Considered one of the two of Plato’s best dialogues – those two are
of these were written in the middle period – after the early dialogues – when he’s at the height of his thinking
and writing powers. Written roughly 15 years after the death of Socrates – Plato’s account depends very much
on the account of this skinny young man, Aristodemus, who bumps into Socrates and is invited to go with
Socrates. It was written in 385 BC, but the actual events are thought to be around 416. The word Symposium
in Greek means drinking party or banquet – they were usually held in celebration of something. Agathon is
celebrating his play that he produced and won first place for at the theatre of Dionysus.
A symposium would begin in the early evening, you’d be served dinner, and after dinner you would recline in
lounge chairs that have pedestals for drinking cups, etc. The host would hire entertainment – dancers, etc.,
prostitutes, whatever – and they would drink very heavily. Often barley grain and crumbled goat cheese are
added to the wine, so that if you get the munchies, you could get some from the bottom of the cup to eat. As
the night wears on, they would usually get up and have torches lit and go out into the city and sing and try to
get people to join the party. The parties usually lasted till day break.
The subject of the symposium is
, erotic love. It’s applicable to
kind of passionate love – any love
that would cause a person to obsess. (Other terms for love in Greek –
is like a spiritual love, and
is a kind of self-less love. The Latin term,
, is good will, concern, or charity). The book,
by Anders Nygen would be a very good basis for a paper – it traces out beginning with
various meanings of love in human history.
involves a desire to possess something beautiful or good –
love does not desire to possess something, and the object of the love does not need to be beautiful or
good. Nygen quotes Jesus with “I did not come for the saints but the sinners,” etc.
begins in a weird way – some guy is shouting out to Apollodoros – “Is that you? I want you to tell
me about the party.” – Apollodorus says that it happened long ago and was told by Aristodemus to Pheonix
son of Phillip, and Pheonix told Glaucon, and Glaucon told Apollodorus.
Socrates’ speech – he was instructed by Diotima in the ways of love.
So Gods -> Diotima -> Socrates ->
The first dialogue in the book is
– Ion claims he is the best singer of Homer than anyone else in the
earth. He asks Socrates how he gets so inspired by Homer. At first, Ion thinks that he’s studied Homer
in such detail that it’s like a science to him, so maybe it’s a technique. Socrates points out that he’s
studied Hesiod and other poets, but he doesn’t have the same inspiration from Hesiod. So inspiration