "romantic love on the higher side" which Professor
Murray found in this story? But there is more to come.

Of the symptoms of love in Medea's heart described in the foregoing
paragraph not one rises above that egotistic gloating over the pangs
and joys of sensual infatuation which constitute one phase of
sentimentality; while the further progress of the story shows that
Medea had no idea whatever of sacrificing herself for Jason, but that
the one motive of her actions was the eager desire to possess him.
When the fugitives are being pursued closely, and the chivalrous
Argonauts, afraid to battle with a superior number, propose to retain
the Golden Fleece, but to give up Medea and let some other king decide
whether she is to be returned to her parents, it never occurs to her
that she might save her beloved by going back home. She wants to have
him at any cost, or to perish with him; so she reproaches him bitterly
for his ingratitude, and meditates the plan of setting fire to the
ships and burning him up with all the crew, as well as herself. He
tries to pacify her by protesting that he had not quite liked the plan
proposed himself, but had indorsed it only to gain time; whereupon she
suggests a way out of the dilemma pleasanter to herself, by advising
the Argonauts to inveigle her brother, who leads the pursuers, into
their power and assassinate him; which they promptly proceed to do,
while she stands by with averted eyes. It is with unconscious sarcasm
that Apollonius exclaims on the same page where all these details of
"romantic love on the higher side" are being unfolded: "Accursed Eros,
the world's most direful plague."


The one commendable feature which the stories of Acontius and Cydippe
and of Medea and Jason have in common is that the heroine in each case
is a respectable and pure maiden (see _Argon._, IV., 1018-1025). But,
although the later romance writers followed this example, it would be
a great mistake to suppose, with Mahaffy (272), that this touch of
virgin purity was felt by the Alexandrians to be "the necessary
starting-point of the love-romance in a refined society." Alexandrian
society was anything but refined in matters of love, and the trait
referred to stands out by reason of its novelty and isolation in a
literature devoted chiefly to the hetairai. We see this especially
also in the epigrams of the period. It is astonishing, writes Couat
(173), how many of these are erotic; and "almost all," he adds, "are
addressed to courtesans or young boys." "Dans toutes l'auteur ne
chante que la beaute plastique et les plaisirs faciles; leur Cypris
est la Cypris [Greek: pandaemos], celle qui se vend a tout le monde."
In these verses of Callimachus, Asclepiades, Poseidippus and others,
he finds sentimentality but no sentiment; and on page 62 he sums up
Alexandria with French patness as a place "ou l'on faisait assidument
des vers sur l'amour sans etre amoureux"--"where they were ever
writing love-poems without ever being in love." But what repels modern
taste still more than this artificiality and lack of inspiration is
the effeminate degradation of the masculine type most admired. Helbig,
who, in his book on _Campanische Wandmalerei_, enforces the testimony
of literature with the inferences that can be drawn from mural
paintings and vases, remarks (258) that the favorite poetic ideals of
the time are tender youths with milk-white complexion, rosy cheeks and
long, soft tresses. Thus is Apollo represented by Callimachus, thus
even Achilles by the bucolic poets. In later representations
indicating Alexandrian influences we actually see Polyphemus no longer
as a rude giant, but as a handsome man, or even as a beardless

That the Alexandrian period, far from marking the advent of purity and
refinement in literature and life, really represents the climax of
degradation, is made most obvious when we regard the role which the
hetairai played in social life. In Alexandria and at Athens they were
the centre of attraction at all the entertainments of the young men,
and to some of them great honors were paid. In the time of Polybius
the most beautiful houses in Alexandria were named after flute girls;
portrait statues of such were placed in temples and other public
places, by the side of those of generals and statesmen, and there were
few prominent men whose names were not associated with these

The opinion has been promulgated countless times that these [Greek:
hetairai] were a mentally superior class of women, and on the strength
of this information I assumed, in _Romantic Love and Personal Beauty_
(79), that, notwithstanding their frailty, they may have been able, in
some cases, to inspire a more refined, spiritual sort of love than the
uneducated domestic women. A study of the original sources has now
convinced me that this was a mistake. Aspasia no doubt was a
remarkable woman, but she stands entirely by herself, Theodota is
visited once by Socrates, but he excuses himself from calling again,
and as for Diotima, she is a seeress rather than a hetaira. Athenaeus
informs us that some of these women

"had a great opinion of themselves, paying attention to
education and spending a part of their time on literature;
so that they were very ready with their rejoinders and

but the specimens he gives of these rejoinders and replies consist
chiefly of obscene jokes, cheap puns on names or pointless witticisms.
Here are two specimens of the better kind, relating to Gnathaena, who
was famed for her repartee:

"Once, when a man came to see her and saw some eggs on a
dish, and said, 'Are these raw, Gnathaena, or boiled?' she
replied, 'They are made of brass, my boy.'" "On one
occasion, when some poor lovers of the daughter of Gnathaena
came to feast at her house, and threatened to throw it down,
saying that they had brought spades and mattocks on purpose;
'But,' said Gnathaena, 'if you had these implements, you
should have pawned them and brought some money with you.'"

The pictures of the utter degradation of the most famous
of the hetairai--Leontium, Lais, Phryne, and others, drawn by
Athenaeus, need not be transferred to these pages. Combined with the
revelations made in Lucian's [Greek: Etairikoi dialogoi], they
demonstrate absolutely that these degraded, mercenary, mawkish
creatures could not have inspired romantic sentiment in the hearts of
the men, even if the latter had been capable of it.

It is to such vulgar persons that the poets of classical Greece and
Alexandria addressed their verses. And herein they were followed by
those of the Latins who may be regarded as imitators of the
Alexandrians--Catullus, Tibullus, Propertius and Ovid, the principal
erotic poets of Rome. They wrote all their love-poems to, for, or
about, a class of women corresponding to the Greek hetairai. Of Ovid I
have already spoken (189), and what I said of him practically applies
to the others. Propertius not only writes with the hetairai in his
mind, but, like his Alexandrian models, he appears as one who is
forever writing love-poems without ever being really in love. With
Catullus the sensual passion at least is sincere. Yet even Professor
Sellar, who declares that he is, "with the exception perhaps of
Sappho, the greatest and truest of all the ancient poets of love," is
obliged to admit that he "has not the romance and purity of modern
sentiment" (349, 22). Like the Greeks, he had a vague idea that there
is something higher than sensual passion, but, like a Greek, in
expressing it, he ignores women as a matter of course. "There was a
time," he writes to his profligate Lesbia, "when I loved you not as a
man loves his mistress, but _as a father loves his son or his

Dicebas quondam solum te nosse Catullum,
Lesbia, nee prae me velle tenere Iovem.
Dilexi tum te non ut volgus amicam,
Sed pater ut gnatos diligit et generos.

In Tibullus there is a note of tenderness which, however, is a mark of
effeminacy rather than of an improved manliness. His passion is
fickle, his adoration little more than adulation, and the expressions
of unselfish devotion here and there do not mean more than the
altiloquent words of Achilles about Briseis or of Admetus about
Alcestis, for they are not backed up by altruistic actions. In a word,
his poems belong to the region of sentimentality, not sentiment.
Morally he is as rotten as any of his colleagues. He began his poetic
career with a glorification of [Greek: paiderastia], and continued it
as an admirer of the most abandoned women. A French author who wrote a
history of prostitution in three volumes quite properly devoted a
chapter to Tibullus and his love-affairs.[325]


A big volume might be filled with the short love-stories in prose or
verse scattered through a thousand years of Greek literature. But,
although some of them are quite romantic, I must emphatically
reiterate what I said in my first book (76)--that romantic love does
not appear in the writings of any Greek author and that the passion of
the desperately enamoured young people so often portrayed sprang
entirely from sensuality. One of the critics referred to at the
beginning of this chapter held me up to the ridicule of the British
public because I ignored such romantic love-stories as Orpheus and
Eurydice, Alcyone and Ceyx, Atalanta and Meleager, Cephalus and
Procris, and "a dozen others" which "any school girl" could tell me.
To begin with the one last named, the critic asks: "What can be said
against Cephalus and Procris?" A great deal, I am afraid. As told by
Antoninus Liberalis in No. 41 of his _Metamorphoses_ ([Greek:
metamorphoseon synagogae]) it is one of the most abominable and
obscene stories ever penned even by a Greek. Some of the disgusting
details are omitted in the versions of Ovid and Hyginus, but in the
least offensive version that can be made the story runs thus:

Cephalus, having had experience of woman's unbridled
passion, doubts his wife's fidelity and, to test her,
disguises himself and offers her a bag of gold. At
first she refuses, but when he doubles the sum, she
submits, whereupon he throws away his disguise and
confronts her with her guilt. Covered with shame, she
flies. Afterward she cuts her hair like a man's,
changes her clothes so as to be unrecognizable, and
joins him in the chase. Being more successful than he,
she promises to teach him on a certain condition; and

Book of the day:
Facebook Google Reddit StumbleUpon Twitter Pinterest