Juliet Lapidos traces the history of "platonic" friendships:
The Florentine scholar Marsilio Ficino coined the term amor platonicus (Latin for "platonic love") in the 15th century. He had in mind Plato's Symposium, in which Socrates describes a possible ascent from base desire to high-minded contemplationa "ladder" with love for a beautiful person at the bottom, and love of Beauty itself at the top. (Step by step: Love of a beautiful body, love for all beautiful bodies, love for the beauty of laws, love for the beauty of knowledge, and the love of Beauty itself.) Ficino Christianized the concept, interpreting the final Beauty as a reference to God. He further asserted that true lovers are drawn to each other's divine souls: "[T]he passion of a lover is not quenched by the mere touch or sight of a body," he wrote, "for it does not desire this or that body, but desires the splendor of the divine light shining through bodies, and is amazed and awed by it."
The Symposium concerns relationships between men, not between men and womenSocrates' "beautiful body" belongs to a young boy. Although Ficino condemned homosexuality as unnatural, he also thought that chaste male companions were best-suited for trips up the heavenly ladder.
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