Skip to main content

The Ancient Greeks thought a little deeper and knew a little better.

There are many meanings in which English speakers (and more broadly) developed western societies pack into the word Love.

This can cause huge amounts of confusion, because the same word is used to describe many different feelings and indeed different stages of Love as it evolves.

The Greeks had 6 different words for 6 different kinds of Love, which ultimately culminated in the highest form of Love, which they referred to as Agape.

Here they are:

Eros is erotic love, sexual passion or desire –

It is the physical attraction between two people often experienced at the beginning of a relationship. The Greeks didn’t always view this as something positive. It was considered fiery, a potentially dangerous and irrational form of Love, that could take hold and possess you.

It was also associated with some loss of personal control whilst highlighting that a relationship based on pure lust, never lasts long and indeed, could even become destructive.

Philia is concerned with friendship or a sense of camaraderie –

A deep friendship that develops between two people over time. It’s about showing loyalty to your friends, sacrificing for them. It’s about having the connection to share deep intimate feelings or emotions.

This is a far cry from accumulating a million friends or followers on social media, but rather about keeping your circle small and connecting with them on a much more personal level, then strengthening that connection over time.

Ludus is playful Love,

The kind of Love that is often experienced between children, or indeed in playful flirting or teasing. It’s a non-serious form of Love, that’s light hearted and often seen manifesting in those early ‘crush’ stages – perhaps when dancing with a stranger, or during some light hearted and playful banter when out in social settings.

Pragma, is longstanding Love,

And it is described as a mature, realistic Love that is commonly found amongst long-established couples. It’s less concerned about ‘falling in Love’ and more concerned about ‘standing in Love’.

Pragma is very much about making some compromises to help the relationship work over time, showing patience and tolerance. Pragma is what would be prescribed if indeed we wanted our relationships to last.

Philautia, or Love of the self,

Was identified by Aristotle as having potentially good and bad dimensions.

On the one hand it can be associated with narcissism and becoming so self-obsessed that you become concerned with only satisfying your own needs.

Whilst the healthier form expanded your capacity to Love.

This healthier version of Philautia, is concerned with being secure enough in yourself to express and accept Love. This idea suggests that if you like and feel secure in yourself, you will have plenty of Love to give to others.

It is difficult to Love someone else without a healthy appreciation of the self. It is hard to assume responsibility for caring for someone, without a realistic appreciation of your strengths and weaknesses.

It’s a fine line and a balancing act, where modern western culture, seems to place greater emphasis and value on the individual.

Agape is the most radical and is associated with selfless Love.

This Love is extended to all people and all things, whether family, distant strangers or indeed even enemies. It’s a universal Loving kindness, grounded in empathy, which studies suggest, have been in sharp decline in the U.S over the last 40 years.

Without Agape, it is difficult to form resilient relationships.

It suggests that this kind of Love and the sacrificial nature of it, is ultimately grounded in humility. It is charitable and calls on you to sacrifice your own interests for the sake of the other.

The ancient Greeks found diverse kinds of Love in various forms of relationships between people which extended to — friends, family, lovers, spouses, strangers, and even oneself.

This seems to contrast with our typical focus on a single romantic relationship, where we hope to find all the different loves wrapped into a single person.

A healthy relationship generally starts with eros, in that the couple is mutually attracted to each other and this often happens very rapidly.

But for it to last, it would need to progress to where it increasingly becomes, not about a single emotion, but rather an intentional act of will.

In short, Love becomes a way of Life, a commitment to practicing the virtues embedded in Love itself.

This is a powerful lesson in todays world, where words are increasing being diluted and re-invented to mean whatever we want them to mean. We increasingly blur the lines and wrap a whole sense of expectations up in single words, whilst divorcing them from any context and their intended original meaning.

It’s not wonder confusion reigns.

Never underestimate the power of single words or indeed the power of language in helping us shape and make sense of the world, this includes our understanding of Love.


Leave a Reply

Close Menu
  • The Decision of No Decision
    Indecision is a decision in and of itself, even though you may not recognise it as such. Your decision to do nothing – to let things play out on their own. It’s taking a back seat and waiting to see how the chips may fall.
  • Taking Your Second Chance
    It’s pointless, because history will always be confined to history. Instead it may be time to look yourself in the mirror, at the risk of not liking what you see. Because getting it right, means being honest with yourself. It comes with the brutality of having to confront your own demons, And being able and willing to take the hits. So take your second chance. Don’t look back in anger, maintain the hope And be determined to do things a little different.
  • Symphony of Sadness
    There’s a great symphony in sadness A million things conspiring beautifully together to set a sombre tone. It’s a tragedy, no doubt.  Irrational at times, often transcending words or reason....
  • Communication Is Not a One Way Street
    Communication is not a one way street. It’s not about talking, it’s about listening. It’s not about reacting, it’s about responding. It’s not about knowing, It’s about understanding. It’s not about judgement or pretense It’s about connection.
  • Leaving It All Behind
    Some things are certainly worth holding onto -  Others we just hold onto because we are too afraid to say goodbye.  Not because we can’t But because doing so means facing our own mortality