A lighthearted Ancient Greek myth explains why humans are doomed to yearn for partners

Emotional vulnerability and the risk of heartbreak aren’t enough to deter most people from seeking out companions. Indeed, romantic yearning is considered a central part of the human experience. So why were so many of us created to feel unfulfilled without ‘another half’? According to a myth by the comic playwright Aristophanes, recounted in Plato’s Symposium, humans were once two-bodied creatures until they challenged the gods. Zeus, angered by humans overstepping their bounds, sliced them all in two, leaving us destined to yearn for partnership.

Video by BBC Radio 4Script: Nigel WarburtonAnimation: Andrew Park
View at aeon.co

Support Aeon

‘As a professor, I can teach entire classes using Aeon articles. As a reader, I always find something that teaches me.’

Greg Salyer, USA, Friend of Aeon

Aeon is a registered charity committed to the spread of knowledge and a cosmopolitan worldview.

But we can’t do it without you.

Make a donation

Idea/History of Ideas

Sedimentation: the existentialist challenge to stereotypes

Jonathan Webber

Essay/Ethics

Against moral sainthood

As philosopher Susan Wolf argues, life is far more meaningful and rich if we do not aim at being morally perfect

Daniel Callcut

Video/Values & Beliefs

Liberation of the soul through diet – how a Jain ascetic lives

2 minutes

Idea/Death

Death is no leveller if some live much longer than others

Keith Frankish

Essay/History of Ideas

First women of philosophy

Philosophy was once a woman’s world, ranging across Asia, Africa and Latin America. It’s time to reclaim that lost realm

Dag Herbjørnsrud

Video/Knowledge

Playing peekaboo with Wittgenstein: what do objects do when we’re not looking?

5 minutes