Love Blows

It was commonplace in Archaic Greek lyric to liken the frenzy of erotic desire to the violence of the wind:

Sappho Fr. 47

Eros shook my core
Like a mountain wind
Slamming into oaks.

Ἔρος δ’ ἐτίναξέ μοι
φρένας, ὠς ἄνεμος κὰτ ὄρος δρύσιν ἐμπέτων.

The metaphor of Eros as wind could be made quite elaborate, and it could be enriched by comparison with a tranquil state of affairs:

Ibycus Fr. 286

The rivers’ streams, in springtime,
Water Cydonian apple trees
Where there’s a pristine maidens’ garden
And the buds on grapevines swell
Under leafy shading shoots.

For me, desire has no season of repose.
Always under fiery lightning flashes
The Thracian North Wind, thanks to Cypris,
Sweeps down black and undaunted
In a scorching frenzy. Violent—
And it devours my heart from the root.

ἦρι μὲν αἵ τε Κυδώνιαι
μηλίδες ἀρδόμεναι ῥοᾶν
ἐκ ποταμῶν, ἵνα Παρθένων
κῆπος ἀκήρατος, αἵ τ᾿ οἰνανθίδες
αὐξόμεναι σκιεροῖσιν ὑφ᾿ ἕρνεσιν
οἰναρέοις θαλέθοισιν· ἐμοὶ δ᾿ ἔρος
οὐδεμίαν κατάκοιτος ὥραν·
†τε† ὑπὸ στεροπᾶς φλέγων
Θρηίκιος Βορέας ἀίσ-
σων παρὰ Κύπριδος ἀζαλέ-
αις μανίαισιν ἐρεμνὸς ἀθαμβὴς
ἐγκρατέως πεδόθεν †λαφύσσει†
ἡμετέρας φρένας.

The association of the erotic with wind persisted into the Hellenistic period, and in the epigram below wind embodies, rather than assails, the lover:

Anonymous (Greek Anthology 5.83)

If only I were wind
And you walked in the sun
Breasts exposed
And received me blowing.

εἴθ᾽ ἄνεμος γενόμην, σὺ δ᾽ ἐπιστείχουσα παρ᾽ ἀυγὰς
στήθεα γυμνώσαις, καί με πνέοντα λάβοις.

Palm tree at the hurricane, Blur leaf cause windy and heavy rain

Larry Benn has a B.A. in English Literature from Harvard College, an M.Phil in English Literature from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School. Making amends for a working life misspent in finance, he’s now a hobbyist in ancient languages and blogs at

Hermolochus (Stobaeus, Extracts 4.34.66)


“Often a terrible wind follows hard after fair-sailing.”

ἀντιπνεῖ δὲ πολλάκις εὐτυχίᾳ δεινά τις αὔρα

Hermolochus just defeated Wikipedia. Stobaeus made the cut, though.

(Am I the only one who loves the sound of ἀντιπνεῖ? Seriously, say it aloud a few times…)

Alcaeus, Fr. 326. 1-4

“I don’t fathom the war of the winds:

how one wave courses from this side

another from that, and the one in the middle

we fall upon in our black ship.”


ἀσυννέτημμι τὼν ἀνέμων στάσιν,

τὸ μὲν γὰρ ἔνθεν κῦμα κυλίνδεται,

τὸ δ’ ἔνθεν, ἄμμες δ’ ὂν τὸ μέσσον

νᾶϊ φορήμμεθα σὺν μελαίναι