① Comparing Love In Symposium, Phaedrus, Agathon And Socrates
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Plato's Phaedrus -- Brief Introduction
Agathon contributes the distinction between love and the works of love, and also hints incidentally that love is always of beauty, which Socrates afterwards raises into a principle. While the consciousness of discord is stronger in the comic poet Aristophanes, Agathon, the tragic poet, has a deeper sense of harmony and reconciliation, and speaks of Love as the creator and artist.
All the earlier speeches embody common opinions coloured with a tinge of philosophy. They furnish the material out of which Socrates proceeds to form his discourse, starting, as in other places, from mythology and the opinions of men. From Phaedrus he takes the thought that love is stronger than death; from Pausanias, that the true love is akin to intellect and political activity; from Eryximachus, that love is a universal phenomenon and the great power of nature; from Aristophanes, that love is the child of want, and is not merely the love of the congenial or of the whole, but as he adds of the good; from Agathon, that love is of beauty, not however of beauty only, but of birth in beauty.
As it would be out of character for Socrates to make a lengthened harangue, the speech takes the form of a dialogue between Socrates and a mysterious woman of foreign extraction. She elicits the final truth from one who knows nothing, and who, speaking by the lips of another, and himself a despiser of rhetoric, is proved also to be the most consummate of rhetoricians compare Menexenus.
The last of the six discourses begins with a short argument which overthrows not only Agathon but all the preceding speakers by the help of a distinction which has escaped them. Extravagant praises have been ascribed to Love as the author of every good; no sort of encomium was too high for him, whether deserved and true or not. But Socrates has no talent for speaking anything but the truth, and if he is to speak the truth of Love he must honestly confess that he is not a good at all: for love is of the good, and no man can desire that which he has. This piece of dialectics is ascribed to Diotima, who has already urged upon Socrates the argument which he urges against Agathon. That the distinction is a fallacy is obvious; it is almost acknowledged to be so by Socrates himself.
For he who has beauty or good may desire more of them; and he who has beauty or good in himself may desire beauty and good in others. The fallacy seems to arise out of a confusion between the abstract ideas of good and beauty, which do not admit of degrees, and their partial realization in individuals. But Diotima, the prophetess of Mantineia, whose sacred and superhuman character raises her above the ordinary proprieties of women, has taught Socrates far more than this about the art and mystery of love. She has taught him that love is another aspect of philosophy. The same want in the human soul which is satisfied in the vulgar by the procreation of children, may become the highest aspiration of intellectual desire.
As the Christian might speak of hungering and thirsting after righteousness; or of divine loves under the figure of human compare Eph. Here is the beginning of Neoplatonism, or rather, perhaps, a proof of which there are many that the so-called mysticism of the East was not strange to the Greek of the fifth century before Christ. The first tumult of the affections was not wholly subdued; there were longings of a creature moving about in worlds not realized, which no art could satisfy. To most men reason and passion appear to be antagonistic both in idea and fact. The union of the greatest comprehension of knowledge and the burning intensity of love is a contradiction in nature, which may have existed in a far-off primeval age in the mind of some Hebrew prophet or other Eastern sage, but has now become an imagination only.
Yet this 'passion of the reason' is the theme of the Symposium of Plato. And as there is no impossibility in supposing that 'one king, or son of a king, may be a philosopher,' so also there is a probability that there may be some few—perhaps one or two in a whole generation—in whom the light of truth may not lack the warmth of desire. And if there be such natures, no one will be disposed to deny that 'from them flow most of the benefits of individuals and states;' and even from imperfect combinations of the two elements in teachers or statesmen great good may often arise.
Yet there is a higher region in which love is not only felt, but satisfied, in the perfect beauty of eternal knowledge, beginning with the beauty of earthly things, and at last reaching a beauty in which all existence is seen to be harmonious and one. The limited affection is enlarged, and enabled to behold the ideal of all things. And here the highest summit which is reached in the Symposium is seen also to be the highest summit which is attained in the Republic, but approached from another side; and there is 'a way upwards and downwards,' which is the same and not the same in both.
The ideal beauty of the one is the ideal good of the other; regarded not with the eye of knowledge, but of faith and desire; and they are respectively the source of beauty and the source of good in all other things. And by the steps of a 'ladder reaching to heaven' we pass from images of visible beauty Greek , and from the hypotheses of the Mathematical sciences, which are not yet based upon the idea of good, through the concrete to the abstract, and, by different paths arriving, behold the vision of the eternal compare Symp. Greek Republic Greek also Phaedrus.
Under one aspect 'the idea is love'; under another, 'truth. The divine image of beauty which resides within Socrates has been revealed; the Silenus, or outward man, has now to be exhibited. The description of Socrates follows immediately after the speech of Socrates; one is the complement of the other. At the height of divine inspiration, when the force of nature can no further go, by way of contrast to this extreme idealism, Alcibiades, accompanied by a troop of revellers and a flute-girl, staggers in, and being drunk is able to tell of things which he would have been ashamed to make known if he had been sober.
The state of his affections towards Socrates, unintelligible to us and perverted as they appear, affords an illustration of the power ascribed to the loves of man in the speech of Pausanias. He does not suppose his feelings to be peculiar to himself: there are several other persons in the company who have been equally in love with Socrates, and like himself have been deceived by him.
The singular part of this confession is the combination of the most degrading passion with the desire of virtue and improvement. Such an union is not wholly untrue to human nature, which is capable of combining good and evil in a degree beyond what we can easily conceive. In imaginative persons, especially, the God and beast in man seem to part asunder more than is natural in a well-regulated mind.
The Platonic Socrates for of the real Socrates this may be doubted: compare his public rebuke of Critias for his shameful love of Euthydemus in Xenophon, Memorabilia does not regard the greatest evil of Greek life as a thing not to be spoken of; but it has a ridiculous element Plato's Symp. It is also used as a figure of speech which no one interpreted literally compare Xen. Nor does Plato feel any repugnance, such as would be felt in modern times, at bringing his great master and hero into connexion with nameless crimes.
He is contented with representing him as a saint, who has won 'the Olympian victory' over the temptations of human nature. The fault of taste, which to us is so glaring and which was recognized by the Greeks of a later age Athenaeus , was not perceived by Plato himself. We are still more surprised to find that the philosopher is incited to take the first step in his upward progress Symp. The passion of love took the spurious form of an enthusiasm for the ideal of beauty—a worship as of some godlike image of an Apollo or Antinous.
But the love of youth when not depraved was a love of virtue and modesty as well as of beauty, the one being the expression of the other; and in certain Greek states, especially at Sparta and Thebes, the honourable attachment of a youth to an elder man was a part of his education. The 'army of lovers and their beloved who would be invincible if they could be united by such a tie' Symp. It is observable that Plato never in the least degree excuses the depraved love of the body compare Charm. But owing partly to the puzzling nature of the subject these friendships are spoken of by Plato in a manner different from that customary among ourselves.
To most of them we should hesitate to ascribe, any more than to the attachment of Achilles and Patroclus in Homer, an immoral or licentious character. There were many, doubtless, to whom the love of the fair mind was the noblest form of friendship Rep. The existence of such attachments may be reasonably attributed to the inferiority and seclusion of woman, and the want of a real family or social life and parental influence in Hellenic cities; and they were encouraged by the practice of gymnastic exercises, by the meetings of political clubs, and by the tie of military companionship. They were also an educational institution: a young person was specially entrusted by his parents to some elder friend who was expected by them to train their son in manly exercises and in virtue.
It is not likely that a Greek parent committed him to a lover, any more than we should to a schoolmaster, in the expectation that he would be corrupted by him, but rather in the hope that his morals would be better cared for than was possible in a great household of slaves. It is difficult to adduce the authority of Plato either for or against such practices or customs, because it is not always easy to determine whether he is speaking of 'the heavenly and philosophical love, or of the coarse Polyhymnia:' and he often refers to this e.
Indecency was an element of the ludicrous in the old Greek Comedy, as it has been in other ages and countries. But effeminate love was always condemned as well as ridiculed by the Comic poets; and in the New Comedy the allusions to such topics have disappeared. They seem to have been no longer tolerated by the greater refinement of the age. False sentiment is found in the Lyric and Elegiac poets; and in mythology 'the greatest of the Gods' Rep. But the morals of a nation are not to be judged of wholly by its literature.
Hellas was not necessarily more corrupted in the days of the Persian and Peloponnesian wars, or of Plato and the Orators, than England in the time of Fielding and Smollett, or France in the nineteenth century. No one supposes certain French novels to be a representation of ordinary French life. And the greater part of Greek literature, beginning with Homer and including the tragedians, philosophers, and, with the exception of the Comic poets whose business was to raise a laugh by whatever means , all the greater writers of Hellas who have been preserved to us, are free from the taint of indecency. Some general considerations occur to our mind when we begin to reflect on this subject.
We cannot distinguish them, and are therefore unable to part them; as in the parable 'they grow together unto the harvest:' it is only a rule of external decency by which society can divide them. Nor should we be right in inferring from the prevalence of any one vice or corruption that a state or individual was demoralized in their whole character.
Not only has the corruption of the best been sometimes thought to be the worst, but it may be remarked that this very excess of evil has been the stimulus to good compare Plato, Laws, where he says that in the most corrupt cities individuals are to be found beyond all praise. No charge is more easily set going than the imputation of secret wickedness which cannot be either proved or disproved and often cannot be defined when directed against a person of whom the world, or a section of it, is predisposed to think evil. And it is quite possible that the malignity of Greek scandal, aroused by some personal jealousy or party enmity, may have converted the innocent friendship of a great man for a noble youth into a connexion of another kind.
Such accusations were brought against several of the leading men of Hellas, e. Cimon, Alcibiades, Critias, Demosthenes, Epaminondas: several of the Roman emperors were assailed by similar weapons which have been used even in our own day against statesmen of the highest character. It is likely that every religion in the world has used words or practised rites in one age, which have become distasteful or repugnant to another. We cannot, though for different reasons, trust the representations either of Comedy or Satire; and still less of Christian Apologists.
Such we may believe to have been the tie which united Asophychus and Cephisodorus with the great Epaminondas in whose companionship they fell Plutarch, Amat. We must not suspect evil in the hearty kiss or embrace of a male friend 'returning from the army at Potidaea' any more than in a similar salutation when practised by members of the same family. But those who make these admissions, and who regard, not without pity, the victims of such illusions in our own day, whose life has been blasted by them, may be none the less resolved that the natural and healthy instincts of mankind shall alone be tolerated Greek ; and that the lesson of manliness which we have inherited from our fathers shall not degenerate into sentimentalism or effeminacy.
The possibility of an honourable connexion of this kind seems to have died out with Greek civilization. Among the Romans, and also among barbarians, such as the Celts and Persians, there is no trace of such attachments existing in any noble or virtuous form. The character of Alcibiades in the Symposium is hardly less remarkable than that of Socrates, and agrees with the picture given of him in the first of the two Dialogues which are called by his name, and also with the slight sketch of him in the Protagoras. He is the impersonation of lawlessness—'the lion's whelp, who ought not to be reared in the city,' yet not without a certain generosity which gained the hearts of men,—strangely fascinated by Socrates, and possessed of a genius which might have been either the destruction or salvation of Athens.
The dramatic interest of the character is heightened by the recollection of his after history. He seems to have been present to the mind of Plato in the description of the democratic man of the Republic compare also Alcibiades 1. There is no criterion of the date of the Symposium, except that which is furnished by the allusion to the division of Arcadia after the destruction of Mantinea. This took place in the year B.
The Symposium cannot therefore be regarded as a youthful work. As Mantinea was restored in the year , the composition of the Dialogue will probably fall between and Whether the recollection of the event is more likely to have been renewed at the destruction or restoration of the city, rather than at some intermediate period, is a consideration not worth raising. The Symposium is connected with the Phaedrus both in style and subject; they are the only Dialogues of Plato in which the theme of love is discussed at length. In both of them philosophy is regarded as a sort of enthusiasm or madness; Socrates is himself 'a prophet new inspired' with Bacchanalian revelry, which, like his philosophy, he characteristically pretends to have derived not from himself but from others.
The Phaedo also presents some points of comparison with the Symposium. For there, too, philosophy might be described as 'dying for love;' and there are not wanting many touches of humour and fancy, which remind us of the Symposium. But while the Phaedo and Phaedrus look backwards and forwards to past and future states of existence, in the Symposium there is no break between this world and another; and we rise from one to the other by a regular series of steps or stages, proceeding from the particulars of sense to the universal of reason, and from one universal to many, which are finally reunited in a single science compare Rep.
At first immortality means only the succession of existences; even knowledge comes and goes. Then follows, in the language of the mysteries, a higher and a higher degree of initiation; at last we arrive at the perfect vision of beauty, not relative or changing, but eternal and absolute; not bounded by this world, or in or out of this world, but an aspect of the divine, extending over all things, and having no limit of space or time: this is the highest knowledge of which the human mind is capable. Plato does not go on to ask whether the individual is absorbed in the sea of light and beauty or retains his personality.
Enough for him to have attained the true beauty or good, without enquiring precisely into the relation in which human beings stood to it. That the soul has such a reach of thought, and is capable of partaking of the eternal nature, seems to imply that she too is eternal compare Phaedrus. But Plato does not distinguish the eternal in man from the eternal in the world or in God. He is willing to rest in the contemplation of the idea, which to him is the cause of all things Rep. The Symposium of Xenophon, in which Socrates describes himself as a pander, and also discourses of the difference between sensual and sentimental love, likewise offers several interesting points of comparison.
But the suspicion which hangs over other writings of Xenophon, and the numerous minute references to the Phaedrus and Symposium, as well as to some of the other writings of Plato, throw a doubt on the genuineness of the work. The Symposium of Xenophon, if written by him at all, would certainly show that he wrote against Plato, and was acquainted with his works. Of this hostility there is no trace in the Memorabilia. Such a rivalry is more characteristic of an imitator than of an original writer. The so-called Symposium of Xenophon may therefore have no more title to be regarded as genuine than the confessedly spurious Apology.
There are no means of determining the relative order in time of the Phaedrus, Symposium, Phaedo. The order which has been adopted in this translation rests on no other principle than the desire to bring together in a series the memorials of the life of Socrates. Concerning the things about which you ask to be informed I believe that I am not ill-prepared with an answer. For the day before yesterday I was coming from my own home at Phalerum to the city, and one of my acquaintance, who had caught a sight of me from behind, calling out playfully in the distance, said: Apollodorus, O thou Phalerian Probably a play of words on Greek , 'bald-headed. So I did as I was bid; and then he said, I was looking for you, Apollodorus, only just now, that I might ask you about the speeches in praise of love, which were delivered by Socrates, Alcibiades, and others, at Agathon's supper.
Phoenix, the son of Philip, told another person who told me of them; his narrative was very indistinct, but he said that you knew, and I wish that you would give me an account of them. Who, if not you, should be the reporter of the words of your friend? And first tell me, he said, were you present at this meeting? Your informant, Glaucon, I said, must have been very indistinct indeed, if you imagine that the occasion was recent; or that I could have been of the party. Impossible: I said. Are you ignorant that for many years Agathon has not resided at Athens; and not three have elapsed since I became acquainted with Socrates, and have made it my daily business to know all that he says and does.
There was a time when I was running about the world, fancying myself to be well employed, but I was really a most wretched being, no better than you are now. I thought that I ought to do anything rather than be a philosopher. In our boyhood, I replied, when Agathon won the prize with his first tragedy, on the day after that on which he and his chorus offered the sacrifice of victory. Then it must have been a long while ago, he said; and who told you—did Socrates? No indeed, I replied, but the same person who told Phoenix;—he was a little fellow, who never wore any shoes, Aristodemus, of the deme of Cydathenaeum. He had been at Agathon's feast; and I think that in those days there was no one who was a more devoted admirer of Socrates. Moreover, I have asked Socrates about the truth of some parts of his narrative, and he confirmed them.
Then, said Glaucon, let us have the tale over again; is not the road to Athens just made for conversation? And so we walked, and talked of the discourses on love; and therefore, as I said at first, I am not ill-prepared to comply with your request, and will have another rehearsal of them if you like. For to speak or to hear others speak of philosophy always gives me the greatest pleasure, to say nothing of the profit.
But when I hear another strain, especially that of you rich men and traders, such conversation displeases me; and I pity you who are my companions, because you think that you are doing something when in reality you are doing nothing. And I dare say that you pity me in return, whom you regard as an unhappy creature, and very probably you are right. But I certainly know of you what you only think of me—there is the difference.
COMPANION: I see, Apollodorus, that you are just the same—always speaking evil of yourself, and of others; and I do believe that you pity all mankind, with the exception of Socrates, yourself first of all, true in this to your old name, which, however deserved, I know not how you acquired, of Apollodorus the madman; for you are always raging against yourself and everybody but Socrates. He said that he met Socrates fresh from the bath and sandalled; and as the sight of the sandals was unusual, he asked him whither he was going that he had been converted into such a beau:—. To a banquet at Agathon's, he replied, whose invitation to his sacrifice of victory I refused yesterday, fearing a crowd, but promising that I would come to-day instead; and so I have put on my finery, because he is such a fine man.
What say you to going with me unasked? For, after picturing Agamemnon as the most valiant of men, he makes Menelaus, who is but a fainthearted warrior, come unbidden Iliad to the banquet of Agamemnon, who is feasting and offering sacrifices, not the better to the worse, but the worse to the better. I rather fear, Socrates, said Aristodemus, lest this may still be my case; and that, like Menelaus in Homer, I shall be the inferior person, who. This was the style of their conversation as they went along. Socrates dropped behind in a fit of abstraction, and desired Aristodemus, who was waiting, to go on before him.
When he reached the house of Agathon he found the doors wide open, and a comical thing happened. A servant coming out met him, and led him at once into the banqueting-hall in which the guests were reclining, for the banquet was about to begin. Welcome, Aristodemus, said Agathon, as soon as he appeared—you are just in time to sup with us; if you come on any other matter put it off, and make one of us, as I was looking for you yesterday and meant to have asked you, if I could have found you.
But what have you done with Socrates? I turned round, but Socrates was nowhere to be seen; and I had to explain that he had been with me a moment before, and that I came by his invitation to the supper. He was behind me just now, as I entered, he said, and I cannot think what has become of him. Go and look for him, boy, said Agathon, and bring him in; and do you, Aristodemus, meanwhile take the place by Eryximachus. The servant then assisted him to wash, and he lay down, and presently another servant came in and reported that our friend Socrates had retired into the portico of the neighbouring house. Let him alone, said my informant; he has a way of stopping anywhere and losing himself without any reason. I believe that he will soon appear; do not therefore disturb him.
Well, if you think so, I will leave him, said Agathon. And then, turning to the servants, he added, 'Let us have supper without waiting for him. Serve up whatever you please, for there is no one to give you orders; hitherto I have never left you to yourselves. But on this occasion imagine that you are our hosts, and that I and the company are your guests; treat us well, and then we shall commend you. Agathon, who was reclining alone at the end of the table, begged that he would take the place next to him; that 'I may touch you,' he said, 'and have the benefit of that wise thought which came into your mind in the portico, and is now in your possession; for I am certain that you would not have come away until you had found what you sought.
How I wish, said Socrates, taking his place as he was desired, that wisdom could be infused by touch, out of the fuller into the emptier man, as water runs through wool out of a fuller cup into an emptier one; if that were so, how greatly should I value the privilege of reclining at your side! For you would have filled me full with a stream of wisdom plenteous and fair; whereas my own is of a very mean and questionable sort, no better than a dream. But yours is bright and full of promise, and was manifested forth in all the splendour of youth the day before yesterday, in the presence of more than thirty thousand Hellenes.
You are mocking, Socrates, said Agathon, and ere long you and I will have to determine who bears off the palm of wisdom—of this Dionysus shall be the judge; but at present you are better occupied with supper. Socrates took his place on the couch, and supped with the rest; and then libations were offered, and after a hymn had been sung to the god, and there had been the usual ceremonies, they were about to commence drinking, when Pausanias said, And now, my friends, how can we drink with least injury to ourselves? I can assure you that I feel severely the effect of yesterday's potations, and must have time to recover; and I suspect that most of you are in the same predicament, for you were of the party yesterday. Consider then: How can the drinking be made easiest? I entirely agree, said Aristophanes, that we should, by all means, avoid hard drinking, for I was myself one of those who were yesterday drowned in drink.
I think that you are right, said Eryximachus, the son of Acumenus; but I should still like to hear one other person speak: Is Agathon able to drink hard? Then, said Eryximachus, the weak heads like myself, Aristodemus, Phaedrus, and others who never can drink, are fortunate in finding that the stronger ones are not in a drinking mood. I do not include Socrates, who is able either to drink or to abstain, and will not mind, whichever we do. Well, as of none of the company seem disposed to drink much, I may be forgiven for saying, as a physician, that drinking deep is a bad practice, which I never follow, if I can help, and certainly do not recommend to another, least of all to any one who still feels the effects of yesterday's carouse.
I always do what you advise, and especially what you prescribe as a physician, rejoined Phaedrus the Myrrhinusian, and the rest of the company, if they are wise, will do the same. It was agreed that drinking was not to be the order of the day, but that they were all to drink only so much as they pleased. Then, said Eryximachus, as you are all agreed that drinking is to be voluntary, and that there is to be no compulsion, I move, in the next place, that the flute-girl, who has just made her appearance, be told to go away and play to herself, or, if she likes, to the women who are within compare Prot.
To-day let us have conversation instead; and, if you will allow me, I will tell you what sort of conversation. This proposal having been accepted, Eryximachus proceeded as follows:—. For often he says to me in an indignant tone:—'What a strange thing it is, Eryximachus, that, whereas other gods have poems and hymns made in their honour, the great and glorious god, Love, has no encomiast among all the poets who are so many.
There are the worthy sophists too—the excellent Prodicus for example, who have descanted in prose on the virtues of Heracles and other heroes; and, what is still more extraordinary, I have met with a philosophical work in which the utility of salt has been made the theme of an eloquent discourse; and many other like things have had a like honour bestowed upon them. And only to think that there should have been an eager interest created about them, and yet that to this day no one has ever dared worthily to hymn Love's praises! So entirely has this great deity been neglected. If you agree with me, there will be no lack of conversation; for I mean to propose that each of us in turn, going from left to right, shall make a speech in honour of Love.
Let him give us the best which he can; and Phaedrus, because he is sitting first on the left hand, and because he is the father of the thought, shall begin. No one will vote against you, Eryximachus, said Socrates. How can I oppose your motion, who profess to understand nothing but matters of love; nor, I presume, will Agathon and Pausanias; and there can be no doubt of Aristophanes, whose whole concern is with Dionysus and Aphrodite; nor will any one disagree of those whom I see around me. The proposal, as I am aware, may seem rather hard upon us whose place is last; but we shall be contented if we hear some good speeches first. Let Phaedrus begin the praise of Love, and good luck to him. All the company expressed their assent, and desired him to do as Socrates bade him.
Aristodemus did not recollect all that was said, nor do I recollect all that he related to me; but I will tell you what I thought most worthy of remembrance, and what the chief speakers said. Phaedrus began by affirming that Love is a mighty god, and wonderful among gods and men, but especially wonderful in his birth. For he is the eldest of the gods, which is an honour to him; and a proof of his claim to this honour is, that of his parents there is no memorial; neither poet nor prose-writer has ever affirmed that he had any.
As Hesiod says:—. In other words, after Chaos, the Earth and Love, these two, came into being. Also Parmenides sings of Generation:. And Acusilaus agrees with Hesiod. Thus numerous are the witnesses who acknowledge Love to be the eldest of the gods. And not only is he the eldest, he is also the source of the greatest benefits to us. For I know not any greater blessing to a young man who is beginning life than a virtuous lover, or to the lover than a beloved youth. For the principle which ought to be the guide of men who would nobly live—that principle, I say, neither kindred, nor honour, nor wealth, nor any other motive is able to implant so well as love. Of what am I speaking?
Of the sense of honour and dishonour, without which neither states nor individuals ever do any good or great work. And I say that a lover who is detected in doing any dishonourable act, or submitting through cowardice when any dishonour is done to him by another, will be more pained at being detected by his beloved than at being seen by his father, or by his companions, or by any one else. The beloved too, when he is found in any disgraceful situation, has the same feeling about his lover.
And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves compare Rep. For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this. Or who would desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of danger? The veriest coward would become an inspired hero, equal to the bravest, at such a time; Love would inspire him.
That courage which, as Homer says, the god breathes into the souls of some heroes, Love of his own nature infuses into the lover. Love will make men dare to die for their beloved—love alone; and women as well as men. Of this, Alcestis, the daughter of Pelias, is a monument to all Hellas; for she was willing to lay down her life on behalf of her husband, when no one else would, although he had a father and mother; but the tenderness of her love so far exceeded theirs, that she made them seem to be strangers in blood to their own son, and in name only related to him; and so noble did this action of hers appear to the gods, as well as to men, that among the many who have done virtuously she is one of the very few to whom, in admiration of her noble action, they have granted the privilege of returning alive to earth; such exceeding honour is paid by the gods to the devotion and virtue of love.
But Orpheus, the son of Oeagrus, the harper, they sent empty away, and presented to him an apparition only of her whom he sought, but herself they would not give up, because he showed no spirit; he was only a harp-player, and did not dare like Alcestis to die for love, but was contriving how he might enter Hades alive; moreover, they afterwards caused him to suffer death at the hands of women, as the punishment of his cowardliness. Very different was the reward of the true love of Achilles towards his lover Patroclus—his lover and not his love the notion that Patroclus was the beloved one is a foolish error into which Aeschylus has fallen, for Achilles was surely the fairer of the two, fairer also than all the other heroes; and, as Homer informs us, he was still beardless, and younger far.
And greatly as the gods honour the virtue of love, still the return of love on the part of the beloved to the lover is more admired and valued and rewarded by them, for the lover is more divine; because he is inspired by God. Now Achilles was quite aware, for he had been told by his mother, that he might avoid death and return home, and live to a good old age, if he abstained from slaying Hector.
Nevertheless he gave his life to revenge his friend, and dared to die, not only in his defence, but after he was dead. Wherefore the gods honoured him even above Alcestis, and sent him to the Islands of the Blest. These are my reasons for affirming that Love is the eldest and noblest and mightiest of the gods; and the chiefest author and giver of virtue in life, and of happiness after death. This, or something like this, was the speech of Phaedrus; and some other speeches followed which Aristodemus did not remember; the next which he repeated was that of Pausanias.
Phaedrus, he said, the argument has not been set before us, I think, quite in the right form;—we should not be called upon to praise Love in such an indiscriminate manner. If there were only one Love, then what you said would be well enough; but since there are more Loves than one,—should have begun by determining which of them was to be the theme of our praises. I will amend this defect; and first of all I will tell you which Love is deserving of praise, and then try to hymn the praiseworthy one in a manner worthy of him. For we all know that Love is inseparable from Aphrodite, and if there were only one Aphrodite there would be only one Love; but as there are two goddesses there must be two Loves. And am I not right in asserting that there are two goddesses?
The elder one, having no mother, who is called the heavenly Aphrodite—she is the daughter of Uranus; the younger, who is the daughter of Zeus and Dione—her we call common; and the Love who is her fellow-worker is rightly named common, as the other love is called heavenly. All the gods ought to have praise given to them, but not without distinction of their natures; and therefore I must try to distinguish the characters of the two Loves. Now actions vary according to the manner of their performance. Take, for example, that which we are now doing, drinking, singing and talking—these actions are not in themselves either good or evil, but they turn out in this or that way according to the mode of performing them; and when well done they are good, and when wrongly done they are evil; and in like manner not every love, but only that which has a noble purpose, is noble and worthy of praise.
The Love who is the offspring of the common Aphrodite is essentially common, and has no discrimination, being such as the meaner sort of men feel, and is apt to be of women as well as of youths, and is of the body rather than of the soul—the most foolish beings are the objects of this love which desires only to gain an end, but never thinks of accomplishing the end nobly, and therefore does good and evil quite indiscriminately. The goddess who is his mother is far younger than the other, and she was born of the union of the male and female, and partakes of both.
But the offspring of the heavenly Aphrodite is derived from a mother in whose birth the female has no part,—she is from the male only; this is that love which is of youths, and the goddess being older, there is nothing of wantonness in her. Those who are inspired by this love turn to the male, and delight in him who is the more valiant and intelligent nature; any one may recognise the pure enthusiasts in the very character of their attachments. For they love not boys, but intelligent beings whose reason is beginning to be developed, much about the time at which their beards begin to grow. And in choosing young men to be their companions, they mean to be faithful to them, and pass their whole life in company with them, not to take them in their inexperience, and deceive them, and play the fool with them, or run away from one to another of them.
But the love of young boys should be forbidden by law, because their future is uncertain; they may turn out good or bad, either in body or soul, and much noble enthusiasm may be thrown away upon them; in this matter the good are a law to themselves, and the coarser sort of lovers ought to be restrained by force; as we restrain or attempt to restrain them from fixing their affections on women of free birth. These are the persons who bring a reproach on love; and some have been led to deny the lawfulness of such attachments because they see the impropriety and evil of them; for surely nothing that is decorously and lawfully done can justly be censured. Now here and in Lacedaemon the rules about love are perplexing, but in most cities they are simple and easily intelligible; in Elis and Boeotia, and in countries having no gifts of eloquence, they are very straightforward; the law is simply in favour of these connexions, and no one, whether young or old, has anything to say to their discredit; the reason being, as I suppose, that they are men of few words in those parts, and therefore the lovers do not like the trouble of pleading their suit.
In Ionia and other places, and generally in countries which are subject to the barbarians, the custom is held to be dishonourable; loves of youths share the evil repute in which philosophy and gymnastics are held, because they are inimical to tyranny; for the interests of rulers require that their subjects should be poor in spirit compare Arist. Politics , and that there should be no strong bond of friendship or society among them, which love, above all other motives, is likely to inspire, as our Athenian tyrants learned by experience; for the love of Aristogeiton and the constancy of Harmodius had a strength which undid their power.
And, therefore, the ill-repute into which these attachments have fallen is to be ascribed to the evil condition of those who make them to be ill-reputed; that is to say, to the self-seeking of the governors and the cowardice of the governed; on the other hand, the indiscriminate honour which is given to them in some countries is attributable to the laziness of those who hold this opinion of them. In our own country a far better principle prevails, but, as I was saying, the explanation of it is rather perplexing. For, observe that open loves are held to be more honourable than secret ones, and that the love of the noblest and highest, even if their persons are less beautiful than others, is especially honourable.
Consider, too, how great is the encouragement which all the world gives to the lover; neither is he supposed to be doing anything dishonourable; but if he succeeds he is praised, and if he fail he is blamed. And in the pursuit of his love the custom of mankind allows him to do many strange things, which philosophy would bitterly censure if they were done from any motive of interest, or wish for office or power. He may pray, and entreat, and supplicate, and swear, and lie on a mat at the door, and endure a slavery worse than that of any slave—in any other case friends and enemies would be equally ready to prevent him, but now there is no friend who will be ashamed of him and admonish him, and no enemy will charge him with meanness or flattery; the actions of a lover have a grace which ennobles them; and custom has decided that they are highly commendable and that there no loss of character in them; and, what is strangest of all, he only may swear and forswear himself so men say , and the gods will forgive his transgression, for there is no such thing as a lover's oath.
Such is the entire liberty which gods and men have allowed the lover, according to the custom which prevails in our part of the world. From this point of view a man fairly argues that in Athens to love and to be loved is held to be a very honourable thing. But when parents forbid their sons to talk with their lovers, and place them under a tutor's care, who is appointed to see to these things, and their companions and equals cast in their teeth anything of the sort which they may observe, and their elders refuse to silence the reprovers and do not rebuke them—any one who reflects on all this will, on the contrary, think that we hold these practices to be most disgraceful. But, as I was saying at first, the truth as I imagine is, that whether such practices are honourable or whether they are dishonourable is not a simple question; they are honourable to him who follows them honourably, dishonourable to him who follows them dishonourably.
There is dishonour in yielding to the evil, or in an evil manner; but there is honour in yielding to the good, or in an honourable manner. Evil is the vulgar lover who loves the body rather than the soul, inasmuch as he is not even stable, because he loves a thing which is in itself unstable, and therefore when the bloom of youth which he was desiring is over, he takes wing and flies away, in spite of all his words and promises; whereas the love of the noble disposition is life-long, for it becomes one with the everlasting.
The custom of our country would have both of them proven well and truly, and would have us yield to the one sort of lover and avoid the other, and therefore encourages some to pursue, and others to fly; testing both the lover and beloved in contests and trials, until they show to which of the two classes they respectively belong. And this is the reason why, in the first place, a hasty attachment is held to be dishonourable, because time is the true test of this as of most other things; and secondly there is a dishonour in being overcome by the love of money, or of wealth, or of political power, whether a man is frightened into surrender by the loss of them, or, having experienced the benefits of money and political corruption, is unable to rise above the seductions of them.
For none of these things are of a permanent or lasting nature; not to mention that no generous friendship ever sprang from them. There remains, then, only one way of honourable attachment which custom allows in the beloved, and this is the way of virtue; for as we admitted that any service which the lover does to him is not to be accounted flattery or a dishonour to himself, so the beloved has one way only of voluntary service which is not dishonourable, and this is virtuous service.
For we have a custom, and according to our custom any one who does service to another under the idea that he will be improved by him either in wisdom, or in some other particular of virtue—such a voluntary service, I say, is not to be regarded as a dishonour, and is not open to the charge of flattery. And these two customs, one the love of youth, and the other the practice of philosophy and virtue in general, ought to meet in one, and then the beloved may honourably indulge the lover.
For when the lover and beloved come together, having each of them a law, and the lover thinks that he is right in doing any service which he can to his gracious loving one; and the other that he is right in showing any kindness which he can to him who is making him wise and good; the one capable of communicating wisdom and virtue, the other seeking to acquire them with a view to education and wisdom, when the two laws of love are fulfilled and meet in one—then, and then only, may the beloved yield with honour to the lover.
Nor when love is of this disinterested sort is there any disgrace in being deceived, but in every other case there is equal disgrace in being or not being deceived. For he who is gracious to his lover under the impression that he is rich, and is disappointed of his gains because he turns out to be poor, is disgraced all the same: for he has done his best to show that he would give himself up to any one's 'uses base' for the sake of money; but this is not honourable. And on the same principle he who gives himself to a lover because he is a good man, and in the hope that he will be improved by his company, shows himself to be virtuous, even though the object of his affection turn out to be a villain, and to have no virtue; and if he is deceived he has committed a noble error.
For he has proved that for his part he will do anything for anybody with a view to virtue and improvement, than which there can be nothing nobler. Thus noble in every case is the acceptance of another for the sake of virtue. This is that love which is the love of the heavenly godess, and is heavenly, and of great price to individuals and cities, making the lover and the beloved alike eager in the work of their own improvement. But all other loves are the offspring of the other, who is the common goddess. To you, Phaedrus, I offer this my contribution in praise of love, which is as good as I could make extempore.
Pausanias came to a pause—this is the balanced way in which I have been taught by the wise to speak; and Aristodemus said that the turn of Aristophanes was next, but either he had eaten too much, or from some other cause he had the hiccough, and was obliged to change turns with Eryximachus the physician, who was reclining on the couch below him. Eryximachus, he said, you ought either to stop my hiccough, or to speak in my turn until I have left off. I will do both, said Eryximachus: I will speak in your turn, and do you speak in mine; and while I am speaking let me recommend you to hold your breath, and if after you have done so for some time the hiccough is no better, then gargle with a little water; and if it still continues, tickle your nose with something and sneeze; and if you sneeze once or twice, even the most violent hiccough is sure to go.
I will do as you prescribe, said Aristophanes, and now get on. Eryximachus spoke as follows: Seeing that Pausanias made a fair beginning, and but a lame ending, I must endeavour to supply his deficiency. I think that he has rightly distinguished two kinds of love. But my art further informs me that the double love is not merely an affection of the soul of man towards the fair, or towards anything, but is to be found in the bodies of all animals and in productions of the earth, and I may say in all that is; such is the conclusion which I seem to have gathered from my own art of medicine, whence I learn how great and wonderful and universal is the deity of love, whose empire extends over all things, divine as well as human.
And from medicine I will begin that I may do honour to my art. There are in the human body these two kinds of love, which are confessedly different and unlike, and being unlike, they have loves and desires which are unlike; and the desire of the healthy is one, and the desire of the diseased is another; and as Pausanias was just now saying that to indulge good men is honourable, and bad men dishonourable:—so too in the body the good and healthy elements are to be indulged, and the bad elements and the elements of disease are not to be indulged, but discouraged.
And this is what the physician has to do, and in this the art of medicine consists: for medicine may be regarded generally as the knowledge of the loves and desires of the body, and how to satisfy them or not; and the best physician is he who is able to separate fair love from foul, or to convert one into the other; and he who knows how to eradicate and how to implant love, whichever is required, and can reconcile the most hostile elements in the constitution and make them loving friends, is a skilful practitioner. Now the most hostile are the most opposite, such as hot and cold, bitter and sweet, moist and dry, and the like.
And my ancestor, Asclepius, knowing how to implant friendship and accord in these elements, was the creator of our art, as our friends the poets here tell us, and I believe them; and not only medicine in every branch but the arts of gymnastic and husbandry are under his dominion. Any one who pays the least attention to the subject will also perceive that in music there is the same reconciliation of opposites; and I suppose that this must have been the meaning of Heracleitus, although his words are not accurate; for he says that The One is united by disunion, like the harmony of the bow and the lyre. Now there is an absurdity saying that harmony is discord or is composed of elements which are still in a state of discord.
But what he probably meant was, that harmony is composed of differing notes of higher or lower pitch which disagreed once, but are now reconciled by the art of music; for if the higher and lower notes still disagreed, there could be no harmony,—clearly not. For harmony is a symphony, and symphony is an agreement; but an agreement of disagreements while they disagree there cannot be; you cannot harmonize that which disagrees. The Symposium is considered a dialogue — a form used by Plato in more than thirty works — but in fact, it is predominantly a series of essay-like speeches from differing points of view. So dialogue plays a smaller role in the Symposium than it does in Plato's other dialogues. Socrates is renowned for his dialectic approach to knowledge often referred to as the Socratic Method , which involves posing questions that encourage others to think deeply about what they care about and articulate their ideas.
In the Symposium , the dialectic exists among the speeches: in seeing how the ideas conflict from speech-to-speech, and in the effort to resolve the contradictions and see the philosophy that underlies them all. The Symposium is, like all of Plato's dialogues, fiction. The characters and the settings are to some degree based on history, but they are not reports of events that actually occurred or words that were actually spoken.
There is no reason to think they were not composed entirely by Plato. The reader, understanding that Plato was not governed by the historical record, can read the Symposium , and ask why the author, Plato, arranged the story the way he did, and what he meant by including the various aspects of setting, composition, characters, and theme, etc. For a very long time, it was widely believed that Socrates was presented in the dialogues by his admiring disciple, Plato, as an ideal philosopher and ideal human being. It was thought that what Socrates said was what Plato agreed with or approved of.
Then in the late 20th century, another interpretation began to challenge that idea. This new idea considers that the Symposium is intended to criticize Socrates, and his philosophy, and to reject certain aspects of his behavior. It also considers that Socratic philosophy may have lost touch with the actual individual as it devoted itself to abstract principles. The above view, attributed to Martha Nussbaum , can, however, be challenged in favor of the traditional one. The portrayal of Socrates in the Symposium for instance his refusal to give in to Alcibiades' sexual advances is consistent with the account of Socrates put forward by Xenophon and the theories that Socrates defends throughout the Platonic corpus.
Plato shows off his master as a man of high moral standards, unwavered by baser urges and fully committed to the study and practice of proper self-government in both individuals and communities the so-called "royal science". The dialogue's ending contrasts Socrates' intellectual and emotional self-mastery with Alcibiades' debauchery and lack of moderation to explain the latter's reckless political career, disastrous military campaigns, and eventual demise. Alcibiades is corrupted by his physical beauty and the advantages thereof; he ultimately fails to ascend to the Form of Beauty through philosophy. One critic, James Arieti, considers that the Symposium resembles a drama, with emotional and dramatic events occurring especially when Alcibiades crashes the banquet.
Arieti suggests that it should be studied more as a drama, with a focus on character and actions, and less as an exploration of philosophical ideas. This suggests that the characters speak, as in a play, not as the author, but as themselves. This theory, Arieti has found, reveals how much each of the speakers of the Symposium resembles the god, Eros, that they each are describing.
It may be Plato's point to suggest that when humankind talks about god, they are drawn towards creating that god in their own image. Andrew Dalby considers the opening pages of the Symposium the best depiction in any ancient Greek source of the way texts are transmitted by oral tradition without writing. It shows how an oral text may have no simple origin, and how it can be passed along by repeated tellings, and by different narrators, and how it can be sometimes verified, and sometimes corrupted. Apollodorus was not himself at the banquet, but he heard the story from Aristodemus, a man who was there. Also, Apollodorus was able to confirm parts of the story with Socrates himself, who was one of the speakers at the banquet.
The event depicted in the Symposium is a banquet attended by a group of men, who have come to the symposium , which was, in ancient Greece, a traditional part of the same banquet that took place after the meal, when drinking for pleasure was accompanied by music, dancing, recitals, or conversation. They might speak more frankly, or take more risks, or else be prone to hubris—they might even be inspired to make speeches that are particularly heartfelt and noble.
Gill, pp. Implying that these are subjects which Socrates holds personally dear regardless, as evident elsewhere in the book as well, like with his account of the conversation between himself and Diotima of Mantinea. Eryximachus has challenged the men to deliver, each, in turn, an encomium —a speech in praise of Love Eros. Though other participants comply with this challenge, Socrates notably refuses to participate in such an act of praise and instead takes a very different approach to the topic. The party takes place at the house of the tragedian Agathon in Athens.
It is considered that the work was written no earlier than BCE, and the party to which it makes reference has been fixed in BCE, the year in which the host Agathon had the dramatic triumph mentioned in the text. The disastrous expedition to Syracuse , of which Alcibiades was a commander, took place the following year,  after which Alcibiades deserted to Sparta , Athens ' archenemy. Hamilton remarks that Plato takes care to portray Alcibiades and Socrates and their relationship in a way that makes it clear that Socrates had not been a bad influence on Alcibiades. Plato does this to free his teacher from the guilt of corrupting the minds of prominent youths, which had, in fact, earned Socrates the death sentence in BC.
Aristophanes' comedy, The Frogs BC , attacks the new tragedy of Agathon and Euripides , and opposes it to the old tragedy of Aeschylus. In The Frogs , Dionysus , the god of theatre and wine, descends into Hades and observes a heated dispute between Aeschylus and Euripides over who is the best in tragedy. Dionysus is engaged to be the judge, and decides the outcome, not based on the merits of the two tragedians, but based on their political stance regarding the political figure, Alcibiades. Since Aeschylus prefers Alcibiades, Dionysus declares Aeschylus the winner. That contest provides the basic structure on which the Symposium is modeled as a kind of sequel: In the Symposium Agathon has just celebrated a victory the day before and is now hosting another kind of debate, this time it is between a tragedian, a comic poet, and Socrates.
At the beginning of the Symposium Agathon asserts that "Dionysus will be the judge", and Dionysus is, though Alcibiades performs as a surrogate for the god. So the character, Alcibiades, who was the deciding factor in the debate in The Frogs , becomes the judge in the Symposium , and he now rules in favor of Socrates, who had been attacked by Aristophanes in The Clouds. The Symposium is a response to The Frogs , and shows Socrates winning not only over Aristophanes, who was the author of both The Frogs , and The Clouds , but also over the tragic poet who was portrayed in that comedy as the victor. The story of the banquet is narrated by Apollodorus, but before the narration proper begins, it is shown that Apollodorus is telling the story to a friend of his that is not named, and also that the story of this banquet has been told before by others, as well as previously by Apollodorus himself.
This section previews the story of the banquet, letting the reader know what to expect, and it provides information regarding the context and the date. The banquet was hosted by the poet Agathon to celebrate his first victory in a dramatic competition: the Dionysia of BCE. Apollodorus was not present at the event, which occurred when he was a boy, but he heard the story from Aristodemus , who was present. Apollodorus later checked parts of the story with Socrates, who was also there. In this brief introductory passage, it is shown that the narrator, Apollodorus, has a reputation for being somewhat mad, that he is a passionate follower of Socrates, and that he spends his days either listening to Socrates or else telling others of what he has learned from Socrates.
The story, as told by Apollodorus, then moves to the banquet at Agathon's home, where Agathon challenges each of the men to speak in praise of the Greek god, Eros. Apollodorus tells his friend a story of a symposium, or banquet, that was hosted by the playwright Agathon to celebrate his victory in a dramatic festival the night before. Socrates is late to arrive because he became lost in thought on the way. When they are done eating, Eryximachus takes the suggestion made by Phaedrus, that they should all make a speech in praise of Eros, the god of love and desire.
It will be a competition of speeches to be judged by Dionysus. It is anticipated that the speeches will ultimately be bested by Socrates, who speaks last. Phaedrus starts by pointing out that Eros is the oldest of the gods, and that Eros promotes virtue in people. He distinguishes between this virtuous love, and the love of an older man for a young immature boy, which he says should be forbidden on the grounds that love should be based on qualities of intelligence and virtue that are not yet part of a boy's makeup and may not develop.
Eryximachus has the next speech although he has switched with Aristophanes and suggests that Eros encourages "sophrosyne", or soundness of mind and character, and is not only about human behavior, but also occurs in music, medicine, and many other areas of life. The fourth speech is from Aristophanes, who tells a comic, fantastical story about how humans were at one time two people conjoined, but this was seen as threatening to the gods, so Zeus cut everyone in half just like fish is cut in two parts. The irony in his storytelling is obvious he praises the "confidence, courage and manliness" of males searching for males "and there is good evidence for this in the fact that only males of this type, when they are grown up, prove to be real men in politics" - which is highly ironical for such a critic of the times' politicians as Aristophanes himself.
Agathon follows Aristophanes, and his speech sees Eros as youthful, beautiful, and wise; and as the source of all human virtues. Before Socrates gives his speech he asks some questions of Agathon regarding the nature of love. Socrates then relates a story he was told by a wise woman called Diotima. According to her, Eros is not a god but is a spirit that mediates between humans and their objects of desire. Love itself is not wise or beautiful but is the desire for those things. Love is expressed through propagation and reproduction: either physical love or the exchanging and reproducing of ideas.
The greatest knowledge, Diotima says, is knowledge of the "form of beauty", which humans must try to achieve. When Socrates is nearly done, Alcibiades crashes in, terribly drunk, and delivers an encomium to Socrates himself. No matter how hard he has tried, he says, he has never been able to seduce Socrates, because Socrates has no interest in physical pleasure.
Despite this speech, Agathon lies down next to Socrates, much to Alcibiades' chagrin. The party becomes wild and drunken, with the symposium coming to an end. Many of the main characters take the opportunity to depart and return home. Aristodemus goes to sleep. When he wakes up the next morning and prepares to leave the house, Socrates is still awake, proclaiming to Agathon and Aristophanes that a skillful playwright should be able to write comedy as well as tragedy d. When Agathon and Aristophanes fall asleep, Socrates rises up and walks to the Lyceum to wash and tend to his daily business as usual, not going home to sleep until that evening d. Phaedrus opens by citing Hesiod , Acusilaus and Parmenides for the claim that Eros is the oldest of the gods.
He confers great benefits, inspiring a lover to earn the admiration of his beloved, for example by showing bravery on the battlefield, since nothing shames a man more than to be seen by his beloved committing an inglorious act db. As evidence for this, he mentions some mythological heroes and lovers. Even Achilles , who was the beloved of Patroclus , sacrificed himself to avenge his lover, and Alcestis was willing to die for her husband Admetus. Phaedrus concludes his short speech in proper rhetorical fashion, reiterating his statements that love is one of the most ancient gods, the most honored, the most powerful in helping men gain honor and blessedness — and sacrificing one's self for love will result in rewards from the gods. Pausanias, the legal expert of the group, introduces a distinction between a nobler and a baser kind of love, which anticipates Socrates' discourse.
The base lover is in search of sexual gratification, and his objects are women and boys. He is inspired by Aphrodite Pandemos Aphrodite common to the whole city. The noble lover directs his affection towards young men, establishing lifelong relationships, productive of the benefits described by Phaedrus. This love is related to Aphrodite Urania Heavenly Aphrodite and is based on honoring one's partner's intelligence and wisdom. He then analyses the attitudes of different city-states relative to homosexuality. The first distinction he makes is between the cities that clearly establish what is and what is not admitted, and those that are not so explicitly clear, like Athens.
In the first group there are cities favorable to homosexuality, like Elis , Boeotia and Sparta , or unfavorable to it like Ionia and Persia. The case of Athens is analyzed with many examples of what would be acceptable and what would not, and at the end, he makes the assertion that Athens' code of behavior favors the nobler type of love and discourages the baser. Eryximachus speaks next, though it is Aristophanes' turn, as the latter has not recovered from his hiccups enough to take his place in the sequence. First Eryximachus starts out by claiming that love affects everything in the universe, including plants and animals, believing that once love is attained it should be protected.
Two forms of love occur in the human body — one is healthy, the other unhealthy bc. Love might be capable of curing the diseased. Love governs medicine, music, and astronomy a , and regulates hot and cold and wet and dry, which when in balance result in health a. Eryximachus here evokes the theory of the humor. He concludes: "Love as a whole has It enables us to associate, and be friends, with each other and with the gods" d Transl.
He comes across as someone who cannot resist the temptation to praise his own profession: "a good practitioner knows how to treat the body and how to transform its desires" d. Hamilton considers that Aristophanes' speech, which comes next, is one of Plato's most brilliant literary achievements. Before starting 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.
He begins by explaining that people must understand human nature before they can interpret the origins of love and how it affects their own times. This is, he says because in primal times people had doubled bodies, with faces and limbs turned away from one another. As spherical creatures who wheeled around like clowns doing cartwheels a , these original people were very powerful. There were three sexes: the all male, the all female, and the "androgynous," who was half male, half female. The males were said to have descended from the sun, the females from the earth and the androgynous couples from the moon. These creatures tried to scale the heights of Olympus and planned to set upon the gods b-c.
Zeus thought about blasting them 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, in effect separating the two bodies. 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. The women who were separated from women run after their own kind, thus creating lesbians. The men split from other men also run after their own kind and love being embraced by other men e. Those that come from original androgynous beings are the men and women that engage in heterosexual love.
He says some people think homosexuals are shameless, but he thinks they are the bravest, most manly of all, as evidenced by the fact that only they grow up to be politicians a , and that many heterosexuals are adulterous and unfaithful e. Aristophanes then claims that when two people who were separated from each other find each other, they never again want to be separated c. This feeling is like a riddle, and cannot be explained.
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