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Encyclopedia > Symposium (Plato)
Part of the series on:
The Dialogues of Plato
Early dialogues:
EuthyphroFirst Alcibiades
Hippias MajorHippias Minor
Transitional & middle dialogues:
Menexenus – MenoPhaedo
Later middle dialogues:
The RepublicPhaedrus
Late dialogues:
The SophistThe Statesman
Of doubtful authenticity:
MinosRival Lovers
Second AlcibiadesTheages
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The Symposium is a philosophical dialogue written by Plato sometime after 385 BC. It is a discussion on the nature of love, taking the form of a series of speeches, both satirical and serious, given by a group of men at a symposium or drinking party at the house of the tragedian Agathon at Athens. Image File history File links Broom_icon. ... Image File history File links Plato-raphael. ... (The) Apology (of Socrates) is Platos version of the speech given by Socrates as he defends himself against the charges of being a man who corrupted the young, did not believe in the gods, and created new deities. Apology here has its earlier meaning (now usually expressed by the... The Charmides (Greek: ) is a dialogue of Plato, discussing the nature and utility of temperance. ... The Crito (IPA [kriːtɔːn]; in English usually [ˈkɹiːtɘʊː]) is a short but important dialogue by the ancient Greek philosopher, Plato. ... Euthyphro is one of Platos early dialogues, dated to after 399 BC. Shortly before the Greek philosopher Socrates is due to appear in court, he encounters a man, Euthyphro, who has gained the reputation of being a religious expert. ... The First Alcibiades or Alcibiades I is a dialogue featuring Alcibiades in conversation with Socrates, ascribed to Plato, but his authorship is doubtful, though probably written by someone within a century or two of Platos other works. ... Hippias Major (or What is Beauty) is one of the dialogues of Plato. ... Hippias Minor (or On Lying) is one of Platos early dialogues, written while the author was still young, although the exact date has not been established. ... Platos Ion aims to give an account of poetry in dialogue form. ... Laches, also known as Courage, is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato, and concerns the topic of courage. ... Lysis is one of the socratic dialogues written by Plato and discusses the nature of friendship. ... Cratylus (Κρατυλος) is the name of a dialogue by Plato, written in approximately 360 BC. In the dialogue, Socrates is asked by two men, Cratylus and Hermogenes, to advise them whether names are conventional or natural, that is, whether language is a system of arbitrary signs or whether words have an... Euthydemus (Euthydemos), written 380 BCE, is dialogue by Plato which satirizes the logical fallacies of the Sophists. ... Gorgias is an important dialogue in which Plato sets the rhetorician, whose specialty is persuasion, in opposition to the philosopher, whose specialty is dissuasion, or refutation. ... The Menexenus (Greek: Μενέξενоς) is a Socratic dialogue of Plato, traditionally included in the seventh tetralogy along with the Greater and Lesser Hippias and the Ion. ... Meno is a Socratic dialogue written by Plato. ... Platos Phaedo (IPA: , Greek: Φαίδων, Phaidon) is one of the great dialogues of his middle period, along with the Republic and the Symposium. ... Protagoras is the title of one of Platos dialogues. ... The Republic (Greek: ) is a Socratic dialogue by Plato, written approximately 360 BC. It is an influential work of philosophy and political theory, and perhaps Platos best known work. ... The Phaedrus, written by Plato, is a dialogue between Platos main protagonist, Socrates, and Phaedrus, an interlocutor in several dialogues. ... Parmenides is one of the dialogues of Plato. ... The Theætetus (Θεαίτητος) is one of Platos dialogues concerning the nature of knowledge. ... Timaeus (Greek: Τίμαιος, Timaios) is a theoretical treatise of Plato in the form of a Socratic dialogue, written circa 360 BC. The work puts forward speculation on the nature of the physical world. ... Critias, a dialogue of Platos, speaks about a variety of subjects. ... The Sophist (Greek: Σοφιστής) is one of the late Dialogues of Plato, which was written much more lately than the Parmenides and the Theaetetus, probably in 360 BC.After he criticized his own Theory of Forms in the Parmenides, Plato proceeds in the Sophist with a new conception of the Forms... The Statesman, or Politikos in Greek and Politicus in Latin, is a four part dialogue contained within the work of Plato. ... Philebus is among the last of the late Socratic dialogues of the ancient Greek philosopher Plato. ... The Laws is Platos last and longest dialogue. ... The Clitophon, a dialogue generally ascribed to Plato, is significant for focusing on Socrates role as an exhorter of other people to engage in philosophic inquiry. ... The Epinomis is a dialogue in the style of Plato, but today considered spurious by most scholars. ... The Epistles of Plato are a series of thirteen letters traditionally included in the Platonic corpus. ... The Hipparchus is a dialogue attributed to the classical Greek philosopher and writer Plato. ... Minos is one of the dialogues of Plato, featuring Socrates and a Companion. ... Rival Lovers (Greek: ) is a Socratic dialogue included in the traditional corpus of Platos works, though its authenticity has been doubted. ... The Second Alcibiades or Alcibiades II is a dialogue ascribed to Plato, featring Alcibiades conversing with Socrates, but there is a general consensus amongst scholars that this text is spurious, though again probably written by someone within a century or two of Platos other works. ... Theages is one of the dialogues of Plato, featuring Demodocus, Socrates and Theages. ... For other uses, see Plato (disambiguation). ... Events February 11 - Oldest Pope elected: Siricius, bishop of Tarragona. ... For other uses, see Love (disambiguation). ... Symposium originally referred to a drinking party (the Greek verb sympotein means to drink together) but has since come to refer to any academic conference, whether or not drinking takes place. ... For other uses, see Tragedy (disambiguation). ... Agathon (c. ... This article is about the capital of Greece. ...

The Symposium was presumably composed around the same time as Plato's Republic and Phaedrus; with those two texts, it is often considered one of Plato's literary high points. Plato takes great care to make the setting realistic and the historical context credible. Although this may be far from its original purpose, the dialogue has been used as a source by historians exploring Athenian social history (particularly the symposium as an institution) and sexual behaviour. Å…Social history is an area of historical study considered by some to be a social science that attempts to view historical evidence from the point of view of developing social trends. ...

The seven participants are:

  • Phaedrus (speech begins 178a):[1] also familiar from Phaedrus and other dialogues, his approach here is literary
  • Pausanias (speech begins 180c): the legal expert
  • Eryximachus (speech begins 186a): a stereotyped physician
  • Aristophanes (speech begins 189c): the famous comic poet seems at first to be "played for laughs", but his origin myth for the three genders (gay male, lesbian, and heterosexual) is both fantastic and serious
  • Agathon (speech begins 195a): a self-consciously poetic approach, which is gently mocked[2] by --
  • Socrates (speech begins 201d): familiar to us as Plato's teacher, in this dialogue he retells religious teachings which he attributes to the priestess or wise woman Diotima of Mantinea
  • Alcibiades (speech begins 214e): reminiscences of his own encounters, amorous or not, with Socrates

The Symposium is a relatively short work, highly readable, witty, and also morally and philosophically profound. The Phaedrus, written by Plato, is a dialogue between Platos main protagonist, Socrates, and Phaedrus, an interlocutor in several dialogues. ... Pausanias, an Athenian of the deme Kerameis, was the lover of the poet Agathon. ... Sketch of Aristophanes Aristophanes (Greek: , ca. ... Greek comedy is the name given to a wide genre of theatrical plays written, and performed, in Ancient Greece. ... An origin belief is any story or explanation that describes the beginnings of humanity, earth, life, and the universe (cosmogony). ... Agathon (c. ... This page is about the Classical Greek philosopher. ... Diotima of Mantinea plays an important role in Platos Symposium. ... Alcibiades Cleiniou Scambonides (Greek: ; English /ælsɪbaɪədi:z/; 450 BC–404 BC), also transliterated as Alkibiades, was a prominent Athenian statesman, orator, and general. ...


The frame narrative

Fifteen years ago the poet Agathon hosted a symposium to celebrate victory in his first dramatic competition, the Dionysia of 416 BCE. A discussion on the theme of love took place at this symposium, a discussion which has since become famous. Aristodemus, who was present, reported the conversation to Phoenix and Apollodorus. Phoenix told it to another, unnamed person; meanwhile Apollodorus checked it with Socrates, who was present. The unnamed person has told it to Glaucon (Plato's brother, an interlocutor in the Republic), but has given him an unreliable version and has left him uncertain how long ago the discussion took place. Glaucon has now obtained a better version from Apollodorus, who is thus primed to tell the story again to a friend. From this point on, he will be quoting Aristodemus (172a-174a). The dramatic date of the frame conversation, in which Apollodorus speaks to his unnamed friend, must be between 401 BCE (fifteen years after Agathon won his prize) and the time when Socrates was tried and executed in 399 BCE. Agathon (c. ... The Dionysia was a large religious festival in ancient Athens in honour of the god Dionysus, the central event of which was the performance of tragedies and comedies. ... Centuries: 6th century BC - 5th century BC - 4th century BC Decades: 460s BC 450s BC 440s BC 430s BC 420s BC - 410s BC - 400s BC 390s BC 380s BC 370s BC 360s BC Years: 421 BC 420 BC 419 BC 418 BC 417 BC - 416 BC - 415 BC 414 BC... Apollodorus was an Athenian grammarian, lived about 140 BC He was a prolific and versatile writer. ... This page is about the Classical Greek philosopher. ... Glaucon (bef. ... Plato. ... Events Yazdegerd I becomes king of Persia November 27 - St. ...

At one level, since this is among the earliest written examples of the genre of philosophical dialogue, Plato appears to use the frame narrative to persuade the reader of the authenticity of what follows. He tries hard to achieve verisimilitude -- and it hardly works unless people in Athens really did transmit such discussions and took the trouble to search out alternative versions. These opening pages of the Symposium are the best description in any ancient Greek source of the ramifications of an oral tradition.[3] Oral tradition or oral culture is a way of transmitting history, literature or law from one generation to the next in a civilization without a writing system. ...

At another level, authenticity seems to be the last thing Plato wants. He has set up a multitude of layers between the original symposium and his written narrative: he heard it fourth-hand (if he is Apollodorus's friend), so it comes to us fifth-hand. In addition, the story Socrates narrates was told to Socrates by Diotima, creating one more layer between the reader and the philosophic path that Socrates traces. No reader can easily judge how much of the text to attribute to Plato, how much to the oral tradition of the symposium, how much to Socrates and his fellow-celebrants, how much to Diotima. To meet Wikipedias quality standards, this article or section may require cleanup. ...

What happens at the symposium

A fresco taken from the north wall of the Tomb of the Diver (from Paestum, Italy, c. 475 BCE): a symposium scene
A fresco taken from the north wall of the Tomb of the Diver (from Paestum, Italy, c. 475 BCE): a symposium scene

According to Apollodorus, Aristodemus bumps into Socrates one day and is surprised to see him freshly bathed and wearing sandals. Socrates missed the first day of partying at Agathon's house, but is on his way there now and persuades Aristodemus to join him, though uninvited. On the way, however, Socrates falls into some kind of trance, and Aristodemus finds himself entering alone. Socrates finally appears when dinner is half over. His irony is directed at Agathon from the beginning, with a remark about how the poet's wisdom shone out as he gained his poetry prize in front of an audience of 30,000 Greeks (175e). Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (1393x442, 130 KB) Description Description: Ancient Greek same-sex love. ... Image File history File links Download high-resolution version (1393x442, 130 KB) Description Description: Ancient Greek same-sex love. ... For other uses, see Fresco (disambiguation). ... The Tomb of the Diver is an important archaeological monument, found by the Italian archaeologist Mario Napoli, on 3 June 1968, during his excavations of a small necropolis about 1,5 Km south of the Greek city of Paestum in Magna Graecia, now named South Italy . ... Paestum is the classical Roman name of a major Graeco-Roman city in the Campania region of Italy. ... Symposium originally referred to a drinking party (the Greek verb sympotein means to drink together) but has since come to refer to any academic conference, whether or not drinking takes place. ...

Dinner being finished, the symposium proper begins with libations, a hymn and other religious ritual. Pausanias raises the question of how the drinking and entertainment are to be conducted.[4] Eryximachus the doctor (already showing skill at stating the obvious) advises that drunkenness is bad for people, especially those suffering a hangover from the previous night (176d). He recalls reading "a book by a learned man" that sang the praises of salt; since he has read no such praise of Eros (the word means both "love" and "the god of love"), he recommends that they send away the flute-girl and entertain themselves by speaking in turn on this set topic (176a-177c). Socrates supports him, and invites Phaedrus to speak first. Libation scene, Greek red figure cup, c. ... A hymn is a type of song, usually religious, specifically written for the purpose of praise, adoration or prayer, and typically addressed to a god or other religiously significant figure. ... Eros ( érōs) is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. ... This article is about the Greek god Eros. ...

Six relatively formal speeches follow (each representing an intellectual discipline) interspersed by discussion; then a seventh unplanned speech by Alcibiades. Thus the Symposium becomes a dramatized example of a time-honoured motif, seven wise men at dinner.


Phaedrus opens by citing Hesiod, Acusilaus and Parmenides for the claim that Eros is the oldest of the gods, with no parents.[5] Hence the greatness of the benefits he confers, inspiring a lover to earn the admiration of his beloved, as by showing bravery on the battlefield, since nothing shames a man more than to be seen by his beloved committing some inglorious act (178d-179b). "A handful of such men, fighting side by side, would defeat practically the whole world."[6] Lovers may even sacrifice their lives for the beloved: Alcestis was willing to die for her husband Admetus, and the gods rewarded her by allowing her to return from Hades. By contrast, Orpheus made no such sacrifice; he went alive to Hades to find Eurydice, and returned empty-handed. But Achilles fought bravely at the death of his lover Patroclus though he knew that the fight would bring his own death closer; Phaedrus here takes Aeschylus for making Achilles the "lover" (180a), claiming instead that Achilles was the beautiful, still-beardless, younger "beloved" of Patroclus and citing Homer in his support.[7] Roman bronze bust, the so-called Pseudo-Seneca, now identified by some as possibly Hesiod Hesiod (Hesiodos, ) was an early Greek poet and rhapsode, who presumably lived around 700 BC. Hesiod and Homer, with whom Hesiod is often paired, have been considered the earliest Greek poets whose work has survived... Acusilaus or Akousilaos of Argos, son of Cabas or Scabras, was a Greek logographer and mythographer who flourished around 500 BC but whose work survives only in fragments and summaries of individual points. ... Parmenides of Elea (Greek: , early 5th century BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher born in Elea, a Hellenic city on the southern coast of Italy. ... A princess in Greek mythology, Alcestis (might of the home) was known for her love for her husband. ... In Greek mythology, Admetus was a king of Pherae in Thessaly, succeeding his father Pheres after whom the city was named. ... Hades, Greek god of the underworld, enthroned, with his bird-headed staff, on a red-figure Apulian vase made in the 4th century BC. For other uses, see Hades (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Orpheus (disambiguation). ... In Greek mythology, there were several characters named Eurydice (Eurydíkê, Ευρυδίκη). // The most famous was a woman — or a nymph — who was the wife of Orpheus. ... For other uses, see Achilles (disambiguation). ... A cup depicting Achilles bandaging Patroklos arm, by the Sosias Painter. ... This article is about the ancient Greek playwright. ... For other uses, see Achilles (disambiguation). ...

Phaedrus concludes his short speech in proper rhetorical fashion, reiterating his statements that love is one of the most ancient gods, the most honored, and the most powerful in helping men gain honor and blessedness.


Pausanias, the legal expert of the group, begins by taking Phaedrus up on his chosen examples (180c), asserting that the love that deserves attention is not the kind associated with Aphrodite Pandemos (Aphrodite common to the whole city) whose object may equally be a woman or a boy, but that of Aphrodite Urania (Heavenly Aphrodite), which "springs entirely from the male" and is "free from wantonness";[8] the object of this kind of love is not a child, but one who has begun to display intelligence and is close to growing a beard (181e). The Birth of Venus, (detail) by Sandro Botticelli, 1485 For other uses, see Aphrodite (disambiguation). ...

Pausanias claims that Elis and Boeotia are inarticulate regions that have nothing to say against pedophilia (182a-b); Ionia and other regions think it is disgraceful (182b-c), but they live under despots and think no more of philosophy and sport than they do of love. Pausanias then launches into a confusing discussion of Athenian law regarding pederasty. He says that Athens' code is not easy to understand, but claims that it cheers on the lover, so long as he does not pursue the boy in secret and does not rush him into it. He says you would never know that the law explicitly approves the lover's conduct by the way fathers behave when they get wind of the fact that some older man is sniffing around his son, or by the way the boy's playmates tease him about having a lover. He adds that these contradictions are easily explained (183d). Elis, or Eleia (Greek, Modern: Ήλιδα Ilida, Ancient/Katharevousa: Ήλις, also Ilis, Doric: Άλις) is an ancient district within the modern prefecture of Ilia. ... Boeotia or Beotia (//, (Greek Βοιωτια; see also list of traditional Greek place names) was the central area of ancient Greece. ... Location of Ionia Ionia (Greek Ιωνία; see also list of traditional Greek place names) was an ancient region of southwestern coastal Anatolia (in present-day Turkey, the region nearest İzmir,) on the Aegean Sea. ...

Pausanias says that Athenian law makes a firm distinction between the lover who should be encouraged by the boy and the lover who should be discouraged. He says that when a boy surrenders to sex out of hope for money, political favors, or in a cowering fear that he will suffer abuse (a beating?) from the lover, his surrender is contemptible (184b). Only when the boy is hoping to become wise and virtuous is his surrender to the older man not offensive to human decency. Pausanias thinks that the law addresses itself to children and their "motives" for surrendering to adults. He says that a boy who is duped is no fool, but has shown himself to be one "who will do anything for the sake of virtue" (184e-185b).


Eryximachus ends up speaking instead of Aristophanes, who does not recover from his hiccups soon enough to take his place in the sequence. Eryximachus' speech is pompous pedantry. He claims that love "governs" medicine, gymnastics and astronomy (187a), and states that its principle "regulates" hot and cold and wet and dry and that this results in health (188a). This is the least discussed of the seven speeches, but not without good reason.


Aristophanes was the greatest comic poet of Athens, a brilliant and beloved playwright who ruled the comic stage in the late fifth and early fourth century BCE. He had rivals, but none of their plays have survived. The fact that Plato places him in this group is one of the most curious things about the Symposium, since Aristophanes ridiculed Agathon, the host of the party, in his play Thesmophoriazusae, and also made fun of Socrates. The Clouds, staged c. 423 BCE, presents Socrates as a cult master and director of a ridiculous phrontisterion ("thinking-shop") wherein one learns "immoral logic". Aristophanes mentions Socrates disparagingly in at least two other plays as well; the antagonism, according to some interpretations, was not benign. Thesmophoriazusae (Women Celebrating the Thesmophoria) is a comedy written by the Greek playwright Aristophanes. ... The Clouds (Nephelae,Νεφέλαι) is a comedy written by the Ancient Greek playwright Aristophanes lampooning the sophists and the intellectual trends of late fifth-century Athens. ...

Not only did Aristophanes have nothing good to say about Socrates, Socrates has nothing good to say about Aristophanes. In Plato's Apology of Socrates he specifically blames Aristophanes for starting the slander that led to his death (Apology 18-19). In what seems to be a complex literary "tit-for-tat," Plato in the Republic depicts Socrates outlawing such people as Aristophanes who write things that cause people to injure themselves by laughing.[9] (The) Apology (of Socrates) is Platos version of the speech given by Socrates as he defends himself against the charges of being a man who corrupted the young, did not believe in the gods, and created new deities. Apology here has its earlier meaning (now usually expressed by the... The Republic (Greek: ) is an influential work of philosophy and political theory by the Greek philosopher Plato, written in approximately 360 BC. It is written in the format of a Socratic dialogue. ...

Before launching his speech, Aristophanes warns the group that his eulogy to love may be more absurd than funny. His speech is an explanation of why people in love say they feel "whole" when they have found their love partner. It is, he says, because in primal times people were globular spheres who wheeled around like clowns doing cartwheels (190a). There were three sexes: the all male, the all female, and the "androgynous," who was half man, half woman. The creatures tried to scale the heights of heaven and planned to set upon the gods (190b-c). Zeus thought about just blasting them to death with thunderbolts, but did not want to deprive himself of their devotions and offerings, so he decided to cripple them by chopping them in half.

After chopping the people in half, Zeus turned half their faces around and pulled the skin tight and stitched it up to form the belly button. Ever since that time, people run around saying they are looking for their other half because they are really trying to recover their primal nature. He says some people think homosexuals are shameless, but he thinks they are the bravest, most manly of all (192a), and that heterosexuals are mostly adulterous men and unfaithful wives (191e).

Aristophanes ends on a cautionary note. He says that men should fear the gods, and not neglect to worship them, lest they wield the axe again and we have to go about with our noses split apart (193a).


Agathon complains that the previous speakers have made the mistake of congratulating mankind on the blessing of love, that they have failed to give due praise to the god himself (194e). He says that love is the youngest of gods and is an enemy of old age (195b). He says that the god of love shuns the very sight of senility and clings to youth. Agathon says love is dainty, and likes to tiptoe through the flowers and never settles where there is no "bud to bloom" (196b). It would seem that none of the characters at the party, with the possible exception of Agathon himself, would be candidates for love's companionship. Socrates, probably the oldest member of the party, seems certain to be ruled out. He also implies that love creates justice, moderation, courage, and wisdom. These are the cardinal values within ancient Greece and Agathon's purpose here is most likely to add significance to his view on love.


Socrates begins his speech by complaining that Agathon's speech was at first nothing special, but that he soon launched into a poetic flight that caught him spellbound. Before beginning his own talk, Socrates grills Agathon with a bit of his dialectic. He asks him such penetrating questions as "Is love of somebody or nobody?" (199d).

Socrates says that he learned his love-lessons from the oracle Diotima (lit. "honored by god") from Mantinea, who was deeply versed in the deep truths about love, and besides this, through her magic, brought about a postponement of the plague in Athens for ten years (201d). She gives Socrates a genealogy of love, that he is the son of "resource and need." In her view, love is not delicate and lovely, as Agathon just averred, but beggarly and harsh. He sleeps in doorways, and is a master of artifice and deception (203d). The beloved boy is delicate, she says, but the old lover looking for the boy is poor but resourceful and manipulative (204c). Mantinea is a city in the central Peloponnese that was the site of two significant battles in Classical Greek history. ...

Diotima's most important thesis about love is that it is really a longing for immortality (207a,b). The instinct to breed that you observe in animals and men who are attracted to women is an expression of this. In full professorial style (208c) she said that every one of us longs for endless fame, but that wise people know the difference between bodily and spiritual procreancy (209a). Socrates learns from a woman, then, that it is far better for men and boys to give birth to ideas than for men and women to give birth to children. Physical love is second to non-physical love, because the goal of non-physical love is to give birth to ideas.

Socrates uses a ladder metaphor to express the steps taken in the pursuit for real love. First, one has a physical attraction to one body and then multiple bodies, but then he comes to realize that the real love is in the intellectual realm because while the body decays over time, the mind never perishes. Ultimate love is true virtue says Socrates.

Socrates takes his seat amid applause from everyone except Aristophanes, who wants to comment on a critical statement made by Socrates, but is interrupted by Alcibiades' startling arrival, together with his komastic crowd. Komos or Chorus?, revellry scene from an Attic Komast cup, ca. ...



Like Agathon and Aristophanes, Alcibiades is a real historical character from ancient Athens. By his own confession, he is as handsome as handsome gets, but according to historical records, he was once exiled from Athens as a traitor. Image File history File links Alcibiades. ... Image File history File links Alcibiades. ...

Finding himself seated on a couch with Socrates and Agathon, Alcibiades exclaims that Socrates, again, has managed to sit next to the most handsome man in the room, Agathon; that he is always doing such things (213c). Socrates asks Agathon to protect him from the jealous rage of Alcibiades, asking Alcibiades to forgive him (213d). Alcibiades says he will never do such a thing (213e). Wondering why everyone seems sober, Alcibiades is informed of the night's agreement (213e, c); after saying his drunken ramblings should not be placed next to the sober orations of the rest, and that he hopes no one believed a word Socrates said, it is decided that Alcibiades will offer an encomium to Socrates (214c-e).

Alcibiades begins by comparing Socrates to a statue of Silenus; the statue is ugly and hollow, and inside is full of tiny golden statues of the gods (215a-b). He then compares Socrates to the satyr[10] Marsyas; Socrates, however, needs no flute to "cast his spells" upon people as Marsyas did -- he needs only his words (215b-d). In Greek mythology, sileni were a race of half-horse, half-humans, unlike the satyrs, who were half-goat. ... A bald, bearded, horse-tailed satyr balances a winecup on his erect penis, a trick worthy of note, on an Attic red-figured psykter, ca. ... In Greek mythology, Marsyas was a satyr who challenged Apollo to a contest of music. ...

Alcibiades states that when he hears Socrates speak, he is beside himself; the words of Socrates are the only words that have ever upset him so deeply that his soul started to protest that his own aristocratic life was no better than a slave's (215e). Socrates is the only man who has ever made Alcibiades feel shame (216b). Yet all this is the least of it (216c)- he is crazy about beautiful boys, following them around in a daze (216d). Most people, he continues, don't know what Socrates is like on the inside:

But once I caught him when he was open like Silenus' statues, and I had a glimpse of the figures he keeps hidden within: they were so godlike -- so bright and beautiful, so utterly amazing -- that I no longer had a choice: I just had to do whatever he told me.
Symposium 216e-217a.

Alcibiades thought at the time that what Socrates really wanted was him, and by letting Socrates have his way with him, he would teach Alcibiades everything he knew (217a). Yet Socrates made no moves, and Alcibiades began to pursue Socrates "as if I were the lover and he my young prey!" (217c). When Socrates continually rebuffs this pursuit, Alcibiades explains to Socrates that he is the only worthy lover he has ever had; that nothing is more important to him than becoming the best man he can be, and Socrates is better fit to help him reach that aim than anyone else (219c-d). Socrates responds that if he does have this power to make Alcibiades a better man inside of him, why would he exchange his true beauty for the image of beauty that Alcibiades would provide, and furthermore, Alcibiades may be wrong, and Socrates may be of no use to him (218e-219a). He then slipped under Socrates' cloak and spent the night beside him; yet, to the deep humiliation of Alcibiades, Socrates made no sexual attempt (219b-d).

He goes on to detail the virtue of Socrates, his valor in battle being incomparable, unaffected by cold or fear, even on one occasion saving Alcibiades' life and then refusing to accept honors for it (219e-221c). Socrates, he concludes, is completely unique in his ideas and accomplishments, unrivaled by any man from the past or present (221c); but be warned: Socrates may present himself as your lover, but before you know it you will have fallen in love with him.

The conclusion

Despite this speech, Agathon then lies down next to Socrates, much to the chagrin of Alcibiades. The symposium dissolves as a large drunken group shows up and comes in, with many characters leaving; Socrates, however, stays awake till dawn. As Aristodemus awakes and leaves the house Socrates is proclaiming to Agathon and Aristophanes that a skillful playwright should be able to write comedy as well as tragedy (223d). When Agathon and Aristophanes fall asleep, Socrates leaves, walks to the Lyceum to wash, and spends the rest of the day as he always did, not sleeping until that evening (223d). A Lyceum can be an educational institution (often a school of secondary education in Europe), or a public hall used for cultural events like concerts. ...


In the constant interplay between lover and beloved, and especially in the role reversal executed by Alcibiades in his pursuit of Socrates, the relation of lover to beloved is not altogether clear. The numerous convoluted relationships of the characters also must be examined. Phaedrus and Eryximachus are lovers, as are Agathon and Pausanias; the relationship of Alcibiades and Socrates is examined in detail, and they both seem to be pursuing Agathon.[11] It does seem, however, that Plato regards love as the essential ingredient of the philosophic path and the search for wisdom; that despite the importance of loving and helping those younger than you, it is in coming to the form of beauty that one finds wisdom, and no one, not even Socrates, can give you wisdom. It has been suggested that this article be split into multiple articles accessible from a disambiguation page. ...

Authors and works cited in the Symposium

Acusilaus or Akousilaos of Argos, son of Cabas or Scabras, was a Greek logographer and mythographer who flourished around 500 BC but whose work survives only in fragments and summaries of individual points. ... This article is about the ancient Greek playwright. ... A statue of Euripides. ... In Greek mythology, Melanippe referred to several different people. ... Roman bronze bust, the so-called Pseudo-Seneca, now identified by some as possibly Hesiod Hesiod (Hesiodos, ) was an early Greek poet and rhapsode, who presumably lived around 700 BC. Hesiod and Homer, with whom Hesiod is often paired, have been considered the earliest Greek poets whose work has survived... Theogony (Greek: Θεογονία, theogonia = the birth of God(s)) is a poem by Hesiod describing the origins and genealogies of the gods of the ancient Greeks, composed circa 700 BC. The title of the work comes from the Greek words for god and seed. // Hesiods Theogony is a large-scale... For other uses, see Homer (disambiguation). ... The Cypria is one of the lost sections of the eight volume cycle that told the full story of the Trojan War. ... title page of the Rihel edition of ca. ... Parmenides of Elea (Greek: , early 5th century BC) was an ancient Greek philosopher born in Elea, a Hellenic city on the southern coast of Italy. ... Prodicus of Ceos (Greek: Πρόδικος Pródikos, (c. ...

See also

Platonic love in its modern popular sense is an affectionate relationship into which the sexual element does not enter, especially in cases where one might easily assume otherwise. ... Xenophons Symposium records the discussion of Socrates and company at a dinner given by Callias for the youth Autolycus. ... Socrate is a work for voice and small orchestra (or piano) by Erik Satie. ... The Origin is a song from the stage show and film of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. ... Hedwig and the Angry Inch is an off-Broadway musical theater play (premiered 1998) and film (premiered 2001) about a fictional rock and roll band fronted by an East German transgender singer. ... Symposium originally referred to a drinking party (the Greek verb sympotein means to drink together) but has since come to refer to any academic conference, whether or not drinking takes place. ... Alcibiades and friend Victorian view of interaction between a Greek adolescent and an adult male Lawrence Alma-Tadema, Phidias Showing the Frieze of the Parthenon to his Friends (1868) Greek love is a relatively modern coinage (almost universally placed within quotation marks) intended as a euphemistic reference to male-to...

External links

Greek Wikisource has original text related to this article:
  • English translation of Plato's Symposium by Benjamin Jowett: copy at Internet Classics Archive and another at University of Adelaide with Jowett's introduction
  • Longer summary of the Symposium by Glyn Hughes
  • PP Sym.172a English translation by Harold N. Fowler linked to commentary by R. G. Bury and others
  • Angela Hobbs' podcast interview on Erotic Love in the Symposium [2]

Image File history File links Wikisource-logo. ... The original Wikisource logo. ... Benjamin Jowett (April 15, 1817 – October 1, 1893) was an English scholar and theologian, Master of Balliol College, Oxford. ... The Perseus Project is a digital library project of Tufts University that assembles digital collections of humanities resources. ...


  1. ^ References to the text of the Symposium are given in Stephanus pagination, the standard reference system for Plato. This numbering system will be found in the margin of nearly all editions and translations.
  2. ^ Rebecca Stanton notes a deliberate blurring of genre boundaries here ("Aristophanes gives a tragic speech, Agathon a comic/parodic one") and that Socrates later urges a similar coalescence: [1].
  3. ^ (Dalby 2006).
  4. ^ It seems that this was not for the host to decide; Agathon does not even contribute to the conversation at this point.
  5. ^ He ignores the alternative view, already widespread, that Eros was the child of Aphrodite. Thus, throughout, Phaedrus selects versions and interpretations of myth to suit his argument.
  6. ^ Translation by W. Hamilton.
  7. ^ Yet the Iliad says that they were about the same age (Iliad 23.102) and it is evident that both had been fighting at Troy for ten years by this time. No one objects to Phaedrus's wild claim.
  8. ^ Translation by W. Hamilton.
  9. ^ Republic 3.388e. Socrates would also forbid actors to imitate drunks who revile and lampoon each other (Republic 3.396).
  10. ^ Satyrs were often portrayed with the sexual appetite, manners, and features of wild beasts, and often with a large erection.
  11. ^ Cooper, p. 457.
  12. ^ Cited by Pausanias for the assertion that Achilles was Patroclus's older lover.
  13. ^ Perhaps (see note above).

Stephanus pagination is the system of reference and organisation used in the works of Plato. ... The Birth of Venus, (detail) by Sandro Botticelli, 1485 For other uses, see Aphrodite (disambiguation). ... title page of the Rihel edition of ca. ... For other uses of Troy or Ilion, see Troy (disambiguation) and Ilion (disambiguation). ... For other uses, see Achilles (disambiguation). ... A cup depicting Achilles bandaging Patroklos arm, by the Sosias Painter. ...


Current texts, translations, commentaries

  • Plato, The Symposium, Greek text with commentary by Kenneth W. Dover. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1980. ISBN 0521295238.
  • Plato, The Symposium, trans. with commentary by R. E. Allen. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1993. ISBN 0300056990.
  • Plato, The Symposium, trans. by Christopher Gill. London: Penguin, 2003. ISBN 0140449272.
  • Plato, The Symposium, trans. by Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff (from Plato: Complete Works, ed. by John M. Cooper, pp. 457-506. ISBN 0-87220-349-2); available separately: ISBN 0872200760.
  • Plato, The Symposium, trans. by Robin Waterfield. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998. ISBN 0192834274.
  • Plato, The Symposium, trans. by Avi Sharon. Newburyport, MA: Focus Publishing, 1998. ISBN 0941051560.
  • Plato, The Symposium, trans. by Allan Bloom and Seth Benardete. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001. ISBN 0226042758.
  • Plato, The Symposium, trans. by Percy Bysshe Shelley, Provincetown, Pagan Press, 2001, ISBN 0-943742-12-0.
  • Plato, The Symposium, Greek text with trans. by Tom Griffith. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1989. ISBN 0-520-06695-2.

Christopher Gill (born October 28, United Kingdom. ... Robin A. H. Waterfield is a writer and translator currently residing in Greece. ...

General bibliography

  • Ruby Blondell, Luc Brisson and others, Plato's Symposium: Issues in Interpretation and Reception. Center for Hellenic Studies, 2007. ISBN 0674023757.
  • Dalby, Andrew (2006), written at New York, London, Rediscovering Homer, Norton, ISBN 0393057887
  • Richard Hunter, Plato's Symposium (Oxford Approaches to Classical Literature). Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004. ISBN 0195160800.
  • Plato, The Symposium, trans. by W. Hamilton. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1951.
  • Suzanne Lilar, Le Couple (1963), Paris, Grasset; Translated as Aspects of Love in Western Society in 1965, with a foreword by Jonathan Griffin, New York, McGraw-Hill, LC 65-19851.
  • Suzanne Lilar, A propos de Sartre et de l'amour (1967), Paris, Grasset.

  Results from FactBites:
Bryn Mawr Classical Review 2005.04.54 (2405 words)
Plato's Symposium is the second installment in the series Oxford Approaches to Classical Literature.
19) the symposium is inseparable from eros, taken both as appetitive faculty and as a divine being.
For H. this distinction shows both that Agathon's symposium as told by Plato was a largely fictional event and that in composing the dialogue Plato was himself aware of the "problematic status" of writing an "unchanging account of a quintessentially oral occasion, the elite symposium" (p.
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