Trending Illustrations: Love and Relationships

Trending Illustrations: Love and Relationships

Ikon Images

From Agape to Xenia: six kinds of love according to the Greeks.

Cards, chocolates and flowers at the ready: couples and hopefuls alike will be gearing up for romance this Valentine’s Day. While others unlucky in romantic love may be feeling a bit more cynical. So, what about the other kinds of love that sustain us? Look no further than the ancient Greeks, who had several words to describe the different kinds of love and relationships in their lives.

Woman opens her heart to man

Stock illustration credit Roger Chouinard

Here, we delve into six of these Greek concepts of love, along with some of our favourite stock images to show how our stunning and evocative images can help you reach your editorial goals.

Whether the thought of Valentine’s Day makes you swoon or scoff, you’re sure to fall for our board showcasing 50 of Ikon’s best hand-picked stock illustrations about love.

Agápē – humanity

Agape is a Greek word, but it is undoubtedly more well known as a Christian concept. This kind of love is an unconditional love, the love of God for humanity and of humanity for God and one another. Christian scholars have written a great deal about agape over the centuries and its underlying message of love for others is also found in many other world religions.

Lots of people hugging to form heart shape

Stock illustration credit Alice Mollon

Large hand with world map opposite to small hand

Stock illustration credit Grundini

It’s a tall order but many think that we can find universal love in any effort - religious or secular - to find our common humanity or look after the wellbeing of others. Working to secure rights for all, volunteering and charitable work are all examples of this kind of love.

Érōs – passion

Eros is, of course, sensual love. This passion is personified in the god Eros with his bow and arrows, cherubic face, and wings and is still a symbol for romantic love today. But getting struck by his arrow wasn’t always a good thing according to the Greeks, who generally considered eros to be a sort of madness. This is no surprise as Eros kept company with Pothos (longing) and Himeros (desire), as anyone who has ever felt lovesick knows all too well.

Lots of people hugging to form heart shape

Stock illustration credit Katherine Asher

Two men kissing

Stock illustration credit Annalisa Grassano

Eros is not all about sexual passion, though. Philosophers in both ancient and modern times have described the concept more widely. Plato saw eros was a way of seeking truth through beauty. Meanwhile Sigmund Freud believed that eros, or the ‘life drive’, gives us not only physical desires but the desire to work productively and creatively, too.

Philía – friendship

"No one would choose to live without friends even if he had all the other goods," wrote ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle, who clearly believed in the importance of friendship. And it’s thanks to him that we have our understanding of philia, the love of mutual friendship. Aristotle believed a solitary life was hard and today’s science backs this up, showing that friendship is associated with higher life satisfaction and better mental and physical health.

But beyond that, friendship is fun - we delight in sharing our favourite activities with our friends and spending time with those we get on with.

Friends having a meal together

Stock illustration credit Drew Bardana

Bare feet in row with others wearing different footwear

Stock illustration credit Silvia Stetcher

If you want to celebrate your friends this year, why not consider Galentine’s Day on 13 February? Originating in a 2010 episode of popular television show Parks and Recreation, Galentine’s Day celebrations honour female friendships and are increasing in popularity every year. And we hope that there’s an equally fun celebration for male friendships soon.

Philautía – self

Arguably, the most important relationship in your life is often the one you have with yourself. This is the concept of Philautía or self-love. Like most things, though, it can be good or bad. The Greeks saw two sides to Philautía: self-compassion and self-obsession.

Woman using aromatherapy wearing face mask

Stock illustration credit Valero Doval

Young man on bicycle looking ahead at sun over mountain range

Stock illustration credit Kerry Hyndman

Self-love has long been conflated with selfishness, particularly by the western church. Pride, after all, is the first of the seven deadly sins. More recently though, we have begun to focus again on the good sides of self-love and its positive impact on mental health. Self-love has also been used as a tool for empowerment among groups such as Black Americans, the LGBTQ+ community and feminists to combat stigma and marginalisation.

Storgē – caring

Storge reflects the natural love and affection between family members, particularly in the parent and child relationship and between long-term married couples. Who makes up a family is different for everyone, and storge love can apply to all relationships where we feel the need to care for someone. And, yes, this includes our pets!

Father hugging young daughter

Stock illustration credit Malin Rosenqvist

Small boy loving pet dog

Stock illustration credit Benjamin Baxter

If a romcom is on your Valentine’s Day agenda, look out for another form of storge love we’re all familiar with: when long-term friends turn into lovers.

Xenía – hospitality

The concept of xenia - ‘guest love’ - was extremely important to the ancient Greeks, so much so that hospitality was seen as a moral obligation and was embodied in Zeus, king of the Greek gods. Hosts were to provide guests with necessities and creature comforts while guests were expected to be courteous and non-threatening, providing news and stories for their hosts. Greek mythology is littered with cautionary tales of what happens to those who violate xenia. The entire Trojan War, as written in the Iliad, stems from such an act: the abduction of Helen from her home by guest Paris.

Woman pouring tea above cupcakes

Stock illustration credit Jane Laurie

Woman and two men on a cocktail party

Stock illustration credit Otto Steininger

While we don’t have quite the same understanding of hospitality today, spending time together with a warm welcome, good food and great company is surely one way to show love. Be warned though: stealing - literally or figuratively - your host’s wife is probably still considered to be in very poor taste indeed.

We have a great selection of stock illustrations about all the different kinds of love. Don’t forget to check out our specially curated board for Valentine’s Day.

Woman encircled by loving friends and family

Stock illustration credit Trina Dalziel

Or you can click here to take you back through to the search page, for even more stunning stock illustrations on the subject of love, relationships, LGBTQ+, family, caring, community and lots more.

Banner Illustration credit – Christopher Corr.

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