Symposium, by Plato
Symposium, by Plato
In the first place, let me treat of the nature of man and what hashappened to it; for the original human nature was not like the present, butdifferent. The sexes were not two as they are now, but originally three innumber; there was man, woman, and the union of the two, having a namecorresponding to this double nature, which had once a real existence, but isnow lost, and the word ‘Androgynous’ is only preserved as a term of reproach.In the second place, the primeval man was round, his back and sides forming acircle; and he had four hands and four feet, one head with two faces, lookingopposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, twoprivy members, and the remainder to correspond. He could walk upright as mennow do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over andover at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in all,like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this was when hewanted to run fast. Now the sexes were three, and such as I have describedthem; because the sun, moon, and earth are three; and the man was originallythe child of the sun, the woman of the earth, and the man-woman of the moon,which is made up of sun and earth, and they were all round and moved round andround like their parents. Terrible was their might and strength, and thethoughts of their hearts were great, and they made an attack upon the gods; ofthem is told the tale of Otys and Ephialtes who, as Homer says, dared to scaleheaven, and would have laid hands upon the gods. Doubt reigned in the celestialcouncils. Should they kill them and annihilate the race with thunderbolts, asthey had done the giants, then there would be an end of the sacrifices andworship which men offered to them; but, on the other hand, the gods could notsuffer their insolence to be unrestrained. At last, after a good deal ofreflection, Zeus discovered a way. He said: ‘Methinks I have a plan which willhumble their pride and improve their manners; men shall continue to exist, butI will cut them in two and then they will be diminished in strength andincreased in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them moreprofitable to us. They shall walk upright on two legs, and if they continueinsolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again and they shall hopabout on a single leg.’ He spoke and cut men in two, like a sorb-apple which ishalved for pickling, or as you might divide an egg with a hair; and as he cutthem one after another, he bade Apollo give the face and the half of the neck aturn in order that the man might contemplate the section of himself: he wouldthus learn a lesson of humility. Apollo was also bidden to heal their woundsand compose their forms. So he gave a turn to the face and pulled the skin fromthe sides all over that which in our language is called the belly, like thepurses which draw in, and he made one mouth at the centre, which he fastened ina knot (the same which is called the navel); he also moulded the breast andtook out most of the wrinkles, much as a shoemaker might smooth leather upon alast; he left a few, however, in the region of the belly and navel, as a memorialof the primeval state. After the division the two parts of man, each desiringhis other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one another,entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one, they were on the pointof dying from hunger and self-neglect, because they did not like to do anythingapart; and when one of the halves died and the other survived, the survivorsought another mate, man or woman as we call them,— being the sections ofentire men or women,— and clung to that. They were being destroyed, when Zeusin pity of them invented a new plan: he turned the parts of generation round tothe front, for this had not been always their position, and they sowed the seedno longer as hitherto like grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another; andafter the transposition the male generated in the female in order that by themutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might continue;or if man came to man they might be satisfied, and rest, and go their ways tothe business of life: so ancient is the desire of one another which isimplanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making one of two, and healingthe state of man. Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flatfish, is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his otherhalf. Men who are a section of that double nature which was once calledAndrogynous are lovers of women; adulterers are generally of this breed, andalso adulterous women who lust after men: the women who are a section of thewoman do not care for men, but have female attachments; the female companionsare of this sort.