7 Different Types of Love According To the Ancient Greeks

The statement “I LOVE YOU” is one that most of us have made at least once in our lives. But how many of us truly understand what love is? Love is something that most people find difficult to explain in words. Our feelings have not been sufficient in helping us understand love. But that is because we often hanker after romantic love.

While we struggle to define love, the ancient Greeks seemed to have no problem at all defining different types of love. Part of the confusion for us, about what love is stems from the fact that we actually experience different types of love, even when in love.

Types of love

There could be as many types of love as there are ways to say “I love you”, but the ancient Greeks have summed it all up to seven.

If you desire to better understand the kind of love you give or seek, here are the seven types of love according to the ancient Greeks.

#1   Eros – Sexual love

Eros is sexual love, and it is the type that most closely represents modern romantic love. Eros was the Greek God of love and sexual desire, defined as divine beauty or lust. In Greek myth, it is said that he shot golden arrows into the hearts of both mortals and immortals without warning. His arrow breaches his targets and they ‘fall’ in love. The Greeks feared this type of love because it was considered dangerous and a form of madness.

#2  Ludus – Playful love

Ludus is playful or uncommitted love. It can be seen in such acts as teasing and dancing, flirting, seducing and conjugating. The focus of Ludus is on fun, and sometimes on conquest, with no strings attached. Ludus relationships are casual, undemanding and uncomplicated. Ludus relationships can be long-lasting, as long as one party doesn’t mistake ludus for eros. Ludus works best when both parties are self-sufficient.

#3   Pragma – Longstanding love

Pragma kind of love was commonly associated with marriage, especially in the days of arrange marriages. It is a practical love founded on reason or duty, and long-term interests. Pragma is characterized by true commitment, understanding, compromise and tolerance. This love is supposed to develop over a long period of time as couples get to understand each other better. It was regarded by the Greeks as the highest form of love. Pragma is described by “standing in love” rather than “falling in love”. With pragma sexual attraction takes the back seat, giving way for personal qualities, compatibilities and shared goals. Ludus can co-exist with pragma, with one providing a counterpoint to the other.

#4   Philia – Love of the mind

Philia is friendship, a love based on shared goodwill. It is also known as brotherly or platonic love. This love exists where people share the same values and dispositions. This is the kind of love you have for a brother, sister or a friend. Plato believed that the best kind of friendship is philia born out of eros; that which lovers have for each other. He believes that this kind of friendship feeds back into eros to strengthen and transform it from a lust for possession into a shared desire for a higher level of understanding of self, the other and the world.

#5   Philautia – Love of the self

Philautia is self-love. The ancient Greeks divided it into two kinds, healthy and unhealthy philautia. Unhealthy self-love describes a pure selfish love that seeks pleasure, fame and wealth often leads to narcissism. It describes a situation where someone places himself above the greater good. Healthy love of self is akin to self-esteem. It describes our cognitive and emotional appraisal of ourselves. It also represents the standard by which we think, feel and act, and also determines our relationship to ourselves, to others and to the world. This kind of love is essential for any healthy relationship, given that we cannot love others if we don’t love ourselves first.

#6   Agape – Love of the soul

Agape love is common spoken about especially by many religions. It is referred to as universal love because it is the kind of love the world needs the most. This type of love is characterized by selflessness. Example of agape, or altruism, is genuine love for strangers, nature and God.  Agape is the closest to unconditional love. It is the love you give without expecting anything in return. This love is seen in charitable acts, sympathy for others and general concern for humanity.

#7   Storge – Love of the child

This is another very common love, though it is hardly spoken about as much it is practiced. Storge, or familial love, is the love parents naturally feel for their children. It is an effortless love based on natural feelings. This love is born out of familiarity and dependency, and knows acceptance, sacrifice and forgiveness. Storge makes the receiver feel comfortable, safe and secure. Over time, eros can mutate into storge in a romantic relationship.

The Greeks have done a great job in helping us understand different types of love. This understanding should help us give and seek the right kind of love, in the right proposition, under appropriate circumstances and at the right time.

You can deploy Eros, Ludus and Pragma into your relationships to make it blissful and long-lasting. Agape, Philia, Storge and the right kind of Philautia can be applied to make our lives and those of others around us much better.

All the types of love have their place at some points in our lives. And it is not difficult to see that we transit through them in our relationships, and at different times of our lives. It is also interesting to see that contrary to what many people feel, we can have high level of control over love.

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