Reckless Eros, great curse, greatly loathed by men, from you come deadly strifes and grieving and troubles, and countless other pains on top of these swirl up.
—Apollonius of Rhodes1
Eros the Killer
IN 1998, PRESIDENT CLINTON was impeached for actions he allegedly either took or ordered in an attempt to keep secret certain sexual improprieties he had committed with a White House intern. In the reams of analysis that attended the daily drama unfolding in the House of Representatives and then in the Senate trial, our culture's received wisdom and unspoken assumptions about sexuality were readily apparent. Defenders of the president dismissed the sexual activity as a private matter of no concern to the citizenry, with no implications for his political ability to lead the most powerful nation on earth. They dismissed Clinton's critics as repressed Puritans whose morbid fascination with his private behavior revealed their own unresolved sexual conflicts and fears. No one interpreted the affair the way an ancient Greek would have: as an example of the destructive power of Eros, a turbulent and potentially pernicious force that overthrows the mind and judgment and threatens the social and political orders that make human life possible.
To the popular imagination, such a statement might sound odd. Weren't the Greeks those jolly hedonists, those liberated