Ancient Greek:'i Love You'

Discussion in 'Ελληνικά (Greek)' started by Amatus, Dec 16, 2007.

  1. Amatus Member

    UK English
    How might an ancient Greek have said 'I love you' to his wife? Having read one or two posts on the subject of Greek verbs expressing love, I wouldn't mind knowing the opinion of fellow-foreros in regard to this question.

    Thanks in advance.
  2. Tetina

    Tetina Senior Member

    Greece / greek
    Well, I guess the appropriate to answer would be an ancient Greek :p ... but since there are all gone here is my attempt:

    "agapo se"
  3. chauvejean

    chauvejean Senior Member

    English - Ireland
  4. chauvejean

    chauvejean Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    In my opinion, there were numerous different ways ancient Greeks felt about their wives, so no one clear way of expressing "I love you". Very few ever married for what we know of as "love", financial matters, race, social standing, health and the decision of the bride and groom's parents were, 9 times out of 10, more important. But of coure that still leaves 1 time out of 10.
    I would say that the educated who respected but didn't "love" their wives in our sense, would use Philia (after reading Aristotle and other philosophical works). But then which word would an Epicurean use??? Agape??? The average hot-blooded newly weds, if they liked each other, probably used Eros, and older relationships Agape. But who knows? There was no one standard I think is the only definite fact in this.
    And unfortunately I have never seen any statistical infomation about their use in different contexts in literature.
  5. balgior Senior Member


    "filo se" (φιλῶ σέ) maybe? Although I have no idea about ancient greek... Please confirm someone! :)
  6. Tetina

    Tetina Senior Member

    Greece / greek
    "Filo se" is another way to say "I love you". It exists in ancient greek as "agapo" and includes various forms of love. I'm not sure now of the extend of each word concerning the forms of love that's way I previously said that would be an easy question for an ancient...
    Anyway, "filw" means "I love", "I have the habbit / I like to do something", "I behave in friendly way" etc.
  7. chauvejean

    chauvejean Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    You're right. Filo seems to be used for non-romantic love, compare;

    Τοι δ' `αλλήλους φιλεόντων `ως το` πάρος,
    πλοûτος δε` και` ειπήνη `αλις `εστω (Odyssey 24.485)

    "And let them (the suitors) love one another as before, and let wealth and peace abound"
  8. Karina (Brazil/Portugal)

    Karina (Brazil/Portugal) Senior Member

    One question... what is more strong? "se filw" or "s'agapw" ? Or it's the same thing? thank you!
  9. chauvejean

    chauvejean Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    Hi Karina,
    In Ancient Greek (and I believe in Modern too, correct me if I am wrong) αγαπω is usually stronger than φιλω, but the uses are different in different contexts. It depends on who you are speaking to (see above).
  10. balgior Senior Member

    In Modern Greek "φιλώ" means "to kiss", not "to love"!
  11. chauvejean

    chauvejean Senior Member

    English - Ireland
    Oh, ha ha, then that explains the strange reactions I've had to "Φιλώ το σπιτί σου" :#
  12. wonderment Senior Member

    Xairete έβριμπόντι! (balgior, would you believe I spent precious time looking up this, um, 'Greek' word in several dictionaries, all thanks to you? Na'sai kala!)

    In Ancient Greek, φιλεω can mean both and more. Let me count the ways...(with the help of Liddell and Scott) These are all attested uses in ancient literature (and by ‘ancient’ I mean archaic, classical, and hellenistic—from Homer down to Alexander):

    φιλεω: 1) to love, regard with affection. The word can be used for the love of gods for humans, masters for their swineherds, and yes, man for his wife. 2) to treat affectionately or kindly, especially to welcome or entertain a guest 3) to kiss, an outward sign of love 4) to like or approve of objects or things. 5) to love to do something.

    αγαπαω: 1) to show or regard with affection 2) to persuade, entreat 3) to caress, pet 4) to be fond of something 5) to prize or desire 6) to be contented, pleased 7) to love to do something

    The data base at the Perseus Project on the web shows the frequency that these words occur in ancient Greek literature:

    φιλεω: 1336 times (726 prose, 610 poetry)
    αγαπαω: 600 times (591 prose, 9 in poetry)

    That’s the situation for the ancients. By the time we get to koine, the rise of Christianity and Byzantium, semantics and frequency of use changed of course. How so? I don't know, but maybe some else can help fill in the blank.
  13. balgior Senior Member

    Oops! Really? Sometimes all these boring rules seem to make sense... :eek:

    (Stop chatting balgior!)
  14. edwardtheconfessor Senior Member

    English - British
    Very interesting everybody - but what I want to know is:
    'Love me!' (In the sense that a man loves a woman) - you could say it's an invitation!
    I need to know this for an art project I am doing about Helen of Troy - as you probably know, she had MANY suitors! ... any offers of help here?

    PS: I need to know how to WRITE IT!
  15. yiangos New Member

    Well, my guess here is that by "Love me!" you want to mean "Make love to me!", in which case, neither αγαπώ nor φιλώ will do. Your best bet in this case is ερώμαι (stemming from έρως, which is love in a more carnal sense). Unfortunately, my knowledge of ancient greek stops here.
  16. vatrahos

    vatrahos Senior Member

    American English
    First, we need to specify the time period. When we say "Ancient Greek" we're being a bit vague.

    The place of women (and of "love") in the Ancient World changed drastically over a period of several hundred years.

    In Classical Greece (as someone above has suggested), women were married not for love but for dowries -- they were used as ways to shore up property, to make allegiances between families, so there would be no thought of saying "I love you" in the sense we mean it today.

    Wives were kept indoors, and ushered into separate rooms when foreign visitors came into the house. They were treated basically like valuable property that ought to be hidden away. The only women with some degree of freedom were "hetairai" -- courtesans or prostitutes who played music and recited poetry (and performed sexual acts) at parties -- for a fee.

    The whole concept of "marital love" (a blend of "sexual passion" and "friendship") did not come along until later -- during the Hellenistic period (somewhere between 300 BCE and 400 ACE). This is when we first see literature depicting young men and women "falling in love." They begin to view one another not as entering a "legal joint-venture" but rather as vowing "eternal companionship" to one another.

    You have only to look to the so-called "Greek Romances" of the period. For example, in Heliodorus' Aithiopica we find lines like this:

    ὅτι θεῖον ἡ ψυχὴ καὶ συγγενὲς ἄνωθεν τοῖς ἔργοις ἐπιστούμεθα. ὁμοῦ τε γὰρ ἀλλήλους ἑώρων οἱ νέοι καὶ ἤρων, ὥσπερ τῆς ψυχῆς ἐκ πρώτης ἐντεύξεως τὸ ὅμοιον ἐπιγνούσης και πρὸς τὸ κατ᾽ἀξίαν οἰκεῖον προσδραμούσης. (book 3)

    "Judging by its actions, let us be assured that the [human] soul is a thing divine, related to a higher being. For as soon as [the hero and heroine of the novel] saw each other, they fell in love, as if the soul recognized at first sight its peer and ran towards its mate"

    Here the verb is ἔραμαι -- which means to fall in love, to be in love. It is related more to the love of passion than to that of friendship. For example, another woman in the novel, who is hopelessly in love with a man (who does not love her), nearly goes insane when he leaves Athens. Someone finds the man later on and tells him:

    μανικώτερον ἤρα σου μὴ παρόντος καὶ θρήνων οὐκ ἐπαύετο (book 1)

    "After you left, she loved you even more wildly and never stopped wailing"

    The affectionate love of friendship (or the love a parent bears for his / her child) is expressed regularly with the verb ἀγαπῶ. For example, a wife is talking to her husband:

    “ὁ θαυμαστός” φησι “καὶ εἰς ἐμὲ νεανίας, ὁ κοινὸς ἡμῶν παῖς ὃν ἐγὼ πλέον καὶ σοῦ πολλάκις ἠγάπησα (καὶ μάρτυρες οἱ θεοί) ...” (book 1)

    "That wonderful young man," she declared, "that son of ours, whom I loved even more than you did (god as my witness) ..."

    These two kinds of love (eros and agape), the love of passion and the love of affection, hadn't yet really converged into one word. They were two separate ideas that didn't coexist. That's why you see the Helenistic authors sometimes having a hard time describing this new concept of "true, romantic, marital love." It was just a foreign idea, and they had no way (yet) to describe it.

    Sometimes we get lines like this, where the heroine of the novel (Chariklea), says to her fiancee:

    ἓν μόνον οἶδα μὴ σωφρονοῦσα, τὸν ἐξ ἀρχῆς ἐπὶ σοὶ πόθον· ἀλλὰ καὶ τοῦτον ἔννομον· οὐ γὰρ ὡς ἐραστῇ πειθομένη ἀλλ´ ὡς ἀνδρὶ συνθεμένη (book 1)

    "In one thing alone I know myself to have been unwise: my passion for you from the first moment I saw you; but this was a lawful passion, for I was not led astray by you as a lover but rather I made a covenant with you as my husband"

    She "loves" him: she feels both sexual attraction but also a deep conviction that she wants to spend the rest of her life with him as husband and wife. But it wasn't yet usual that "sexual passion" was related to "love." That's why you see her go to such a length to explain her emotions to him.

    So, anyway, that's a basic explanation.

    It's actually a fascinating subject, tracing how the modern idea of "love" entered into the Western Culture.
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2009
  17. edwardtheconfessor Senior Member

    English - British
    Fascinating discourse on the cultural and scoial background, vatrahos! Thank you so much. I think you have understood that I refer to the 'eros' variety of love [I'm afraid I don't have access on my system to Greek characters, although I can write them - I'm not a bad calligrapher!]. Of course, I am aware that, according to the myth, Helen's suitor had to first prove himself as a true hero, before her Earthly father the king of Sparta could agree to the marital union. Furthermore, the legend almost certainly goes back to Bronze Age times (we can't be certain how old the Homeric and Hesiodian epics actually were as they were not written down until much later). By the time that Aeschylus included parts of the story in his prologue to the 'Oresteia', it was of course msitily ancient history for the Greeks.

    However: 1) Aeschylus would have a put a 'contemporary' spin on the story, writing as he was around 480-460 BC. He would also have put a 'heroic' spin on it - a) because he was writing a Greek tragedy (a trilogy of them, actually, as was usual) and b) because Helen was no mere mortal - she was also the daughter of Zeus!

    However : 2) (though I am grateful for yiangos' advice (above)) the legendary and immortal Helen - whose beauty reputedly spell-bound men - would not have been interested, I think only in sex but in love of the passionate and sensual variety.

    I did say, did I not, that I am working on an art project and she is depicted in the reilef on which I am working .....

    With no knowledge of Greek grammar (ancient or modern) and with my vocabulary confned to just a few words (most interesting indeed as your quotations and examples are) might I suggest that we keep things as simple as possible?

    How would I write (on the egg from which she hatches, actually, if you know the myth!):

    'Love me!' (in the 'eros' 'erotic' sense)? - presaging at her birth the many hearts she would cause to ache (but not to break!) ?????

    Thank you

    - edwardtheconfessor
  18. yiangos New Member

    Nice elaboration on the subject, Vatrahe.

    However, I have to point out a few things about everyday life in classical Greek cities.

    It's true that in rich families, marriage was more a business transaction than anything else. And the customs you describe (women ushered in different rooms when visitors came), did apply to those (rich) families. However, the lower-income families couldn't really afford something like that. Most of the time, for the ones that weren't well off, things were quite simpler, and a lot closer to the status quo of greek (and possibly southern european) rural areas as recently as the first half of the twentieth century. Mind you, I'm talking about poor families, that had little to no dowry to give to their daughters, and equally poor families that were often glad to have a son married so that there may be more hands (children) for harvest and such.

    Poor women in Athens, were usually quite street-wise (they would often sell the family produced goods at the market instead of the men, who were occupied in the fields), and relatively free (the term being relative, considering that even Aristotle once wrote that a woman is somewhere between a plant and an animal). Rich girls were often educated, more so as a means to show off wealth than anything else (as in: "so-and-so is so rich, that he even spent money on educating his daughter!"), but were usually confined in the house from the age of 5 or 6 until they were traded off to marriage.

    That was more or less the situation in Athens. In other cities, things were quite different. In Sparta, for instance, although women were not as respected as was shown in a recent spectacular film, they were actually a lot free-er than Athenian women.

    As regards hetairai, they were more the ancient greek equivalent of geishas, rather than what we mean today by "prostitutes". In ancient Athens, for instance, there were prostitutes (in the way we mean the word today) and brothels as well, and as far as I know, they were nowhere near as respected by men as the hetairai were.

    So, to the point. I believe that in some situations, an erotic invitation would be extended from woman to man in classical Greece. For your question, edwardtheconfessor, I believe that the imperative of ἔραμαι (copy-paste from vatrahos' post) is what you need. And I believe that the original poster has gained a wealth of information :).
  19. vatrahos

    vatrahos Senior Member

    American English
    Do you have any sources to support your observations? I'd be interested in seeing them.

    Again, where did you get this information? Do you have any primary sources? I don't want to sound as though I'm attacking your ideas, but I'm rather skeptical of how well we can actually know what went on in the lives of lower class women in Sixth Century BCE Athens. If you have primary documents that shed light on this, I'd love to see them. (Thanks in advance!)

    The truth, though, is that the Athenian law "strongly encouraged" married women to remain indoors. Take for example this excerpt from Xenophone's "Oikonomika" ("Household management"):

    ῥίγη μὲν γὰρ καὶ θάλπη καὶ ὁδοιπορίας καὶ στρατείας τοῦ ἀνδρὸς τὸ σῶμα καὶ τὴν ψυχὴν μᾶλλον δύνασθαι καρτερεῖν κατεσκεύασεν: ὥστε τὰ ἔξω ἐπέταξεν αὐτῷ ἔργα: τῇ δὲ γυναικὶ ἧττον τὸ σῶμα δυνατὸν πρὸς ταῦτα φύσας τὰ ἔνδον ἔργα αὐτῇ, φάναι ἔφη, προστάξαι μοι δοκεῖ ὁ θεός ... ταῦτα δέ, ἔφην, δεῖ ἡμᾶς, ὦ γύναι, εἰδότας, ἃ ἑκατέρῳ ἡμῶν προστέτακται ὑπὸ τοῦ θεοῦ, πειρᾶσθαι ὅπως ὡς βέλτιστα τὰ προσήκοντα ἑκάτερον ἡμῶν διαπράττεσθαι. συνεπαινεῖ δέ, ἔφη φάναι, καὶ ὁ νόμος αὐτά, συζευγνὺς ἄνδρα καὶ γυναῖκα: καὶ κοινωνοὺς ὥσπερ τῶν τέκνων ὁ θεὸς ἐποίησεν, οὕτω καὶ ὁ νόμος τοῦ οἴκου κοινωνοὺς καθίστησι. καὶ καλὰ δὲ εἶναι ὁ νόμος ἀποδείκνυσιν ἃ καὶ ὁ θεὸς ἔφυσεν ἑκάτερον μᾶλλον δύνασθαι. τῇ μὲν γὰρ γυναικὶ κάλλιον ἔνδον μένεινθυραυλεῖν, τῷ δὲ ἀνδρὶ αἴσχιον ἔνδον μένειν ἢ τῶν ἔξω ἐπιμελεῖσθαι. (book 7.23; 29-30)

    "For [God] constructed the body and mind of man to be able to endure better the chills and heat of travel and military campaigns: thus he allotted to man the works of outdoors. For the woman, though, having produced an inferior body for these jobs, it seems to me that God has allotted to her the indoor jobs ... And, my wife, having understood what has been allotted to us each by God, we must try as well as possible to carry out the duties that are ours. The law also approves of these things, yoking man and woman together: and just as God made them common partners in children, so too does the law render them partners of the household. And the law establishes as proper that each of them do those tasks for which God has crafted them. For the women, then, it is better to stay inside, not to go about in the open, whereas for the man it would be more shameful to live inside rather than to have charge of the outdoor tasks."

    I agree that this is a philosophical text, not a sociological description of actual marital habits, but it seems to me to demonstrate the general roles that women and men were expected (both by society and by legal institutions) to perform.

    If you have proof that women of the lower class (by economic necessity or by other means) escaped from or expanded the boundaries of these roles, I would love to see it.


    The imperative of ἔραμαι, I believe, would be ἔρασο in the singular and ἔρασθε in the plural. Telling several men to love you would then be rendered as ἔρασθέ με. I could be mistaken.
  20. vatrahos

    vatrahos Senior Member

    American English
    Also, there's an active form of the verb, ἐράω, which is used in the present and imperfect tenses (as in the quotations I took from Heliodorus' Aethiopica). In this case, the imperatives would be ἔρα (sing.) and ἐρᾶτε (pl.). So you could say ἐρᾶτέ με


    I found this Pindar fragment (127):

    εἴη καὶ ἐρᾶν καὶ ἔρωτι χαρίζεσθαι

    Which means "allow yourself to fall in love and to indulge in eros."

    To make it plural, you would say εἰᾶτε καὶ ἐρᾶν καὶ ἔρωτι χαρίζεσθαι

    I would just say this, instead of putting ἐράω into the imperative.
    Last edited: Jul 14, 2009
  21. yiangos New Member

    Hello Vatrahe,

    Sorry for my delay, I'm currently away from my resources. From what I recall however, it was secondary texts (i.e. modern texts) and not primary (i.e. ancient greek texts directly) that described everyday life in ancient Athens the way I did. As soon as I return, I'll have more on that, and I will post my sources. Until then, of course, my view remains largely unsupported, and thus without merit. So everyone, please disregard my post until further notice :)
  22. ireney

    ireney Modistra

    Greek Greece Mod of Greek, CC and CD
    Moderator's note: Please limit the discussion of life in Ancient Greece to references that are directly and closely related to the discussion topic.
  23. edwardtheconfessor Senior Member

    English - British
    Thank you vatrahos and yiangos for a fascinating insight!
    Respecting the moderator's intervention I will just say this:
    I found, on another website forum which specialises in English to Ancient Greek translation (chiefly of song lyrics, poetry and English literary quotations), this:

    epsilon'(acute) rho alpha' tau omega epsilon'(acute) mu omikron upsilon~

    (Forgive me, I have no Greek font on my system!)
    This translates (roughly), I understand, as:
    'Let him/her love me'

    If this is authentic, then it will serve very well.
    a) It is succinct (I need few letters, to fit into the space on my art work).
    b) It sounds like an 'invitation' (which was what I wanted - see my post with the original enquiry).
    c) It presages the many hearts (including some female?) which the legendary Helen would later captivate - but without actaully being set in grammatical future (?) !

    Anyone care to verify this phraseology for me?
    Thanks - edwardtheconfessor
  24. wonderment Senior Member

    Hi all :), έρατωέ is off, but μου is correct because ἐράω/ἔραμαι takes the genitive of the person or thing desired. Here are some options:

    ἔρα μου = Love me (commanding one person)
    ἐρᾶτέ μου = Love me (commanding more than one person)
    ἐράτω μου = Let him/her love me
    ἐρώντων μου = Let them love me

    I think εἴη is an optative of wish (from εἰμί, to be) and not an imperative form of ἐάω/εἰάω, to allow: May it be possible to love and take pleasure in love. εἴη is used here in an impersonal construction to express a wish. (For comparable examples click here and scroll down to the very last ‘a’--“a. in wishes”.)

    Ancient Greek words for ‘love’ in its different manisfestations (links are to the Liddell and Scott Greek-English Lexicon, with expansive definitions and citations of Greek texts ):

    φῐλέω (love in its broadest sense)
    ἀγαπάω (love, seldomly sexual)
    ἐράω (love, passionately desire)
    ποθέω (long for, desire)
    στέργω (love, feel affection, often bt. parents and children)

    On the difference (if any) between φῐλέω and ἀγαπάω, see interesting discussions here and here. Happy reading! :)
  25. vatrahos

    vatrahos Senior Member

    American English
    Thanks for the corrections and the links.
  26. edwardtheconfessor Senior Member

    English - British
    Thank you wonderment - most useful. I now know exactly what to put!
    Thanks vatrahos, yiangos and all good company for a fascinating debate ...
    Over and out

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