The Spicy Lotus

July 25, 2010

Symposium, Plato/Socrates

Filed under: Uncategorized — pha9 @ 3:37 pm

The Symposium (Ancient Greek: Συμπόσιον) is a philosophical text by Plato dated c. 385–380 BCE. It concerns itself at one level with the genesis, purpose and nature of love.

Love is examined in a sequence of speeches by men attending a symposium, or drinking party. Each man must deliver an encomium, a speech in praise of Love (Eros). The party takes place at the house of the tragedian Agathon in Athens. Socrates in his speech asserts that the highest purpose of love is to become a philosopher or, literally, a lover of wisdom. The dialogue has been used as a source by social historians seeking to throw light on life in ancient Athens, in particular upon sexual behavior, and the symposium as an institution.



  1. Wow. What is this dialogue? This is totally different than anything I have read before with all of the different speakers at basically the same level and given the same amount of speaking time. This should be interesting.

    Comment by pha — July 31, 2010 @ 3:58 pm | Reply

  2. There’s something odd about a bunch of guys hanging around making speeches about love. I understand from the dialogue that they had all been drinking heavily the night before because of the celebration of Agathon’s victory in the contest, but is this really a good way to spend an evening? Let’s get together and make speeches about love. Hmmm.

    Comment by pha — July 31, 2010 @ 4:03 pm | Reply

  3. You know, I can honestly say that I never understood that Patroclus was the older lover of Achilles. That is why Achilles was so heartbroken when Patroclus died in the Iliad. It all makes sense now that I have unlocked the secret of Greek man/boy love.

    Comment by pha — July 31, 2010 @ 4:11 pm | Reply

  4. Well, I can accept the fact that Agathon and Pausinias are lovers. I get it, they are gay. But it sounds to me like they are in a committed relationship and have been for many years. I’m still not sure about all the guys taking a younger male lover though. I want to be open minded, but to me, I still don’t think that kind of relationship can be healthy. It sounds like pedophilia to me. Well, I guess I’m just a product of my time. It’ also interesting that most of these guys have wives. Did they even talk to their wives or spend time with them? It sounds like they were more involved with their male companions.

    Comment by pha — July 31, 2010 @ 4:17 pm | Reply

  5. Pausanias just made me feel better about the whole thing. He says that love is not only about physical gratification but about the development of virtue. He also denounces people who are only after the physical part and says there should be laws against that.

    Comment by pha — July 31, 2010 @ 4:23 pm | Reply

  6. I know that Aristophanes speech is supposed to be a myth and a metaphor, but I can’t get the image out of my head of androgynous circular people rolling about and fighting with the gods.

    Comment by pha — July 31, 2010 @ 4:29 pm | Reply

  7. The dialogue is back. I feel safer now. Love is.. Live simply.. Live poor… Find wisdom…

    Comment by pha — August 1, 2010 @ 4:17 pm | Reply

  8. I have to admit that it was kind of anti-climactic when Socrates finally gave his speech. First of all, he gives his opinion in the form of Diotima a mysterious woman who simply knows the truth about love. Who is this woman supposed to be? Is this just a way for Socrates to maintain that he actually knows nothing but somehow believes wholeheartedly in what this woman is saying? Is it a metaphor? If so, for what?

    Also, Socrates is basically telling us about the theory of forms once again. It’s not that different from other dialogues and only loosely related to love itself. Love of bodies becomes love of mind and then love of knowledge and we are back to the forms again.

    Comment by pha — August 8, 2010 @ 11:34 pm | Reply

  9. The Alcibiades? The same one that Thucydides wrote about? That is really shocking. To imagine him pining after Socrates after all I have read about him. I never would have thought.

    Comment by pha — August 8, 2010 @ 11:41 pm | Reply

  10. The conclusion kind of bugs me too. It seems like it’s just telling us how great Socrates is. He can withstand cold, hunger, pain, etc. He can even drink a lot without getting drunk. That seems really juvenile to me. I am disappointed.

    Comment by pha — August 8, 2010 @ 11:42 pm | Reply

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