Finalist in 2015-16 PEOPLE’S BOOK PRIZE for Non-Fiction
“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.
You can read more about Arthur on his author page.
In his preface Ficino introduces his commentary with these words:
“We all love unceasingly in one way or another, but nearly all of us love wrongly. To put us back on the right road, God inspired Diotima, who taught Socrates, who revealed the mystery to Plato, who wrote a book for the Greeks. I have put this book into Latin and into Tuscan, together with my own commentary.”
“There can be no better ‘place’ from which to survey the mysteries of Love than by entering into ourselves and accepting the hand of Marsilio Ficino as our guide. The boundless joy which Ficino promises is not an empty promise! … This book is a translation of Ficino’s Tuscan commentary to Plato’s ‘Symposium’. It sheds immense light on the nature of Plato’s writings and helps to unfold them to us in a way we can understand, and yet his writing demands that we be fully awake and willing to stretch ourselves!”
Elizabeth Medler, Editor of New Vision
“Ficino was anxious to show that there was no separation between religion and philosophy, and that Christianity and Platonism were compatible. Neither was there a sharp distinction between human nature and the supernatural, but a ‘ladder of love’ existed between human love and divine love… A short review cannot do justice to the wide-ranging treatment of love that is dealt with in this work … a valuable addition to the corpus of Ficino’s works translated into English.”
Rosemary Arthur, Faith and Freedom
“If you know nothing about Ficino, then I can think of no better introduction than this, not only written in a language that manages to deal with quite complex ideas, but one that does it so beautifully. Highly recommended.”
From a 5* Amazon Review – Read full review here.
“If you want to know what Love really is, read this book! This is a grand offering of love.”
“Ficino appears to be at one with the mind of Plato. The translator seems to be at one with the mind of Ficino.”
“This is an important work with a salient message for our times. It has been methodically and lovingly translated by Mr Farndell and deserves every accolade.”
Praise for On the Nature of Love by voters in The People’s Book Prize