“Ways of falling in love” was one of the topics discussed when nine men gathered at Careggi, outside Florence, on November 7th 1468, to honour Plato’s birthday. After the meal, his Symposium was read, and the guests – now reduced to seven – spoke on the nature of love. Other topics they covered include: “It is easy to fall in love. Falling in love. The kinds of people that make us fall in love. The passions of lovers. What lovers seek. The power of Love. The gifts of Love.”
Ficino, who was also present, recorded what was said, and his report constitutes the text of his commentary to the Symposium. His work was eagerly taken up by court circles throughout Europe and became part of their standard fare for the next two centuries. Writers and artists were inspired by it. The topic of idealised love, so evident in Shakespeare’s plays, immediately resonated with the makers and shakers of many countries, particularly Italy, France, Spain, and England. In more recent times, Ficino’s commentary has exercised the minds of theologians, philosophers, and psychologists.
There is every reason to believe that the influence of this work will continue, for it has rightly been said that love is the secret password to every heart.
On the Nature of Love is a translation of Marsilio Ficino’s commentary. Although Ficino wrote commentaries to all of Platon’s dialogues, he exceptionally wrote two commentaries – Latin and Tuscan – to the Symposium. The Latin version was published in 1484, but the Tuscan version did not appear for another 60 years. The Tuscan version, called Sopra lo Amore, while running broadly parallel to the Latin, presents numerous small divergences from it. A translation of the Latin text, De Amore, was published many years ago and is now difficult to obtain. This edition makes Ficino’s Tuscan version available to English readers for the first time.
Arthur Farndell has been a member of the team of scholars translating The Letters of Marsilio Ficino for over forty years. He has also translated many of Ficino’s other commentaries on Plato’s Dialogues, published by Shepheard-Walwyn in four volumes as All Things Natural, Evermore Shall Be So, Gardens of Philosophy and When Philosophers Rule.
Read more about Arthur on his author page.