In Plato's Symposium, Penae // ("deficiency" or "poverty" in Latin) or Penia // (Πενία; "deficiency" or "poverty" in Greek) was the personification of poverty and need. She married Porus at Aphrodite's birthday and was sometimes considered the mother of Eros. Her sisters are Amechania and Ptocheia. Penia was also mentioned by other ancient Greek writers such as Alcaeus (Fragment 364), Theognis (Fragment 1; 267, 351, 649), Aristophanes (Plutus, 414ff), Herodotus, Plutarch (Life of Themistocles), and Philostratus (Life of Apollonius).
Penia was the Goddess of Poverty. Although she was despised by many, she played an important role in teaching mankind to stay humble and productive. In her portrayal by playwright, Aristophanes, Penia attempts to convince two foolish men about the dangers of allowing wealth to be abundant for everybody. She debates the issue of motivation among those who are wealthy; by acquiring a luxurious life, humans will not see a need to put in effort to produce goods and products. She explains that there will come a time where mankind will not be able to purchase much of anything because of low supply, and people will end up working significantly harder than before in order to obtain food or build furniture. She understands that she is resented, but also knows that she is vital for maintaining the continuity of mankind.
In Aristophanes, Plutus, Fragment 415
Khremylos : Does it not seem that everything is extravagance in the world, or rather madness, when you watch the way things go? A crowd of rogues enjoy blessings they have won by sheer injustice, while more honest folks are miserable, die of hunger, and spend their whole lives with you. Now, if Ploutos became clear-sighted again and drove out Penia (Poverty), it would be the greatest blessing possible for the human race.
Penia : Here are two old men, whose brains are easy to confuse, who assist each other to talk rubbish and drivel to their hearts' content. But if your wishes were realized, your profit would be great! Let Ploutos recover his sight and divide his favours out equally to all, and none will ply either trade or art any longer; all toil would be done away with. Who would wish to hammer iron, build ships, sew, turn, cut up leather, bake bricks, bleach linen, tan hides, or break up the soil of the earth with the plough and garner the gifts of Demeter, if he could live in idleness and free from all this work?
Khremylos : What nonsense all this is! All these trades which you just mention will be plied by our slaves.
Penia : Your slaves! And by what means will these slaves be got?
Khremylos : We will buy them.
Penia : But first say, who will sell them, if everyone is rich?
Khremylos : Some greedy dealer from Thessaly-the land which supplies so many.
Penia : But if your system is applied, there won't be a single slave-dealer left. What rich man would risk his life to devote himself to this traffic? You will have to toil, to dig and submit yourself to all kinds of hard labour; so that your life would be more wretched even than it is now.
Khremylos : May this prediction fall upon yourself!
Penia : You will not be able to sleep in a bed, for no more will ever be manufactured; nor on carpets, for who would weave them, if he had gold? When you bring a young bride to your dwelling, you will have no essences wherewith to perfume her, nor rich embroidered cloaks dyed with dazzling colours in which to clothe her. And yet what is the use of being rich, if you are to be deprived of all these enjoyments? On the other hand, you have all that you need in abundance, thanks to me; to the artisan I am like a severe mistress, who forces him by need and poverty to seek the means of earning his livelihood.
Khremylos : And what good thing can you give us, unless it be burns in the bath, and swarms of brats and old women who cry with hunger, and clouds uncountable of lice, gnats and flies, which hover about the wretch's head, trouble him, awake him and say, ‘You will be hungry, but get up!’ Besides, to possess a rag in place of a mantle, a pallet of rushes swarming with bugs, that do not let you close your eyes, for a bed; a rotten piece of matting for a coverlet; a big stone for a pillow, on which to lay your head; to eat mallow roots instead of bread, and leaves of withered radish instead of cake; to have nothing but the cover of a broken jug for a stool, the stave of a cask, and broken at that, for a kneading-trough, that is the life you make for us! Are these the mighty benefits with which you pretend to load mankind?
Penia : It's not my life that you describe; you are attacking the existence beggars lead.
Khremylos : Is Ptokheia (Ptocheia, Beggary) not Penia's (Poverty's) sister?
Penia : Thrasyboulos (Thrasybulus) and Dionysios are one and the same according to you. No, my life is not like that and never will be. The beggar, whom you have depicted to us, never possesses anything. The poor man lives thriftily and attentive to his work: he has not got too much, but he does not lack what he really needs.
Khremylos : Oh! what a happy life, by Demeter! to live sparingly, to toil incessantly and not to leave enough to pay for a tomb!
Penia : That's it! jest, jeer, and never talk seriously! But what you don't know is this, that men with me are worth more, both in mind and body, than with Ploutos. With him they are gouty, big-bellied, heavy of limb and scandalously stout; with me they are thin, wasp-waisted, and terrible to the foe.
Khremylos : No doubt it's by starving them that you give them that waspish waist.
Penia : As for behaviour, I will prove to you that modesty dwells with me and insolence with Ploutos.
Khremylos : Oh the sweet modesty of stealing and burglary.
Penia : Look at the orators in our republics; as long as they are poor, both state and people can only praise their uprightness; but once they are fattened on the public funds, they conceive a hatred for justice, plan intrigues against the people and attack the democracy.
Khremylos : That is absolutely true, although your tongue is very vile. But it matters not, so don't put on those triumphant airs; you shall not be punished any the less for having tried to persuade me that poverty is worth more than wealth.
Penia : Not being able to refute my arguments, you chatter at random and exert yourself to no purpose.
Khremylos : Then tell me this, why does all mankind flee from you?
Penia : Because I make them better. Children do the very same; they flee from the wise counsels of their fathers. So difficult is it to see one's true interest.
In Plato's Symposium
Perhaps one of the most famous mentions is in Plato's Symposium (203b-e), a Socratic Dialogue written by Plato c. 385–370 BC. She is part of a story narrated by Socrates, that he originally heard from a priestess by the name of Diotima. There, Penia appears during a banquet thrown by the gods to celebrate the birth of Aphrodite, in order to beg. In the hope for alleviating her misery, she sleeps with Poros, god of wealth, while he is intoxicated from drinking too much nectar, however, she unintentionally gives birth to Eros, God of Love; who is a combination of both his parents, in that he is forever in need and forever pursuing.