In the beginning, humans were androgynous. So says Aristophanes in his fantastical account of the origins of love in Plato’s Symposium.
Not only did early humans have both sets of sexual organs, Aristophanes reports, but they were outfitted with two faces, four hands, and four legs. These monstrosities were very fast – moving by way of cartwheels – and they were also quite powerful. So powerful, in fact, that the gods were nervous for their dominion.
Wanting to weaken the humans, Zeus, Greek king of Gods, decided to cut each in two, and commanded his son Apollo “to turn its face…towards the wound so that each person would see that he’d been cut and keep better order.” If, however, the humans continued to pose a threat, Zeus promised to cut them again – “and they’ll have to make their way on one leg, hopping!”
The severed humans were a miserable lot, Aristophanes says.
“[Each] one longed for its other half, and so they would throw their arms about each other, weaving themselves together, wanting to grow together.”