The 6 loves of Ancient Greece

In today’s ever complicated world, the rules of the game of love are changing as rapidly as our technology. The English language makes up most of the modern world's communication and is the third most widely spoken language after Mandarin Chinese and Spanish, but we find ourselves increasingly frustrated with the mighty word ‘love’. In fact, English is one of the only languages to have just one word to cover a multitude of different relationships and emotions. In Portuguese, we have ‘Gosto de ti’ for romantic and familial love, ‘Adoro te for special friendships and to describe your feelings when a Maserati roars past you, and ‘Amo-te’ reserved only for the very deepest of romantic love. The Japanese language too has a multitude of words to describe the emotion, along with Sanskrit and Arabic.

When you philosophise further it is quite ludicrous that we have just one simple word. How on earth could one word sum up all the different loves we feel in a lifetime? So then let us return then to the wisdom of the Ancient World to find the answer to our frustration with the simplicity of the word ‘love.’ The Ancient Greeks coined several terms to describe all the possible loves of a lifetime and here are a few of our favourites.


This first form of love is perhaps the one that instantly springs to mind. Eros represents sexual desire and passion. Purely physical, Eros love is intense and short lived and in all likelihood, rather exhausting. This is the love that starts when the Hollywood film’s title sequence starts to roll and ends promptly two hours later, in the same cinema where you watched the film.


Is what the Greeks would have described as the familial love between a parent and child, between a mentor and a student or between childhood friends. This type of bond is lifelong.


This is the type of love that one should avoid at all costs. Mania was described by the Greeks as the obsessive, unrequited love. Painful to be in and painful to have thrust upon you. Think Michael Douglas running away from the clutches of Glenn Close’s bunny boiling hands. Fatal Attraction indeed.


Perhaps the only love you should truly not try to live without, Philautia was the Greek’s word to describe self-love. The kind free from self-obsession or vanity, this love is the one that allows you to enjoy a peaceful day alone with your thoughts without feeling lonely and means you treat yourself with the same respect and courtesy that you offer others. Aristotle himself even remarked on this importance, “All friendly feelings for others are an extension of a man’s feelings for himself.”


This is the love that lasts a lifetime, that is built brick by brick and takes continual grafting to maintain. Often seen in older couples, this is the love we should try to practice with our partner.


The most extraordinary and difficult to achieve love for the Greeks was Agape. That’s also why it’s described as being the most rewarding. This is a spiritual love for all things, it is the quiet contentment one can achieve from being at peace with all things. If you learn how to love like this, please teach us how, particularly during a Black Friday sale or a train delay on your Friday commute home.


Now the Greeks might not have invented a word for shoe love, but that’s arguably because the Ancient footwear was fairly functional. But for anyone who has ever felt their heart beat faster just seeing the Undandy delivery at their door, and smelt the sweet smell of leather when unboxing, not to mention the utter joy of wearing a shoe that was designed by them and crafted with excellence...well you’ll know that it’s love. So, here’s our term to explain it. This type of love often has a downside though, after all, there is no known cure for shoe addiction.

Here’s to great romance, great adventures and above all, great shoes!