Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Love by any other name.

For some reason lately the concept of love and it's many variations has been flittering through my mind. Perhaps it's because I have that unfinished story about the gods of love sitting in my computer waiting for me to figure out how I'm pulling it all together at the end.

In doing the research for that story I learned something interesting about the Greek concepts of love. The language and the Pantheon of Greek gods showed that the Greeks recognized distinct differences in the type of love. They had different words for what we simply call love and different gods and goddesses to cover them.

We all know of Aphrodite who was the goddess of love and beauty. But the "minor" gods and the Greek language are far more interesting. Lust was governed by the very minor god Priapus. The Greeks did not revere this god greatly nor the type of "love" he ruled. The son of Aphrodite (daddy's identity ranges from Hermes to Pan to Dionysus and beyond), Priapus was the god of lust. He was taken far more seriously by the Romans and was believed to punish thieves. He is often depicted with a very large…well, not just large but grotesquely large male member.

The word eros in Greek meant passion and physical love. This is also the realm of the god Eros (Cupid). His golden tipped arrows created an obsessive physical attraction that could border on madness. His lead tipped arrows created not hate, but indifference. The son of Aphrodite and Ares, Eros was known for using his powers and his bow for revenge and his own amusement more than for the good of mankind.

Eros was a twin. His brother Anteros was the exact opposite. Anteros was the god of reasoned and returning love. His love was the mature and caring love that begins and ends in friendship, caring and compassion. Anteros was the god of agape love. Christianity has changed the meaning of this word to denote more of a love of God for mankind, but at it’s essence is the idea of a love that is fixed, constant and transcends the concerns of the physical nature.

As I said, I have a Work in Progress (WIP) that deals with the gods of love.


“Please tell me you are Psyche,” said the low, pleasant voice. She turned and her eyes widened as she saw the man who stood there. The face of her Beloved was burned in her memory and this man looked enough like him to make her gasp. He leaned against the wall of a nearby structure and smiled at her. “A frightened young, pregnant woman looking confused and seemingly carrying all that she owns. Traveling in the company of two slaves, one big and brawny and one a mere boy? Looks like I’ve found you.” His shoulders were broad and his skin a deep golden color. His eyes were the color of raw honey and his smile inviting and sent a shiver up her spine. He was tall and his dark brown hair hung loosely around his face. Though the night was cold he wore only the Roman tunic that accentuated his well formed chest, the belt gathering the garment over narrow hips before it cut mid thigh. And they were marvelous thighs. Legs faintly sprinkled with fine dark hairs; powerful and strong legs that would drape themselves over a woman in the night and hold her tight to him as she slept.

Psyche reached out for Nelek’s hand and found it was trembling. He saw it too. Yuli was so frightened that he’d forgotten all about slaves and free women and had grabbed Psyche’s waist and buried his face in her cloak.

This man before them was no man. A light lit the golden eyes and spoke of power and greatness far beyond the mortal man. His light was maybe not so bright or impressive as her Beloved’s but that he was immortal was beyond doubt. His eyes held hers for a moment and a playful grin spread wider on his face. His eyes flared amber flames and she had the distinct impression of wings spread from his shoulders, black wings.

“Don’t be afraid,” he seemed to shrink instantly and the power that had terrified her pulled back inside the physical form. “You have a paper to show me, I believe?”

Psyche reached into the folds of her robes and pulled out the folded parchment. The man-god reached for it and took it from her, his hands large and narrow, long delicate fingers. He didn’t even glance at it, only held it a moment and then it was gone.

He looked at her and his smile softened. “I am Anteros.” At her blank look he shook his head and frowned. “Why is it everyone knows Eros, everyone knows that walking erection Priapus but no one knows Anteros.” When she could only shake her head and try to stammer that she was sorry, he held up his hand. “Don’t. I’ll tell you why no one knows who I am, it’s because mortals are selfish where love is concerned. Hell, the gods are selfish. Everyone thinks love just “happens,” that it is there and it will last forever because it is love. They walk around saying “love me, love me” but never think about the fact that love only prospers when it is returned. Eros himself, it is said, would not grow until after I was born to be his playmate. And I can tell you he was a puny little thing when we were young,” he winked at her conspiratorially. “Well, I, my little lady am Anteros, god of returning or opposite love. Not the opposite of love, but mature reflective love. What the Greeks call agape.”

Be sure to run over and check out Anny Cook, Amarinda Jones and Sandra Cox. They always have something interesting to say.


Anonymous said...

Oh. I like Anteros. Nice excerpt. And you always have something meaningful on your blogs. Must be part of your teaching nature.

Thanks for stopping over at my blog yesterday. You had a great comment on the Romance blog.

Anny Cook said...

Now this sounds intriguing... and I usually don't care for stuff based on mythology.

JacquƩline Roth said...

Thanks ladies. I'm a chap or two from finishing this story and will have to shop it around. It has a baby so my usual publisher won't be interested.