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Oportet in primis qualis hominum quondam natura fuerit, quaeve illius passiones, perdiscere. Neque enim qualis nunc est, olim erat, sed longe diversa.
Principio tria hominum erant genera non solum quae nunc duo, mas & femina, verum etiam tertium quoddam aderat ex utrisque compositum. Cuius solum nobis restat nomen ipsum periit, Androgynum, quippe tunc erat, et specie et nomine, ex maris et feminae sexu commixtum...
Praeterea tota cuiusque hominis species erat rotunda, dorsum & latera circum habens, manus quatuor, totidemque, crura, vultus item duos tereti cervice connexos, et omnino consimiles. Caput utrique vultibus contra versis, unum...
Ob hanc vero causam tria genera et talia erant, quia masculum Sole genitum erat. Femina, Terra; promiscuum denique Luna. Utriusque enim luna est particeps.
Spherica vero erant et figura, et motu, quia parentum similia. Unde et robusto corpore et elato animo erant.
Quare cum diis pugnare tentabant, et in caelum ascendere quemadmodum de Ephialto & Oto scribit Homerus.
Iupiter igitur unaque dii ceteri quid agendum esset consultaverunt. Qua in re non parva inerat ambiguitas. Nam neque quomodo eos interficerent, reperiebat, ne eorum sicuti Gigantum, fulminando genus delerent: extincto enim hominum genere, humanus deorum cultus veneratioque periret, neque in tanta insolentia perseverare illos permittendum censebat.
Tandem sententiam Jupiter suam explicuit. Inveni, inquit, qua ratione fieri possit, ut & sint homines, & modestiores sint. Idque erit, si imbecilliores fiant. Unumquenque nunc duas in partes dividam. Ex quo et debiliores erunt, et nobis etiam magis id conducit. Numero siquidem plures erunt qui nos colent. Recti duobus cruribus ibunt. quod si rursus impie insurgere videantur, iterum in duo secabo, ut unico crure nixi, utpote claudi, saltare cogantur. Haec fatus bifariam partitus est singulos, instar eorum qui ova dividunt, ut sale condiant, vel qui capillis ova secant. Mandavitque Apollini, ut partitione statim facta, cuiusque vultum cervicisque dimidium in eam partem qua sectus est, verteret, ut scissionem sua considerans modestior fieret, reliquis autem mederit iussit. Ille continuo vultum vertit, et contrahens undique cutem in eum qui nunc venter vocatur, tanquam contracta marsupia et os unum faciens, medio in ventre ligavit.
Postquam natura hominum ita divisa fuit, cum quisque dimidium sui agnitum cuperet, inter se concurrebant, circumiactisque brachiis se invicem complectebantur, conflari unum affectantes...
ἡ γὰρ πάλαι ἡμῶν φύσις οὐχ αὑτὴ ἦν ἥπερ νῦν, ἀλλ᾽ ἀλλοία. πρῶτον μὲν γὰρ τρία ἦν τὰ γένη τὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων, οὐχ ὥσπερ νῦν δύο, ἄρρεν καὶ θῆλυ, [189ε] ἀλλὰ καὶ τρίτον προσῆν κοινὸν ὂν ἀμφοτέρων τούτων, οὗ νῦν ὄνομα λοιπόν, αὐτὸ δὲ ἠφάνισται: ἀνδρόγυνον γὰρ ἓν τότε μὲν ἦν καὶ εἶδος καὶ ὄνομα ἐξ ἀμφοτέρων κοινὸν τοῦ τε ἄρρενος καὶ θήλεος…. ἔπειτα ὅλον ἦν ἑκάστου τοῦ ἀνθρώπου τὸ εἶδος στρογγύλον, νῶτον καὶ πλευρὰς κύκλῳ ἔχον, χεῖρας δὲ τέτταρας εἶχε, καὶ σκέλη τὰ ἴσα ταῖς χερσίν, καὶ πρόσωπα [190α] δύ᾽ ἐπ᾽ αὐχένι κυκλοτερεῖ, ὅμοια πάντῃ: κεφαλὴν δ᾽ ἐπ᾽ ἀμφοτέροις τοῖς προσώποις ἐναντίοις κειμένοις μίαν, ... ἦν δὲ διὰ ταῦτα τρία [190β] τὰ γένη καὶ τοιαῦτα, ὅτι τὸ μὲν ἄρρεν ἦν τοῦ ἡλίου τὴν ἀρχὴν ἔκγονον, τὸ δὲ θῆλυ τῆς γῆς, τὸ δὲ ἀμφοτέρων μετέχον τῆς σελήνης, ὅτι καὶ ἡ σελήνη ἀμφοτέρων μετέχει: περιφερῆ δὲ δὴ ἦν καὶ αὐτὰ καὶ ἡ πορεία αὐτῶν διὰ τὸ τοῖς γονεῦσιν ὅμοια εἶναι. ἦν οὖν τὴν ἰσχὺν δεινὰ καὶ τὴν ῥώμην, καὶ τὰ φρονήματα μεγάλα εἶχον, ἐπεχείρησαν δὲ τοῖς θεοῖς, καὶ ὃ λέγει Ὅμηρος περὶ Ἐφιάλτου τε καὶ Ὤτου, περὶ ἐκείνων λέγεται, τὸ εἰς τὸν οὐρανὸν ἀνάβασιν ἐπιχειρεῖν [190ξ] ποιεῖν, ὡς ἐπιθησομένων τοῖς θεοῖς. ὁ οὖν Ζεὺς καὶ οἱ ἄλλοι θεοὶ ἐβουλεύοντο ὅτι χρὴ αὐτοὺς ποιῆσαι, καὶ ἠπόρουν: οὔτε γὰρ ὅπως ἀποκτείναιεν εἶχον καὶ ὥσπερ τοὺς γίγαντας κεραυνώσαντες τὸ γένος ἀφανίσαιεν—αἱ τιμαὶ γὰρ αὐτοῖς καὶ ἱερὰ τὰ παρὰ τῶν ἀνθρώπων ἠφανίζετο— οὔτε ὅπως ἐῷεν ἀσελγαίνειν. μόγις δὴ ὁ Ζεὺς ἐννοήσας λέγει ὅτι ‘δοκῶ μοι,’ ἔφη, ‘ἔχειν μηχανήν, ὡς ἂν εἶέν τε ἅνθρωποι καὶ παύσαιντο τῆς ἀκολασίας ἀσθενέστεροι [190δ] γενόμενοι. νῦν μὲν γὰρ αὐτούς, ἔφη, διατεμῶ δίχα ἕκαστον, καὶ ἅμα μὲν ἀσθενέστεροι ἔσονται, ἅμα δὲ χρησιμώτεροι ἡμῖν διὰ τὸ πλείους τὸν ἀριθμὸν γεγονέναι: καὶ βαδιοῦνται ὀρθοὶ ἐπὶ δυοῖν σκελοῖν. ἐὰν δ᾽ ἔτι δοκῶσιν ἀσελγαίνειν καὶ μὴ 'θέλωσιν ἡσυχίαν ἄγειν, πάλιν αὖ, ἔφη, τεμῶ δίχα, ὥστ᾽ ἐφ᾽ ἑνὸς πορεύσονται σκέλους ἀσκωλιάζοντες.’ ταῦτα εἰπὼν ἔτεμνε τοὺς ἀνθρώπους δίχα, ὥσπερ οἱ τὰ ὄα τέμνοντες [190ε] καὶ μέλλοντες ταριχεύειν, ἢ ὥσπερ οἱ τὰ ᾠὰ ταῖς θριξίν: ὅντινα δὲ τέμοι, τὸν Ἀπόλλω ἐκέλευεν τό τε πρόσωπον μεταστρέφειν καὶ τὸ τοῦ αὐχένος ἥμισυ πρὸς τὴν τομήν, ἵνα θεώμενος τὴν αὑτοῦ τμῆσιν κοσμιώτερος εἴη ὁ ἄνθρωπος, καὶ τἆλλα ἰᾶσθαι ἐκέλευεν. ὁ δὲ τό τε πρόσωπον μετέστρεφε, καὶ συνέλκων πανταχόθεν τὸ δέρμα ἐπὶ τὴν γαστέρα νῦν καλουμένην, ὥσπερ τὰ σύσπαστα βαλλάντια, ἓν στόμα ποιῶν ἀπέδει κατὰ μέσην τὴν γαστέρα, ὃ δὴ τὸν ὀμφαλὸν καλοῦσι.
ἐπειδὴ οὖν ἡ φύσις δίχα ἐτμήθη, ποθοῦν ἕκαστον τὸ ἥμισυ τὸ αὑτοῦ συνῄει, καὶ περιβάλλοντες τὰς χεῖρας καὶ συμπλεκόμενοι ἀλλήλοις, ἐπιθυμοῦντες συμφῦναι, ἀπέθνῃσκον ὑπὸ λιμοῦ καὶ τῆς [191β] ἄλλης ἀργίας διὰ τὸ μηδὲν ἐθέλειν χωρὶς ἀλλήλων ποιεῖν.
--Aristophanes' Speech in Plato's Symposium (Symp.189ff; Translated from Greek into Latin by Marcilio Ficino 1592)
It’s especially important to learn about the early nature of man and what happened to them. For mankind did not used to be what it is now, but rather it was far different.
In the beginning, there were three types (genera) of people, not just the two we have now (male and female); there was also a third type, a mix of both. At this point in time, only its name (androgynous) remains, but then it was as the name implies, a mixture of male and female sexes.
Moreover, these humans were round in shape, having a spherical back and sides. They had four hands, the same number of legs, and two faces conjoined at the neck, and altogether symmetrical. They had one head, with both faces turned in opposite directions.
This is the reason there were three types (genera) of people, for the masculine type was born from the Sun, the feminine type was born from the Earth, and the third type was born from the moon, for the moon shares properties of both [i.e., the moon emits no light of its own, like the earth, but nevertheless it resembles the sun because is a heavenly body that shines].
Like their [heavenly] parents, they were spherical in both form and motion. For this reason, they had both strong bodies and powerful wills. In fact, they attempted to contend with the gods, and ascend the heavens the same way that Homer describes the feats of Ephialtes and Otis.
Therefore, Jupiter assembled the other gods together and deliberated on what to do. There was a great discussion on options: for he found that they could not kill humanity, as he had done with the Giants, for if the human race were destroyed, their worship of the gods would end. On the other hand, he reckoned that such insolence should not be allowed to go on unchecked.
Finally, Jupiter explained his plan. He said, “I have found a way that humans can remain, but yet become more modest. This will happen if they become weaker. I will divide each and every one of them in two. Then they will become weaker, and there will be twice as many to worship us. From now on, they will walk upright on two legs. But if they again seem to become arrogant, I will cut them in half again, and they will be forced to hop forward on one leg, like a crippled person.”
Having said this, he divided them in two, like those who cut eggs with a thread. And then he ordered Apollo to heal them and turn their faces and necks towards the part that was cut, so that upon looking at the wound they would become more modest. Apollo immediately turned their faces forward, and pulled together the skin in the middle of the stomach which now we call the navel.
From then on, the nature of mankind has been divided in such a way that when each one yearned to find their other half, they ran around each other, embracing one another and trying to fuse together again.
Date: 428 BCE – 348 BCE
Works: Apology of Socrates
Plato was an Athenian philosopher who is considered one of the most influential minds of Greek thought. Using his predecessor Socrates as his mouthpiece, he composed a number of philosophical dialogues that explored various ethical, philosophical, and moral concepts. He was the founder of the Athenian Academy, and was the mentor of the famous philosopher Aristotle.
GOLDEN AGE GREECE