In his Three Essays on Sexuality, Freud summed up the views of two diverse cultures on love, his own and that of the ancient Greeks:
The most striking distinction between the erotic life of antiquity and our own no doubt lies in the fact that the ancients laid the stress upon the instinct itself, whereas we emphasize its object. The ancients glorified the instinct and were prepared on its account to honor even an inferior object; while we despise the instinctual activity in itself, and find excuse for it only in the merits of the object.
This passage was added as a footnote to the essays in 1910. What is striking about it now is how we have come full circle. Instead of glorifying the object, a salient characteristic of romantic love, we too now emphasize the sexual instinct. We are like Helen and Paris, who were never the slaves of each other, but only of Aphrodite
Agamemnon would have been as satisfied with Achilles’ slav...
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