Symposium | Study Guide


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(Course Hero, 2017)



Course Hero. "Symposium Study Guide." September 20, 2017. Accessed July 3, 2022.


Course Hero, "Symposium Study Guide," September 20, 2017, accessed July 3, 2022,


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Years Written

c. 380–360 BCE





At a Glance

The Symposium is among the best known of the dozens of dialogues attributed to Plato. In it, the author imagines a gathering of famous Athenian minds, including playwrights, politicians, and the great Greek philosopher Socrates. The subject of their discussion is love: what it is, where it comes from, and how it affects people in their day-to-day lives. For modern readers, the work is valuable on several levels: it offers insights into the life, character, and teachings of Socrates; it gives a glimpse of classical Athenian culture at its height; and provides ample food for thought on one of literature's and life's most enduring themes.

Perspective and Narrator

The Symposium is narrated in the third-person voice by Apollodorus, one of Socrates's followers, who recounts the speeches made at a party to a group of travelers. He uses the past tense.

About the Title

The term symposium (from Greek symposion) may be literally translated as "drinking party," but this translation suggests a rowdier and less formal gathering than the one Plato describes here. Classical Greek symposia were ritualized meet-ups where participants—invariably men of the upper classes—dined together, then offered libations and prayers to the gods before embarking on an evening of drinking, speechmaking, and music appreciation. Plato's dialogue is not the record of an actual symposium, but a fanciful "what-if" in which leading Athenian thinkers, statesmen, and playwrights get together for wine and philosophical discussion.


This study guide and infographic for Plato's Symposium offer summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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