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January 24, 2019


#Classic: The Symposium

by N@ncy


What is The Symposium?

  1. This masterpiece of philosophy is
  2. …a dramatic dialogue set at a
  3. dinner party in ancient Athens.
  4. The guests agree not to drink because
  5. …they have over indulged on the previous night.
  6. The men discuss the nature of Love.


Why did Plato write The Symposium?

  1. Socrates was interested in the symposium
  2. as en educational form where erotic
  3. relationships took place.
  4. But the symposium was also place of great
  5. fun, merriment and entertainment.


Who was influenced by The Symposium?

  1. Plotinus: 3rd C  philosopher An Essay on the Beautiful.
  2. Ficino, M.  translated the Platonic dialogues into latin in the Renaissance
  3. Freud, S.  read and studied The Symposium


Most important metaphor?

  1. This topic is long and complicated.
  2. I added this link if you are interested.
  3. Ladder of Love (Wikipedia)


What is the significance of a drinking party?

  1. This was a ‘gentleman’s club’.
  2. There was a bawdy side but
  3. ..the most important aspect was
  4. the establishment of
  5. older male-younger male relationships.
  6. The older male (the lover)
  7. would guide the younger male (beloved)
  8. into Athenian social and political life
  9. in return for sexual favors.


Who are the important guests?

  1. Aristophanes – one of the greatest Athenian poets
  2. Phaerdus – associate of Socrates
  3. Eryximachus – doctor
  4. Aristodemus – narrator
  5. Aristophanes – poet, playwright
  6. Pausanias – lover of Agathon
  7. Agathon –  tragic poet who is the host of the party
  8. Socrates – Athens’ most famous philosopher
  9. Alcibiades – important politician, rich, influential, womanizer


What are the major themes?

  1. Major: passionate love, desire, nature of knowledge
  2. Minor: virtue, happiness


What is characteristic of the speeches?

  1. In each of the speeches the nature of virtue is presented:
  2. Phaerdus – heroic deeds on the battlefield are important
  3. Agathon – poetic expertise is important
  4. Socrates – intellectual virtue is important
  5. Each speech is designed to praise Eros.
  6. Speeches explain how desires can be shaped
  7. to help us lead a better and happier life.
  8. Central is all the speeches is the concept of happiness.


How  do speakers describe physical desire (Eros)?


Phaerdus  (young student of rhetoric and poetry)
Romantic love (male/female and male/male) is praiseworthy.
If we’ve sacrificed our life for our beloved
…the gods will reward us after death.
This type of romantic love sounds admirable
…but there is also a lot of ‘dying young’!


Pausanias (legal expert)
The quality of erotic depends on the object of your love
…and the manner of your love.
He divides love into heavenly and common love.
Heavenly: lover (older) – beloved (younger) focuses on
the younger males spiritual development.
Common: physical love for either male or female


Eryximachus (doctor)
He divides erotic love in good and bad.
The doctor broadens erotic love to a cosmic force medicine, music, climate, farming.
Good attraction of love = harmony and health
Bad attraction of love = disease and illness


Aristophanes (one of the greatest Athenian poets)
His speech is iconic.
This is a quirky almost absurd description how humans evolved.
Must read  to appreciate Aristophanes imagination!
Love will make us find our other half.


Agathon (tragic poet who is the host of the party)
He gives a dazzling speech and receives the most applause.
The other speakers praise the benefits that eros (desire) brings
(heroic deeds on the battlefield…harmony and health)
But Agathon says…you can’t give another what you don’t have yourself!
Lovers are thus honorable, beautiful, wise and just.


Socrates (most famous Greek philosopher)
He tells a story that Diotima taught him!
She is a fictional priestess. She provides the
question and answer template possible
… that Socrates loves to use!
Diotima says what Socrates wants to say
…and Socrates is now the willing pupil.


Drunken Alcibiades…disrupts the party!
He give a moving passionate speech about the joy and
pain of loving Socrates.
Poor Alcibiades….he loves the right man in the wrong way.
I thought this was the most memorable speech! (shocker)



  1. 5 speeches (Phaedrus, Eryximachus, Aristophanes, Pausanias, Agathon)
  2. 1 cross-questioning and speech about the truth of Love (Socrates)
  3. 1 dicey speech by Alcibiades
  4. …that is a ‘tell-all’ about his affair with ex-lover Socrates!
  5. After all the guest give their speeches
  6. …of course Socrates will be the last to speak.
  7. He dazzles and confuses me with his ‘typical questions”
  8. (conversation with priestess Diotima)
  9. This is the part of Socrates….I dread reading
  10. …he makes me think!
  11. You have to have at least a good 10 hrs sleep
  12. ..and be sharp of mind if you intend
  13. …to read anything involving Socrates!
  14. Reading time:
  15. It took me the entire day to read + notes  (131 pages)
  16. I hope this review can help you and don’t hesitate
  17. …to try this  #Classic for the die-hards!
5 Comments Post a comment
  1. You’re awesome! You are reading some heavy-duty, valuable stuff! Soon you’ll be brilliant (or should I say more brilliant, lol! 😉 ) This book sounds fascinating. I didn’t know that Plato/Socrates touched on this topic. I’ll definitely have to move this one up my list.


    • Jan 25 2019

      This was a surprise book for me! It had been on my TBR for 2 years so I decided it’s now or never. Plato combined strict dialectical inquiry with dramatic technique (5 speeches) that makes it easy reading. The speeches aren’t too long or academic….just people talking during a party!
      I think you will like it. My reading this year will be more focused on classics. Light fiction…non-fiction…I’ll read some of these books but have no energy left to review them. Time to concentrate on some ‘best books’ !


  2. Jan 25 2019

    I love the Symposium! Best Plato dialogue by far. And I live in dread of hopping around on one leg looking for my better half…


    • Jan 25 2019

      LOL..yes that was a bizarre speech by Aristophanes!
      It was such a pleasant read….Plato combined strict dialectical inquiry with dramatic technique (5 speeches). I was surprised how much I liked the book!



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