David Konstan, In the Orbit of Love. Affection in Ancient Greece and Rome, Oxford University Press, 2018, 232 p.
About the book
This book is about love in the classical world - not erotic passion but the kind of love that binds together intimate members of a family and very close friends, but which may also be extended to include a wider range of individuals for whom we care deeply. The book begins with a discussion of friendship, focusing particularly on the Greek notion that in friendship the identities of two friends all but merge into one. The book then turns to the question of loyalty, and why loyalty seems not to have achieved the status of a virtue in classical thought. The next chapter considers love in relation to generosity, favors, and gratitude. There follows a discussion of grief, which is a symptom of the loss of a loved one. The final chapter treats love as the basis of civic solidarity. In each case, love is at the basis of the relations under examination. In this, the book departs from the more usual analysis of these affective ties in terms of reciprocity, which in one way or another involves an expectation of return. Seen this way, such relationships seem to have a selfish or at least self-centered dimension, as distinct from truly other-regarding attitudes. While it is true that the ancient sources sometimes describe these relations, including friendship, as forms of mutual obligation, there is also a counter strand that emphasizes genuine altruism, and it is this aspect that the book seeks to bring out. A close look at how love drew into its orbit the various relations examined in this book may shed light on some central features not only of ancient habits of thought but also, it is to be hoped, our own.