This book is about love in the classical world — not erotic passion but the kind of love that binds together intimate members of a family and very close friends, but which may also extend to include a wider range of individuals for whom we care deeply. David Konstan begins the book with a discussion of friendship, focusing particularly on the Greek notion that in friendship the identities of two friends all but merge into one. The book then turns to the question of loyalty, and why loyalty seems not to have achieved the status of a virtue in classical thought, before considering love in relation to generosity, favors, and gratitude. There follows a discussion of grief, which is a symptom of the loss of a loved one. The book concludes with an examination of love as the basis of civic solidarity.
In each case, love is the gravitational center of the relations under examination. In this, the book departs from the more usual analysis of these affective ties in terms of reciprocity, which in one way or another involves an expectation of return. Seen this way, such relationships seem to have a selfish or at least self-centered dimension, as distinct from truly other-regarding attitudes. While it is true that the ancient sources sometimes describe these relations, including friendship, as forms of mutual obligation, there is also a counter strand that emphasizes genuine altruism, and it is this aspect that the book seeks to bring out. A close look at how love drew into its orbit the various relations examined in this book sheds light not only on some central features of ancient habits of thought but also on our own contemporary notions of love, altruism, and friendship.
David Konstan is Professor of Classics at New York University. Among his books are Pity Transformed (2001); The Emotions of the Ancient Greeks (2006); Before Forgiveness: The Origins of a Moral Idea (2010); and Beauty: The Fortunes of an Ancient Greek Idea (2014). He is a past president of the American Philological Association, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and an honorary fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities.
Chapter 1: Love and Friendship
Chapter 2: Loyalty: The Missing Virtue
Chapter 3: Gratitude and Liberality
Chapter 4: Grief and the Self
Chapter 5: Love and the State