The language of love is universal. Since the dawn of time every culture on earth has had its own unique ways of expressing this most heartfelt set of emotions. As well as sharing many similarities when it came to love and passion. None held true to this more so than the Greeks. The Greek culture has always had an open and concise view of love in all its forms. Although modern terms for these types of love may have changed somewhat. Each one is still very relevant today and easily identified by its defining characteristics. Here are some examples that have been handed down throughout the millennia.
Agape is based on total selflessness. This emotion centers around an individual who is willing to sacrifice absolutely everything. This includes their own personal happiness and well-being, in order to see to their partner’s happiness. It is an emotion that is, technically, selfless and unconditional. It is however, not necessarily a healthy love. No healthy agape requires the total sacrifice of one partner for the sole happiness of the other.
Eros, in contrast, is a deeply romantic, passionate emotion. It is generally centered to a large extent around sex. Eros is often referred to as “love at first sight”. It has it’s roots in a strong physical attraction and passion, and “chemistry” between two people. Eros is the stuff bodice-ripper romance novels and steamy movies are made of.
Ludus characterizes a “conquest” type of relationship. Often with one or both partners viewing love as a kind of game. In order to win this game one must have as many partners as possible, either one after the other or at the same time. In Ludus there is no intent whatsoever to form a serious relationship of any type. Preferring simply to have fun, to live in the moment, and to essentially keep things “short and sweet”.
Storge is a healthy type of love which begins with a strong friendship. From that foundation Storge grows into a mature and loving romantic relationship. Both partners have developed deep romantic feelings for one another. Each respects the other’s individuality and both partners look to one another’s happiness equally.
Philautia is a term used by the Greeks to describe self-love. The healthy kind which leads to positive self-image and personal growth is one example. There is also a more negative type of self-love which manifests itself in narcissism, self-centeredness, and conceit. The positive type of Philautia is characterized by happiness within oneself. This is evidenced in the way one treated others: with kindness, friendship, and compassion. This of course is the preferred type of Philautia.
It is easy to see that these are the very types of love that still exist. Even though they may be referred to differently today. It is the opinion of many experts that as most of us grow and mature, we move through them, like stages. Eros and Ludus in our younger years, often giving way to more settled and lasting forms like Storge. Agape and Philautia may be experienced throughout life as well, but these are less common forms based on their characteristics. It reminds us that the Greeks were certainly a people who were well ahead of their time philosophically and in most things related to life’s more intimate subjects.