“According to Greek mythology, humans were originally created with 4 arms, 4 legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.” - Plato, The Symposium.
A youth reclines at a symposium, holding an aulos (double flute), while a woman dances in front of him. The accompanying inscription reads ΠΙΛΙΠΟΣ ΚΑΛΛΙΣΤΟ<Σ> (“Philip is most handsome/beautiful”). Tondo of an Attic red-figure kylix, attributed to the Brygos Painter; ca. 490-480 BCE. Found at Vulci; now in the British Museum.
Excuse me, can we just take a moment to notice that Nico was so busy blaming himself that he misunderstood (or maybe misread) Plato’s story?
In BoO he says he read about combo humans being split in half by Zeus, generating two halves, man and woman, that search for each other for completeness. When I read that part I started to cry, because he got the wrong version of the story.
You see, I studied Ancient Greek literature and language in high school. Our homework every week was to translate a text from Ancient Greek. In my last year, we translated the Symposium, and this very story as well. It’s Aristophanes’ speech about Love.
Nico got it wrong.
The combo humans had tree genders. There were the males, the females, and the androgynes. When Zeus split the androgynes, he generated a male half and a female half, that’s true. But when he did the same to the others, the halves where both male or both female.
I remember this well because I thought it was so deep and sweet, and it hurt me to read how Nico felt sad about it just because he didn’t know the whole story.
He has a place in this world just like everyone else.
A symposium in a vine-covered arbor surrounds a Gorgon’s head. Attic black-figure cup, late 6th- early 5th century BCE; artist unknown. Now in the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford. Photo credit: Carole Raddato.
“According to greek mythology, humans were originally created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power, Zeus split them into two separate parts, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves”
… said that, I still believe that two whole halves (an oxymoron?) meet and share their completeness, to achieve an even better completeness together.
A symposium scene: guests play the game of kottabos while a girl plays the aulos. Attic red-figure bell-krater, attributed to the Nikias Painter; ca. 420 BCE. Now in the National Archaeological Museum of Spain, Madrid. Photo credit: Marie-Lan Nguyen.