Professor Radcliffe G. Edmonds III

Office: Thomas 245

Office Phone: 526-5046

Thomas 102

MW 2:30-4:00

Office Hours: MWF 10-11

or by appointment


Required Texts:

Apuleius, Lucius, The Golden Ass (trans. Walsh)

Aristophanes, The Birds & Other Plays Vol. 1 (Halliwell ed.)

Bing, Peter & Cohen, Rip, ed., Games of Venus: An Anthology of Greek & Roman Erotic Verse from Sappho to Ovid (GV)

Hesiod, Works & Days & Theogony (trans. Lombardo)

Homer, The Odyssey (trans. Fagles)

Longus, Marc Chagall, Daphnis & Chloe (trans. Turner)

Plato, The Symposium & the Phaedrus: Plato's Erotic Dialogues (Cobb ed.)


Recommended Texts:

Euripides, Four Tragedies No. 1 (trans. Grene, etal. )

Halperin, David M. etal., edt, Before Sexuality: The Construction of Erotic Experience in the Ancient Greek World (BS)


Course Description:

"Eros, Eros, distilling liquid desire upon the eyes, bringing sweet pleasure to souls,… he ruins mortals and launches them among every kind of disaster when he visits them" (Euripides, Hippolytus). For the ancient Greeks the passion of love (eros) was a great and terrible force, sublimely sweet but at the same time violent and dangerous to those in its grip. In this course, we will explore the ancient Greek's ideas of love, from the interpersonal loves between people of the same or different genders to the cosmogonic Eros that creates and holds together the entire world. We will look at the ways the idea of eros is expressed not only in the poets, but also in philosophical and historical writings and in the romance novels of the ancient Greeks.

This course is intended to expose the student to the varying ideas of Eros within Greek culture. The student should have the opportunity to reflect upon the way that these concepts of love helped to articulate the social structures of Greek culture, including gender roles, courtship, and marriage. The student should also have the opportunity to explore how ideas of interpersonal eros were used to explain and describe the forces that bind together the entire cosmos and all the living creatures within it.


Course Requirements:

Class participation:

Participation, of course, includes attendance, since you cannot participate if you are not in class. If, for some reason, you cannot attend class, please inform me in advance. You should be prepared to discuss and answer questions on the material covered in the lesson for the week. If, for some reason, you cannot prepare for class, please attend anyway - you will be better prepared for the next class.


Each week's assignment will include both the primary ancient texts and some secondary modern scholarship. Each student should come prepared with two or three questions or ideas regarding the ancient texts for the day. In addition, one student will be assigned to write and present a one page reaction for each of the secondary readings for the week. Such reactions should consist, not of a summary of the article, but rather of points of agreement and disagreement and of questions for further discussion.  The reaction paper must be emailed to me before noon on the day we are discussing the reading.

All readings not in the required textbooks will be available online through Blackboard, but they can also be reached directly from the online version of the syllabus at:


Written Assignments:

There will be two short (6-8 pages) written assignments designed for the students to demonstrate their understanding of specific materials covered in class. These projects may require some out of class research in addition to the readings assigned for the class. The first writing assignment (due in the fourth week) will involve the analysis of lyric love poems, while the second (due in the twelfth week) will involve composing a symposiastic speech in praise of eros.



There will be take-home Midterm and Final Examinations for this class. Each of these examinations will require students to apply the analyses and definitions discussed throughout the course to primary materials.



Grade Distribution:

Class Participation 35%

Written Assignments 30%

Midterm Exam 15%

Final Exam 20%


Week 1 Introduction to Eros


Definitions of Eros

Eros in the Greek Literary Tradition


Plato, Symposium

Skinner, Introduction: Why Ancient Sexuality?

Zeitlin, Reflections on Erotic Desire



Week 2 Lyric Love


Poetics of Eros

Courtship and Romance

Pursuit and Despair

Boys and Girls


Games of Venus – “Introduction: Reading an Ancient Erotic Poem” pp. 19-36

Archilochus (esp. Cologne Epode), Mimnermos, Sappho (esp. 1, 3, 16, 31), Ibycus, Anacreon, Theognis, Asclepiades, Callimachus, Theocritus 1, 3, 11 (GV)

Carson, Eros the Bittersweet

Foucault, A Problematic Relation



Week 3 Homer's Eros


Odysseus the Bridegroom

Penelope and Marital Fidelity

Homeric Aphrodite and the loves of the gods


Homer, Odyssey

Aphrodite in the Iliad

Winkler, Penelope's Cunning and Homer's

Redfield, Sex into Politics (BS)

Redfield, Odysseus the Bridegroom



Week 4 Cosmogonic Eros


Eros and cosmogony

Creation and Procreation

Creation of women (and men)

Eros and Violence


Hesiod, Theogony, Works & Days

fragments of Empedokles & Pherekydes

Redfield, The Sexes in Hesiod

Zeitlin, Signifying Difference: The case of Hesiod's Pandora


Lyric Poetry Assignment due by noon, Friday Feb. 12


Week 5 Eros and Marriage


Seduction and abduction

Choruses of Young Women

Marriage as a rite of passage


Homeric Hymns to Demeter & Aphrodite

Alcman (GV pp. 61-67) & Theocritus 18

Foley, Interpretive Essay on the Homeric Hymn to Demeter

Redfield, Notes on the Greek Wedding



Week 6 Love and the Law


Citizens and non-citizens

Wives and Prostitutes

Politics and Eros


Aischines, Against Timarchus

[Demosthenes] Apollodoros, Against Neaira

Winkler, Laying down the Law (BS)

Davidson, Courtesans and Fishcakes (part 1) (part 2)


Week 7 Comedy and Eros


Cosmogonic eros

Marriage as a happy ending

Women on top - comic inversions

Eros, Comedy, and Politics


Aristophanes Birds and Lysistrata

Arrowsmith, The Fantasy Politics of Eros

Konstan, Lysistrata




Spring Break


Take Home Midterm due after break

Week 8 Tragic Eros


The Power of Eros

Eros and Violence

Family and Eros 


Euripides, Hippolytus

Herodotus excerpts (I.1-13; IX.110-114)

Zeitlin, The Power of Aphrodite

Rabinowitz, Female Speech and Female Sexuality



Week 9 Back to Plato


Eros and the Greek tradition

Men and Women; Souls and Bodies

(Pro)creation and contemplation

Reason and Madness


Plato, Symposium & Phaedrus

Halperin, Why is Diotima a Woman? (BS)

Nussbaum, The Speech of Alcibiades

Nussbaum, This story isn't true: Madness, Reason, and Recantation in the Phaedrus



Week 10 Philosophic Eros


Conjugal Relations

Order, Reason, and Sex

Women and Boys


Xenophon, Oeconomicus (part 1) (part 2)

Plutarch, Advice to the Bride and Groom

Plutarch, Dialogue on Love

Foucault, The household of Isomachus

Brenk, The Drag Down Pulled Up

Foucault, Care of the Self 


Week 11 Greek Romances


Romantic Love and Marriage

Boy Meets Girl


Menander, The Grouch {Dyskolos} (part 1) (part 2)

Longus, Daphnis & Chloe

Winkler, The Education of Chloe

Zeitlin, Poetics of Eros (BS)

Walcot, Romantic Love and True Love



Week 12 Love magic


Eros and violence

Eros and magic


Gager - Erotic magic

Theocritus 2 (GV)

Apuleius, Golden Ass

Faraone, Ancient Greek Love Magic

Winkler, Constraints of Desire


Symposium Assignment due by noon, Friday, April 9



Week 13 Neoplatonic eros


Cosmogonic eros

Bonds of the Cosmos

Power of Eros


Plotinus - excerpts from the Enneads

Chaldaean Oracles and Proclus

Vernant, One, Two, Three ... Eros (BS)

Johnston, Hekate's Top and the Iynx-Wheel



Week 14 Conclusions


Defining Eros

Eros in Literature and Tradition



Plato, Symposium

Halperin, Platonic eros and what men call love

Halperin, Erotics of Narrativity



Take Home Final Exam due before end of finals period