Platonic myths: The Myth of Aristophanes

Picture by Dr Tom Stockmann

In Plato’s Symposium, Aristophanes delivers his speech in the form of a myth.

Once upon a time, there were three kinds of human beings: male, descended from the sun; female, descended from the earth; and androgynous, with both male and female elements, descended from the moon. Each human being was completely round, with four arms and fours legs, two identical faces on opposite sides of a head with four ears, and all else to match. They walked both forwards and backwards and ran by turning cartwheels on their eight limbs, moving in circles like their parents the planets.

As they were powerful and unruly and threatening to scale the heavens, Zeus devised to cut them into two ‘like a sorb-apple which is halved for pickling,’ and even threatened to cut them into two again, so that they might hop on one leg. Apollo then turned their heads to make them face towards their wound, pulled their skin around to cover up the wound, and tied it together at the navel like a purse. He made sure to leave a few wrinkles on what became known as the abdomen so that they might be reminded of their punishment.

After that, human beings longed for their other half so much that they searched for it all over. When they found it, they wrapped themselves around it very tightly and did not let go. As a result, they started dying from hunger and self-neglect. Zeus took pity on the poor creatures, and moved their genitals to the front so that those who were previously androgynous could procreate, and those who were previously male could obtain satisfaction and move on to higher things.

This is the origin of our desire for other human beings. Those of us who desire members of the opposite sex were previously androgynous, whereas men who desire men and women who desire women were previously male or female. When we find our other half, we are ‘lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy’ that cannot be accounted for by a simple appetite for sex, but rather by a desire to be whole again, and restored to our original nature. Our greatest wish, if we could have it, would then be for Hephaestus to meld us into one another so that our souls could be at one, and share once more in a common fate.

Adapted from Plato’s Shadow



13 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Apollodore
    Mar 25, 2012 @ 09:57:27

    Speech of Aristophanes: French animated adaptation of Plato’s Symposium (189d-191d) with English subtitles :


  2. Trackback: » After listening to my last post, I was reminded of this image I created as part of a proposal for an
  3. Aquileana
    Feb 06, 2014 @ 10:58:43

    Excellent post and blog, congratulations, Aquileana 🙂


  4. Trackback: ♠Plato´s Dialogue “The Symposium”: “On Platonic Love and The Myth of the Androgyne”.- | La Audacia de Aquiles
  5. Trackback: What is sex anyways? | genderneutral
  6. leeperscreek
    Sep 03, 2014 @ 14:43:00

    Reblogged this on leeperscreek.


  7. byssandabyss
    Oct 28, 2015 @ 17:53:47

    Reblogged this on byssandabyssnothingandalltimeandeternity and commented:
    Doreen, dit was de mythe over de androgyne bolletjesmensen waar ik het gisteren over had!


  8. nchaiphuong
    Jul 24, 2016 @ 15:10:58

    Reblogged this on N C H ả i P h ư ơ n g ' S.


  9. Trackback: Pink has no pink – Plato’s androgyne – Elite Gender Inversion
  10. Trackback: Dreams of UFOs and “Flying Saucers” – the Kelly Bulkeley Dossier
  11. Trackback: On becoming a mother and the nature of liminality – Sybilla Borealis
  12. Trackback: Chapter 10 – Garden Murders

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: