Aristophanes On Soul Mates

Aristophanes On Soul Mates

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The Greek comedy writer Aristophanes (ca 448-385 BCE), wrote more than 40 plays, many of them comedies which are bawdy and over-the-top, a genre in Greek literature called "Old Comedy." Many of them were aimed at Socrates, like this inspired myth about how there came to be people with different sexual orientations.

This treatise appears in the Symposium by Plato, written by 360 BCE, and is from the Greek.

In the Beginning

In the beginning, there were three parents: Sun, Moon, and Earth. Each produced an offspring, round and otherwise like itself. From the sun was produced the man; from earth, the woman; from the moon, the union of the two, the androgyne. Each of these three was a double, one head with two faces looking out in opposite directions, four arms and legs, and two sets of genitalia. They moved about on the earth with a great deal more freedom and power than humans do now, for they rolled rather than walked-ran hand over hand and foot over foot at double speed.

One day, these fast, powerful, but foolish creatures decided to scale Mt. Olympus to attack the gods.

What should the gods do to show the foolish humans the error of their ways? Should they shoot them down with thunderbolts? No, they decided, too boring. They'd done that before to the giants. Besides, who would pour out libations and offer sacrifices to them if they destroyed their worshipers? They had to devise a new punishment.

Arrogant Humans

Zeus thought and thought. Finally, he had a brainstorm. Humans weren't a real threat, but they did need a dressing down. Their arrogance would be checked if they lost their speed, strength, and confidence. Zeus decided that if they were cut in half, they would be only half as fast and half as strong. Even better, it was a re-usable plan. Should they act up again, he would repeat the operation, leaving them with only one leg and one arm each.

After he revealed his plan to his fellow Olympians, he asked Apollo to join him in putting it into effect. The king of the gods cut the man-man, woman-woman, and man-woman creatures in half and Apollo made the necessary repairs. The face which previously facing out, Apollo turned inward. Then he gathered all the skin together (like a purse) with an opening in the middle as a reminder to mankind of his earlier state.

Rejoining Soul Mates

After the surgery, the half-creatures ran around frantically looking for their other halves, seeking them out, embracing them, and trying to join together again. Unable to join, the creatures despaired and began to starve to death in their sorrow. Zeus, mindful of his need for worship, decided something must be done to recharge the creatures' spirits, so he instructed Apollo to create a means to rejoin temporarily. This Apollo did by turning the genitals to the belly side of the body.

Before, mankind had procreated by dropping a seed on the ground. This new system created an interesting new means of producing offspring.

The creatures who had been double women before, naturally sought out women, those who had been androgynous, sought out members of the opposite gender, those who had been double men, sought out the company of men. They sought out their other halves, not simply for intercourse, but so they could become whole again by being rejoined with their souls.


Plato. Symposium. Trans. Benardete, Seth 1930-2001 Internet Archive. Web

Plato. Symposium. Trans. Jowett, Benjamin 1817-1893. Project Gutenberg 2008. Web.

Plato. Symposium. Trans. Shelley, Percy Bysshe 1792-1822. Internet Archive. Web.

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