SPEECH OF ARISTOPHANES (detail)

”First of all, you must learn about human nature, and what has happened to it.

Long ago, our nature was not the same as it is now but quite different. For one thing, the shape of each human being was rounded whole, with back and sides forming a circle. Each one had four hands and the same number of legs, and two identical faces on a circular neck. They had one head for both the faces, which were turned in opposite directions, four ears, two sets of genitals, with everything else to match. They walked upright, as we do now, in whichever direction they wanted. And when they started to run fast, they were just like tumblers doing cartwheels. They lifted their legs off the ground to carry out a rotation before bringing them back to an upright position, and went bowling along, supported on their eight limbs, and rolling along at high speed.

Secondly, there were three human genders, not just the present two, male and female. There was also a third one, a combination of these two. Its name has survived, though the phenomenon itself has disappeared. Then androgynous was a distinct gender as well as a name, combining male and female. The male was originally the offspring of the sun, the female of the earth, and the gender which was half-and-half was the offspring of the moon, because the moon likewise is half-sun and half-earth. They were circular, both in themselves and in their motion, because of the similarity to their parents. They were remarkable for their strength and vigor, and their ambition led them to make an assault upon the gods.

Zeus and the other gods discussed what to do about them, and couldn’t decide. They couldn’t kill them, doing away with the whole race, as they’d done with giants – striking them with thunderbolts – because the worship and sacrifices they received from men would have been done away with as well. But they couldn’t let them go on behaving outrageously. After much hard thought, Zeus came up with suggestion: I think I have a plan by which human beings could exist but be too weak to carry on their wild behavior. I shall now cut each of them into two; they will be weaker and also more useful to us because there will be more of them. They will walk upright on two legs. If they’re still acting outrageously and they won’t settle down, I’ll cut them in half again and they can go hopping along on one leg…

love, couple, and sea image

Since their original nature had been cut in two, each one longed for its own other half and to unite with it…”

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