Archive for the ‘AINP’ Category

I thought I’d start a new kind of topic on this blog: how ancient ideas (or at least, ideas which were present in ancient times) resurface in modern culture. The moments where I notice stuff like that are the moments where I get most excited about Classics and how it can contribute to the world.

Today’s topic: Love as War

The Pat Benatar song ‘Love is a Battlefield’ is a good example of the trend we have in poetry and music where love is often described in terms of suffering, and especially in terms of war – the battle of the sexes etc. Another example is the slightly older song ‘Soldier of Love’, where the singer’s lady is asked to “lay down your arms/and love me peacefully”. 

The Eros Farnese, allegedly based on a Greek original


One of the most famous examples of love as war comes from the 1st Century BC/AD, from the poet Ovid. Ovid is one of the most famous poets of the Golden Age, along with Virgil and Catullus, but his bad behaviour (particularly with the Emperor Augustus’ daughter Julia) got him exiled to the Black Sea, where he spent the rest of his life writing gloomy poetry about how much he wanted to go home. There’s some evidence that Ovid’s love poetry contributed to his exile – he wrote several books called the Amores (often translated in English as ‘The Art of Love’), advising young men and women on how to acquire and keep a lover. In Book 1, Poem 9, he writes “All lovers are soldiers”. The Latin is rather more concise – “militat omnis amans”. In this context, the phrase “I’m a lover, not a fighter” might seem rather oxymoronic – to love is to fight. However, in several of his poems Ovid uses being in love as an excuse not to be an actual soldier – “Oh, you know, I would definitely drop everything and go fight at some corner of the world, but I’m a bit tied up at the moment with a certain lady, so you guys go and enjoy yourselves without me. Send me a postcard!”

Of course, all this has its roots in Ancient Greece, where Eros (or Cupid, as we know him) pierced the hearts of lovers with arrows of gold to inspire love, or arrows of lead to inspire dislike. If you have a deity flying around shooting at people, it follows naturally for love to be seen as something of a warlike endeavour. 

On a separate note – thank you so much to everyone who has stopped by to read the blog lately. It really boosts my spirits to see that people are reading and commenting and all the rest of it. Thank you all!

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