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´╗┐Title: Symposium
Author: Plato, 427? BC-347? BC
Language: English
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By Plato

Translated by Benjamin Jowett


Of all the works of Plato the Symposium is the most perfect in form,
and may be truly thought to contain more than any commentator has ever
dreamed of; or, as Goethe said of one of his own writings, more than the
author himself knew. For in philosophy as in prophecy glimpses of the
future may often be conveyed in words which could hardly have been
understood or interpreted at the time when they were uttered (compare
Symp.)--which were wiser than the writer of them meant, and could not
have been expressed by him if he had been interrogated about them.
Yet Plato was not a mystic, nor in any degree affected by the Eastern
influences which afterwards overspread the Alexandrian world. He was
not an enthusiast or a sentimentalist, but one who aspired only to
see reasoned truth, and whose thoughts are clearly explained in his
language. There is no foreign element either of Egypt or of Asia to
be found in his writings. And more than any other Platonic work the
Symposium is Greek both in style and subject, having a beauty 'as of
a statue,' while the companion Dialogue of the Phaedrus is marked by
a sort of Gothic irregularity. More too than in any other of his
Dialogues, Plato is emancipated from former philosophies. The genius of
Greek art seems to triumph over the traditions of Pythagorean, Eleatic,
or Megarian systems, and 'the old quarrel of poetry and philosophy' has
at least a superficial reconcilement. (Rep.)

An unknown person who had heard of the discourses in praise of love
spoken by Socrates and others at the banquet of Agathon is desirous of
having an authentic account of them, which he thinks that he can
obtain from Apollodorus, the same excitable, or rather 'mad' friend of
Socrates, who is afterwards introduced in the Phaedo. He had imagined
that the discourses were recent. There he is mistaken: but they are
still fresh in the memory of his informant, who had just been repeating
them to Glaucon, and is quite prepared to have another rehearsal of them
in a walk from the Piraeus to Athens. Although he had not been present
himself, he had heard them from the best authority. Aristodemus, who
is described as having been in past times a humble but inseparable
attendant of Socrates, had reported them to him (compare Xen. Mem.).

The narrative which he had heard was as follows:--

Aristodemus meeting Socrates in holiday attire, is invited by him to
a banquet at the house of Agathon, who had been sacrificing in
thanksgiving for his tragic victory on the day previous. But no sooner
has he entered the house than he finds that he is alone; Socrates has
stayed behind in a fit of abstraction, and does not appear until the
banquet is half over. On his appearing he and the host jest a little;
the question is then asked by Pausanias, one of the guests, 'What shall
they do about drinking? as they had been all well drunk on the day
before, and drinking on two successive days is such a bad thing.' This
is confirmed by the authority of Eryximachus the physician, who further
proposes that instead of listening to the flute-girl and her 'noise'
they shall make speeches in honour of love, one after another, going
from left to right in the order in which they are reclining at the
table. All of them agree to this proposal, and Phaedrus, who is
the 'father' of the idea, which he has previously communicated to
Eryximachus, begins as follows:--

He descants first of all upon the antiquity of love, which is proved by
the authority of the poets; secondly upon the benefits which love gives
to man. The greatest of these is the sense of honour and dishonour.
The lover is ashamed to be seen by the beloved doing or suffering any
cowardly or mean act. And a state or army which was made up only of
lovers and their loves would be invincible. For love will convert the
veriest coward into an inspired hero.

And there have been true loves not only of men but of women also. Such
was the love of Alcestis, who dared to die for her husband, and in
recompense of her virtue was allowed to come again from the dead. But
Orpheus, the miserable harper, who went down to Hades alive, that he
might bring back his wife, was mocked with an apparition only, and
the gods afterwards contrived his death as the punishment of his
cowardliness. The love of Achilles, like that of Alcestis, was
courageous and true; for he was willing to avenge his lover Patroclus,
although he knew that his own death would immediately follow: and
the gods, who honour the love of the beloved above that of the lover,
rewarded him, and sent him to the islands of the blest.

Pausanias, who was sitting next, then takes up the tale:--He says that
Phaedrus should have distinguished the heavenly love from the earthly,
before he praised either. For there are two loves, as there are two
Aphrodites--one the daughter of Uranus, who has no mother and is the
elder and wiser goddess, and the other, the daughter of Zeus and Dione,
who is popular and common. The first of the two loves has a noble
purpose, and delights only in the intelligent nature of man, and is
faithful to the end, and has no shadow of wantonness or lust. The second
is the coarser kind of love, which is a love of the body rather than of
the soul, and is of women and boys as well as of men. Now the actions of
lovers vary, like every other sort of action, according to the manner of
their performance. And in different countries there is a difference of
opinion about male loves. Some, like the Boeotians, approve of them;
others, like the Ionians, and most of the barbarians, disapprove of
them; partly because they are aware of the political dangers which ensue
from them, as may be seen in the instance of Harmodius and Aristogeiton.
At Athens and Sparta there is an apparent contradiction about them. For
at times they are encouraged, and then the lover is allowed to play all
sorts of fantastic tricks; he may swear and forswear himself (and 'at
lovers' perjuries they say Jove laughs'); he may be a servant, and lie
on a mat at the door of his love, without any loss of character; but
there are also times when elders look grave and guard their young
relations, and personal remarks are made. The truth is that some of
these loves are disgraceful and others honourable. The vulgar love of
the body which takes wing and flies away when the bloom of youth is
over, is disgraceful, and so is the interested love of power or wealth;
but the love of the noble mind is lasting. The lover should be tested,
and the beloved should not be too ready to yield. The rule in our
country is that the beloved may do the same service to the lover in the
way of virtue which the lover may do to him.

A voluntary service to be rendered for the sake of virtue and wisdom is
permitted among us; and when these two customs--one the love of youth,
the other the practice of virtue and philosophy--meet in one, then the
lovers may lawfully unite. Nor is there any disgrace to a disinterested
lover in being deceived: but the interested lover is doubly disgraced,
for if he loses his love he loses his character; whereas the noble
love of the other remains the same, although the object of his love is
unworthy: for nothing can be nobler than love for the sake of virtue.
This is that love of the heavenly goddess which is of great price to
individuals and cities, making them work together for their improvement.

The turn of Aristophanes comes next; but he has the hiccough, and
therefore proposes that Eryximachus the physician shall cure him
or speak in his turn. Eryximachus is ready to do both, and after
prescribing for the hiccough, speaks as follows:--

He agrees with Pausanias in maintaining that there are two kinds of
love; but his art has led him to the further conclusion that the empire
of this double love extends over all things, and is to be found in
animals and plants as well as in man. In the human body also there are
two loves; and the art of medicine shows which is the good and which is
the bad love, and persuades the body to accept the good and reject the
bad, and reconciles conflicting elements and makes them friends. Every
art, gymnastic and husbandry as well as medicine, is the reconciliation
of opposites; and this is what Heracleitus meant, when he spoke of a
harmony of opposites: but in strictness he should rather have spoken of
a harmony which succeeds opposites, for an agreement of disagreements
there cannot be. Music too is concerned with the principles of love in
their application to harmony and rhythm. In the abstract, all is simple,
and we are not troubled with the twofold love; but when they are applied
in education with their accompaniments of song and metre, then the
discord begins. Then the old tale has to be repeated of fair Urania and
the coarse Polyhymnia, who must be indulged sparingly, just as in my
own art of medicine care must be taken that the taste of the epicure be
gratified without inflicting upon him the attendant penalty of disease.

There is a similar harmony or disagreement in the course of the seasons
and in the relations of moist and dry, hot and cold, hoar frost and
blight; and diseases of all sorts spring from the excesses or disorders
of the element of love. The knowledge of these elements of love and
discord in the heavenly bodies is termed astronomy, in the relations of
men towards gods and parents is called divination. For divination is the
peacemaker of gods and men, and works by a knowledge of the tendencies
of merely human loves to piety and impiety. Such is the power of love;
and that love which is just and temperate has the greatest power, and
is the source of all our happiness and friendship with the gods and with
one another. I dare say that I have omitted to mention many things which
you, Aristophanes, may supply, as I perceive that you are cured of the

Aristophanes is the next speaker:--

He professes to open a new vein of discourse, in which he begins by
treating of the origin of human nature. The sexes were originally three,
men, women, and the union of the two; and they were made round--having
four hands, four feet, two faces on a round neck, and the rest to
correspond. Terrible was their strength and swiftness; and they were
essaying to scale heaven and attack the gods. Doubt reigned in the
celestial councils; the gods were divided between the desire of quelling
the pride of man and the fear of losing the sacrifices. At last Zeus hit
upon an expedient. Let us cut them in two, he said; then they will only
have half their strength, and we shall have twice as many sacrifices. He
spake, and split them as you might split an egg with an hair; and when
this was done, he told Apollo to give their faces a twist and re-arrange
their persons, taking out the wrinkles and tying the skin in a knot
about the navel. The two halves went about looking for one another, and
were ready to die of hunger in one another's arms. Then Zeus invented an
adjustment of the sexes, which enabled them to marry and go their way
to the business of life. Now the characters of men differ accordingly
as they are derived from the original man or the original woman, or the
original man-woman. Those who come from the man-woman are lascivious and
adulterous; those who come from the woman form female attachments; those
who are a section of the male follow the male and embrace him, and in
him all their desires centre. The pair are inseparable and live together
in pure and manly affection; yet they cannot tell what they want of one
another. But if Hephaestus were to come to them with his instruments
and propose that they should be melted into one and remain one here and
hereafter, they would acknowledge that this was the very expression of
their want. For love is the desire of the whole, and the pursuit of the
whole is called love. There was a time when the two sexes were only one,
but now God has halved them,--much as the Lacedaemonians have cut up
the Arcadians,--and if they do not behave themselves he will divide
them again, and they will hop about with half a nose and face in basso
relievo. Wherefore let us exhort all men to piety, that we may obtain
the goods of which love is the author, and be reconciled to God, and
find our own true loves, which rarely happens in this world. And now I
must beg you not to suppose that I am alluding to Pausanias and Agathon
(compare Protag.), for my words refer to all mankind everywhere.

Some raillery ensues first between Aristophanes and Eryximachus, and
then between Agathon, who fears a few select friends more than any
number of spectators at the theatre, and Socrates, who is disposed to
begin an argument. This is speedily repressed by Phaedrus, who reminds
the disputants of their tribute to the god. Agathon's speech follows:--

He will speak of the god first and then of his gifts: He is the fairest
and blessedest and best of the gods, and also the youngest, having had
no existence in the old days of Iapetus and Cronos when the gods were
at war. The things that were done then were done of necessity and not
of love. For love is young and dwells in soft places,--not like Ate
in Homer, walking on the skulls of men, but in their hearts and
souls, which are soft enough. He is all flexibility and grace, and his
habitation is among the flowers, and he cannot do or suffer wrong; for
all men serve and obey him of their own free will, and where there is
love there is obedience, and where obedience, there is justice; for
none can be wronged of his own free will. And he is temperate as well as
just, for he is the ruler of the desires, and if he rules them he must
be temperate. Also he is courageous, for he is the conqueror of the lord
of war. And he is wise too; for he is a poet, and the author of poesy in
others. He created the animals; he is the inventor of the arts; all the
gods are his subjects; he is the fairest and best himself, and the cause
of what is fairest and best in others; he makes men to be of one mind
at a banquet, filling them with affection and emptying them of
disaffection; the pilot, helper, defender, saviour of men, in whose
footsteps let every man follow, chanting a strain of love. Such is the
discourse, half playful, half serious, which I dedicate to the god.

The turn of Socrates comes next. He begins by remarking satirically
that he has not understood the terms of the original agreement, for he
fancied that they meant to speak the true praises of love, but now he
finds that they only say what is good of him, whether true or false. He
begs to be absolved from speaking falsely, but he is willing to speak
the truth, and proposes to begin by questioning Agathon. The result of
his questions may be summed up as follows:--

Love is of something, and that which love desires is not that which love
is or has; for no man desires that which he is or has. And love is of
the beautiful, and therefore has not the beautiful. And the beautiful
is the good, and therefore, in wanting and desiring the beautiful, love
also wants and desires the good. Socrates professes to have asked the
same questions and to have obtained the same answers from Diotima, a
wise woman of Mantinea, who, like Agathon, had spoken first of love and
then of his works. Socrates, like Agathon, had told her that Love is a
mighty god and also fair, and she had shown him in return that Love was
neither, but in a mean between fair and foul, good and evil, and not a
god at all, but only a great demon or intermediate power (compare the
speech of Eryximachus) who conveys to the gods the prayers of men, and
to men the commands of the gods.

Socrates asks: Who are his father and mother? To this Diotima replies
that he is the son of Plenty and Poverty, and partakes of the nature of
both, and is full and starved by turns. Like his mother he is poor and
squalid, lying on mats at doors (compare the speech of Pausanias);
like his father he is bold and strong, and full of arts and resources.
Further, he is in a mean between ignorance and knowledge:--in this he
resembles the philosopher who is also in a mean between the wise and the
ignorant. Such is the nature of Love, who is not to be confused with the

But Love desires the beautiful; and then arises the question, What does
he desire of the beautiful? He desires, of course, the possession of
the beautiful;--but what is given by that? For the beautiful let us
substitute the good, and we have no difficulty in seeing the possession
of the good to be happiness, and Love to be the desire of happiness,
although the meaning of the word has been too often confined to one
kind of love. And Love desires not only the good, but the everlasting
possession of the good. Why then is there all this flutter and
excitement about love? Because all men and women at a certain age are
desirous of bringing to the birth. And love is not of beauty only, but
of birth in beauty; this is the principle of immortality in a mortal
creature. When beauty approaches, then the conceiving power is benign
and diffuse; when foulness, she is averted and morose.

But why again does this extend not only to men but also to animals?
Because they too have an instinct of immortality. Even in the same
individual there is a perpetual succession as well of the parts of the
material body as of the thoughts and desires of the mind; nay, even
knowledge comes and goes. There is no sameness of existence, but the new
mortality is always taking the place of the old. This is the reason why
parents love their children--for the sake of immortality; and this is
why men love the immortality of fame. For the creative soul creates not
children, but conceptions of wisdom and virtue, such as poets and other
creators have invented. And the noblest creations of all are those of
legislators, in honour of whom temples have been raised. Who would not
sooner have these children of the mind than the ordinary human ones?
(Compare Bacon's Essays, 8:--'Certainly the best works and of greatest
merit for the public have proceeded from the unmarried or childless men;
which both in affection and means have married and endowed the public.')

I will now initiate you, she said, into the greater mysteries; for he
who would proceed in due course should love first one fair form, and
then many, and learn the connexion of them; and from beautiful bodies
he should proceed to beautiful minds, and the beauty of laws and
institutions, until he perceives that all beauty is of one kindred; and
from institutions he should go on to the sciences, until at last the
vision is revealed to him of a single science of universal beauty, and
then he will behold the everlasting nature which is the cause of all,
and will be near the end. In the contemplation of that supreme being of
love he will be purified of earthly leaven, and will behold beauty, not
with the bodily eye, but with the eye of the mind, and will bring forth
true creations of virtue and wisdom, and be the friend of God and heir
of immortality.

Such, Phaedrus, is the tale which I heard from the stranger of Mantinea,
and which you may call the encomium of love, or what you please.

The company applaud the speech of Socrates, and Aristophanes is about to
say something, when suddenly a band of revellers breaks into the court,
and the voice of Alcibiades is heard asking for Agathon. He is led
in drunk, and welcomed by Agathon, whom he has come to crown with
a garland. He is placed on a couch at his side, but suddenly, on
recognizing Socrates, he starts up, and a sort of conflict is carried
on between them, which Agathon is requested to appease. Alcibiades then
insists that they shall drink, and has a large wine-cooler filled,
which he first empties himself, and then fills again and passes on to
Socrates. He is informed of the nature of the entertainment; and is
ready to join, if only in the character of a drunken and disappointed
lover he may be allowed to sing the praises of Socrates:--

He begins by comparing Socrates first to the busts of Silenus, which
have images of the gods inside them; and, secondly, to Marsyas the
flute-player. For Socrates produces the same effect with the voice which
Marsyas did with the flute. He is the great speaker and enchanter
who ravishes the souls of men; the convincer of hearts too, as he has
convinced Alcibiades, and made him ashamed of his mean and miserable
life. Socrates at one time seemed about to fall in love with him; and he
thought that he would thereby gain a wonderful opportunity of receiving
lessons of wisdom. He narrates the failure of his design. He has
suffered agonies from him, and is at his wit's end. He then proceeds to
mention some other particulars of the life of Socrates; how they were at
Potidaea together, where Socrates showed his superior powers of enduring
cold and fatigue; how on one occasion he had stood for an entire day and
night absorbed in reflection amid the wonder of the spectators; how on
another occasion he had saved Alcibiades' life; how at the battle
of Delium, after the defeat, he might be seen stalking about like a
pelican, rolling his eyes as Aristophanes had described him in the
Clouds. He is the most wonderful of human beings, and absolutely unlike
anyone but a satyr. Like the satyr in his language too; for he uses the
commonest words as the outward mask of the divinest truths.

When Alcibiades has done speaking, a dispute begins between him
and Agathon and Socrates. Socrates piques Alcibiades by a pretended
affection for Agathon. Presently a band of revellers appears, who
introduce disorder into the feast; the sober part of the company,
Eryximachus, Phaedrus, and others, withdraw; and Aristodemus, the
follower of Socrates, sleeps during the whole of a long winter's night.
When he wakes at cockcrow the revellers are nearly all asleep. Only
Socrates, Aristophanes, and Agathon hold out; they are drinking from a
large goblet, which they pass round, and Socrates is explaining to the
two others, who are half-asleep, that the genius of tragedy is the same
as that of comedy, and that the writer of tragedy ought to be a writer
of comedy also. And first Aristophanes drops, and then, as the day is
dawning, Agathon. Socrates, having laid them to rest, takes a bath and
goes to his daily avocations until the evening. Aristodemus follows.


If it be true that there are more things in the Symposium of Plato than
any commentator has dreamed of, it is also true that many things have
been imagined which are not really to be found there. Some writings
hardly admit of a more distinct interpretation than a musical
composition; and every reader may form his own accompaniment of thought
or feeling to the strain which he hears. The Symposium of Plato is a
work of this character, and can with difficulty be rendered in any words
but the writer's own. There are so many half-lights and cross-lights,
so much of the colour of mythology, and of the manner of sophistry
adhering--rhetoric and poetry, the playful and the serious, are so
subtly intermingled in it, and vestiges of old philosophy so curiously
blend with germs of future knowledge, that agreement among interpreters
is not to be expected. The expression 'poema magis putandum quam
comicorum poetarum,' which has been applied to all the writings of
Plato, is especially applicable to the Symposium.

The power of love is represented in the Symposium as running through all
nature and all being: at one end descending to animals and plants, and
attaining to the highest vision of truth at the other. In an age
when man was seeking for an expression of the world around him, the
conception of love greatly affected him. One of the first distinctions
of language and of mythology was that of gender; and at a later period
the ancient physicist, anticipating modern science, saw, or thought
that he saw, a sex in plants; there were elective affinities among the
elements, marriages of earth and heaven. (Aesch. Frag. Dan.) Love became
a mythic personage whom philosophy, borrowing from poetry, converted
into an efficient cause of creation. The traces of the existence of
love, as of number and figure, were everywhere discerned; and in the
Pythagorean list of opposites male and female were ranged side by side
with odd and even, finite and infinite.

But Plato seems also to be aware that there is a mystery of love in man
as well as in nature, extending beyond the mere immediate relation of
the sexes. He is conscious that the highest and noblest things in the
world are not easily severed from the sensual desires, or may even be
regarded as a spiritualized form of them. We may observe that Socrates
himself is not represented as originally unimpassioned, but as one who
has overcome his passions; the secret of his power over others partly
lies in his passionate but self-controlled nature. In the Phaedrus and
Symposium love is not merely the feeling usually so called, but the
mystical contemplation of the beautiful and the good. The same passion
which may wallow in the mire is capable of rising to the loftiest
heights--of penetrating the inmost secret of philosophy. The highest
love is the love not of a person, but of the highest and purest
abstraction. This abstraction is the far-off heaven on which the eye of
the mind is fixed in fond amazement. The unity of truth, the consistency
of the warring elements of the world, the enthusiasm for knowledge when
first beaming upon mankind, the relativity of ideas to the human
mind, and of the human mind to ideas, the faith in the invisible,
the adoration of the eternal nature, are all included, consciously or
unconsciously, in Plato's doctrine of love.

The successive speeches in praise of love are characteristic of the
speakers, and contribute in various degrees to the final result; they
are all designed to prepare the way for Socrates, who gathers up the
threads anew, and skims the highest points of each of them. But they are
not to be regarded as the stages of an idea, rising above one another
to a climax. They are fanciful, partly facetious performances, 'yet also
having a certain measure of seriousness,' which the successive speakers
dedicate to the god. All of them are rhetorical and poetical rather than
dialectical, but glimpses of truth appear in them. When Eryximachus says
that the principles of music are simple in themselves, but confused
in their application, he touches lightly upon a difficulty which has
troubled the moderns as well as the ancients in music, and may be
extended to the other applied sciences. That confusion begins in the
concrete, was the natural feeling of a mind dwelling in the world of
ideas. When Pausanias remarks that personal attachments are inimical
to despots. The experience of Greek history confirms the truth of his
remark. When Aristophanes declares that love is the desire of the whole,
he expresses a feeling not unlike that of the German philosopher, who
says that 'philosophy is home sickness.' When Agathon says that no man
'can be wronged of his own free will,' he is alluding playfully to a
serious problem of Greek philosophy (compare Arist. Nic. Ethics). So
naturally does Plato mingle jest and earnest, truth and opinion in the
same work.

The characters--of Phaedrus, who has been the cause of more
philosophical discussions than any other man, with the exception of
Simmias the Theban (Phaedrus); of Aristophanes, who disguises under
comic imagery a serious purpose; of Agathon, who in later life is
satirized by Aristophanes in the Thesmophoriazusae, for his effeminate
manners and the feeble rhythms of his verse; of Alcibiades, who is the
same strange contrast of great powers and great vices, which meets us
in history--are drawn to the life; and we may suppose the less-known
characters of Pausanias and Eryximachus to be also true to the
traditional recollection of them (compare Phaedr., Protag.; and compare
Sympos. with Phaedr.). We may also remark that Aristodemus is called
'the little' in Xenophon's Memorabilia (compare Symp.).

The speeches have been said to follow each other in pairs: Phaedrus and
Pausanias being the ethical, Eryximachus and Aristophanes the physical
speakers, while in Agathon and Socrates poetry and philosophy blend
together. The speech of Phaedrus is also described as the mythological,
that of Pausanias as the political, that of Eryximachus as the
scientific, that of Aristophanes as the artistic (!), that of Socrates
as the philosophical. But these and similar distinctions are not found
in Plato;--they are the points of view of his critics, and seem to
impede rather than to assist us in understanding him.

When the turn of Socrates comes round he cannot be allowed to disturb
the arrangement made at first. With the leave of Phaedrus he asks a few
questions, and then he throws his argument into the form of a speech
(compare Gorg., Protag.). But his speech is really the narrative of a
dialogue between himself and Diotima. And as at a banquet good manners
would not allow him to win a victory either over his host or any of
the guests, the superiority which he gains over Agathon is ingeniously
represented as having been already gained over himself by her. The
artifice has the further advantage of maintaining his accustomed
profession of ignorance (compare Menex.). Even his knowledge of the
mysteries of love, to which he lays claim here and elsewhere (Lys.), is
given by Diotima.

The speeches are attested to us by the very best authority. The madman
Apollodorus, who for three years past has made a daily study of the
actions of Socrates--to whom the world is summed up in the words 'Great
is Socrates'--he has heard them from another 'madman,' Aristodemus,
who was the 'shadow' of Socrates in days of old, like him going about
barefooted, and who had been present at the time. 'Would you desire
better witness?' The extraordinary narrative of Alcibiades is
ingeniously represented as admitted by Socrates, whose silence when he
is invited to contradict gives consent to the narrator. We may observe,
by the way, (1) how the very appearance of Aristodemus by himself is
a sufficient indication to Agathon that Socrates has been left behind;
also, (2) how the courtesy of Agathon anticipates the excuse which
Socrates was to have made on Aristodemus' behalf for coming uninvited;
(3) how the story of the fit or trance of Socrates is confirmed by the
mention which Alcibiades makes of a similar fit of abstraction occurring
when he was serving with the army at Potidaea; like (4) the drinking
powers of Socrates and his love of the fair, which receive a similar
attestation in the concluding scene; or the attachment of Aristodemus,
who is not forgotten when Socrates takes his departure. (5) We may
notice the manner in which Socrates himself regards the first five
speeches, not as true, but as fanciful and exaggerated encomiums of the
god Love; (6) the satirical character of them, shown especially in
the appeals to mythology, in the reasons which are given by Zeus for
reconstructing the frame of man, or by the Boeotians and Eleans
for encouraging male loves; (7) the ruling passion of Socrates for
dialectics, who will argue with Agathon instead of making a speech, and
will only speak at all upon the condition that he is allowed to speak
the truth. We may note also the touch of Socratic irony, (8) which
admits of a wide application and reveals a deep insight into the
world:--that in speaking of holy things and persons there is a general
understanding that you should praise them, not that you should speak the
truth about them--this is the sort of praise which Socrates is unable to
give. Lastly, (9) we may remark that the banquet is a real banquet after
all, at which love is the theme of discourse, and huge quantities of
wine are drunk.

The discourse of Phaedrus is half-mythical, half-ethical; and he
himself, true to the character which is given him in the Dialogue
bearing his name, is half-sophist, half-enthusiast. He is the critic
of poetry also, who compares Homer and Aeschylus in the insipid
and irrational manner of the schools of the day, characteristically
reasoning about the probability of matters which do not admit of
reasoning. He starts from a noble text: 'That without the sense of
honour and dishonour neither states nor individuals ever do any good
or great work.' But he soon passes on to more common-place topics. The
antiquity of love, the blessing of having a lover, the incentive which
love offers to daring deeds, the examples of Alcestis and Achilles, are
the chief themes of his discourse. The love of women is regarded by him
as almost on an equality with that of men; and he makes the singular
remark that the gods favour the return of love which is made by the
beloved more than the original sentiment, because the lover is of a
nobler and diviner nature.

There is something of a sophistical ring in the speech of Phaedrus,
which recalls the first speech in imitation of Lysias, occurring in the
Dialogue called the Phaedrus. This is still more marked in the speech of
Pausanias which follows; and which is at once hyperlogical in form and
also extremely confused and pedantic. Plato is attacking the logical
feebleness of the sophists and rhetoricians, through their pupils, not
forgetting by the way to satirize the monotonous and unmeaning rhythms
which Prodicus and others were introducing into Attic prose (compare
Protag.). Of course, he is 'playing both sides of the game,' as in the
Gorgias and Phaedrus; but it is not necessary in order to understand him
that we should discuss the fairness of his mode of proceeding. The
love of Pausanias for Agathon has already been touched upon in the
Protagoras, and is alluded to by Aristophanes. Hence he is naturally the
upholder of male loves, which, like all the other affections or
actions of men, he regards as varying according to the manner of their
performance. Like the sophists and like Plato himself, though in a
different sense, he begins his discussion by an appeal to mythology,
and distinguishes between the elder and younger love. The value which
he attributes to such loves as motives to virtue and philosophy is at
variance with modern and Christian notions, but is in accordance with
Hellenic sentiment. The opinion of Christendom has not altogether
condemned passionate friendships between persons of the same sex, but
has certainly not encouraged them, because though innocent in themselves
in a few temperaments they are liable to degenerate into fearful evil.
Pausanias is very earnest in the defence of such loves; and he speaks of
them as generally approved among Hellenes and disapproved by barbarians.
His speech is 'more words than matter,' and might have been composed by
a pupil of Lysias or of Prodicus, although there is no hint given that
Plato is specially referring to them. As Eryximachus says, 'he makes a
fair beginning, but a lame ending.'

Plato transposes the two next speeches, as in the Republic he would
transpose the virtues and the mathematical sciences. This is done partly
to avoid monotony, partly for the sake of making Aristophanes 'the cause
of wit in others,' and also in order to bring the comic and tragic
poet into juxtaposition, as if by accident. A suitable 'expectation' of
Aristophanes is raised by the ludicrous circumstance of his having the
hiccough, which is appropriately cured by his substitute, the physician
Eryximachus. To Eryximachus Love is the good physician; he sees
everything as an intelligent physicist, and, like many professors of his
art in modern times, attempts to reduce the moral to the physical; or
recognises one law of love which pervades them both. There are loves
and strifes of the body as well as of the mind. Like Hippocrates the
Asclepiad, he is a disciple of Heracleitus, whose conception of the
harmony of opposites he explains in a new way as the harmony after
discord; to his common sense, as to that of many moderns as well as
ancients, the identity of contradictories is an absurdity. His notion of
love may be summed up as the harmony of man with himself in soul as well
as body, and of all things in heaven and earth with one another.

Aristophanes is ready to laugh and make laugh before he opens his mouth,
just as Socrates, true to his character, is ready to argue before he
begins to speak. He expresses the very genius of the old comedy, its
coarse and forcible imagery, and the licence of its language in speaking
about the gods. He has no sophistical notions about love, which
is brought back by him to its common-sense meaning of love between
intelligent beings. His account of the origin of the sexes has the
greatest (comic) probability and verisimilitude. Nothing in Aristophanes
is more truly Aristophanic than the description of the human monster
whirling round on four arms and four legs, eight in all, with incredible
rapidity. Yet there is a mixture of earnestness in this jest; three
serious principles seem to be insinuated:--first, that man cannot exist
in isolation; he must be reunited if he is to be perfected: secondly,
that love is the mediator and reconciler of poor, divided human nature:
thirdly, that the loves of this world are an indistinct anticipation of
an ideal union which is not yet realized.

The speech of Agathon is conceived in a higher strain, and receives the
real, if half-ironical, approval of Socrates. It is the speech of the
tragic poet and a sort of poem, like tragedy, moving among the gods of
Olympus, and not among the elder or Orphic deities. In the idea of the
antiquity of love he cannot agree; love is not of the olden time, but
present and youthful ever. The speech may be compared with that speech
of Socrates in the Phaedrus in which he describes himself as talking
dithyrambs. It is at once a preparation for Socrates and a foil to him.
The rhetoric of Agathon elevates the soul to 'sunlit heights,' but at
the same time contrasts with the natural and necessary eloquence of
Socrates. 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. 'This is a great mystery, but I speak concerning Christ and the
church'); as the mediaeval saint might speak of the 'fruitio Dei;' as
Dante saw all things contained in his love of Beatrice, so Plato would
have us absorb all other loves and desires in the love of knowledge.
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.' In both the lover of wisdom is
the 'spectator of all time and of all existence.' This is a 'mystery'
in which Plato also obscurely intimates the union of the spiritual and
fleshly, the interpenetration of the moral and intellectual faculties.

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.), and is a subject for irony, no
less than for moral reprobation (compare Plato's Symp.). It is also used
as a figure of speech which no one interpreted literally (compare Xen.
Symp.). 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.) by the
beauty of young men and boys, which was alone capable of inspiring the
modern feeling of romance in the Greek mind. 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.), is not a mere fiction of Plato's, but seems actually to have
existed at Thebes in the days of Epaminondas and Pelopidas, if we
may believe writers cited anonymously by Plutarch, Pelop. Vit. It is
observable that Plato never in the least degree excuses the depraved
love of the body (compare Charm.; Rep.; Laws; Symp.; and once more
Xenophon, Mem.), nor is there any Greek writer of mark who condones or
approves such connexions. 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.), and who deemed the friendship of man with man to be higher
than the love of woman, because altogether separated from the bodily
appetites. 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.g. in the
Symposium) half in jest, yet 'with a certain degree of seriousness.'
We observe that they entered into one part of Greek literature, but not
into another, and that the larger part is free from such associations.
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.) is not exempt from evil imputations. 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. (1) That good and evil are linked together in human
nature, and have often existed side by side in the world and in man to
an extent hardly credible. 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). (2) It may be observed that evils which admit of
degrees can seldom be rightly estimated, because under the same name
actions of the most different degrees of culpability may be included. 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.g. 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. (3) While we know that in this
matter there is a great gulf fixed between Greek and Christian Ethics,
yet, if we would do justice to the Greeks, we must also acknowledge that
there was a greater outspokenness among them than among ourselves about
the things which nature hides, and that the more frequent mention of
such topics is not to be taken as the measure of the prevalence of
offences, or as a proof of the general corruption of society. 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.
(4) We observe that at Thebes and Lacedemon the attachment of an
elder friend to a beloved youth was often deemed to be a part of his
education; and was encouraged by his parents--it was only shameful if
it degenerated into licentiousness. 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.; Athenaeus on the
authority of Theopompus). (5) A small matter: there appears to be a
difference of custom among the Greeks and among ourselves, as between
ourselves and continental nations at the present time, in modes of
salutation. 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.

(Compare Hoeck's Creta and the admirable and exhaustive article of Meier
in Ersch and Grueber's Cyclopedia on this subject; Plutarch, Amatores;
Athenaeus; Lysias contra Simonem; Aesch. c. Timarchum.)

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.C. 384, which is
the forty-fourth year of Plato's life. The Symposium cannot therefore be
regarded as a youthful work. As Mantinea was restored in the year 369,
the composition of the Dialogue will probably fall between 384 and
369. 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.), and has no strength to go

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.


PERSONS OF THE DIALOGUE: Apollodorus, who repeats to his companion
the dialogue which he had heard from Aristodemus, and had already once
narrated to Glaucon. Phaedrus, Pausanias, Eryximachus, Aristophanes,
Agathon, Socrates, Alcibiades, A Troop of Revellers.

SCENE: The House of Agathon.

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.') man, halt! 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.

Why, yes, he replied, I thought so.

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.

Well, he said, jesting apart, tell me when the meeting occurred.

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

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.

APOLLODORUS: Yes, friend, and the reason why I am said to be mad, and
out of my wits, is just because I have these notions of myself and you;
no other evidence is required.

COMPANION: No more of that, Apollodorus; but let me renew my request
that you would repeat the conversation.

APOLLODORUS: Well, the tale of love was on this wise:--But perhaps I had
better begin at the beginning, and endeavour to give you the exact words
of Aristodemus:

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?

I will do as you bid me, I replied.

Follow then, he said, and let us demolish the proverb:--

'To the feasts of inferior men the good unbidden go;'

instead of which our proverb will run:--

'To the feasts of the good the good unbidden go;'

and this alteration may be supported by the authority of Homer himself,
who not only demolishes but literally outrages the proverb. 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,

'To the feasts of the wise unbidden goes.'

But I shall say that I was bidden of you, and then you will have to make
an excuse.

'Two going together,'

he replied, in Homeric fashion, one or other of them may invent an
excuse by the way (Iliad).

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

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.

You were quite right in coming, said Agathon; but where is he himself?

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. 'There he is fixed,'
said he, 'and when I call to him he will not stir.'

How strange, said Agathon; then you must call him again, and keep
calling him.

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.' After this,
supper was served, but still no Socrates; and during the meal Agathon
several times expressed a wish to send for him, but Aristodemus
objected; and at last when the feast was about half over--for the fit,
as usual, was not of long duration--Socrates entered. 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

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?

I am not equal to it, said Agathon.

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:--

I will begin, he said, after the manner of Melanippe in Euripides,

'Not mine the word'

which I am about to speak, but that of Phaedrus. 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.' Now in this Phaedrus seems to me to be
quite right, and therefore I want to offer him a contribution; also I
think that at the present moment we who are here assembled cannot do
better than honour the god Love. 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

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

'First Chaos came, and then broad-bosomed Earth, The everlasting seat of
all that is, And Love.'

In other words, after Chaos, the Earth and Love, these two, came into
being. Also Parmenides sings of Generation:

'First in the train of gods, he fashioned Love.'

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.), they would be the very
best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonour, and
emulating one another in honour; and when fighting at each other's side,
although a mere handful, they would overcome the world. 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

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. In like manner rhythm is compounded of elements
short and long, once differing and now in accord; which accordance, as
in the former instance, medicine, so in all these other cases, music
implants, making love and unison to grow up among them; and thus music,
too, is concerned with the principles of love in their application to
harmony and rhythm. Again, in the essential nature of harmony and rhythm
there is no difficulty in discerning love which has not yet become
double. But when you want to use them in actual life, either in the
composition of songs or in the correct performance of airs or metres
composed already, which latter is called education, then the difficulty
begins, and the good artist is needed. Then the old tale has to be
repeated of fair and heavenly love--the love of Urania the fair and
heavenly muse, and of the duty of accepting the temperate, and those
who are as yet intemperate only that they may become temperate, and of
preserving their love; and again, of the vulgar Polyhymnia, who must
be used with circumspection that the pleasure be enjoyed, but may not
generate licentiousness; just as in my own art it is a great matter so
to regulate the desires of the epicure that he may gratify his tastes
without the attendant evil of disease. Whence I infer that in music, in
medicine, in all other things human as well as divine, both loves ought
to be noted as far as may be, for they are both present.

The course of the seasons is also full of both these principles; and
when, as I was saying, the elements of hot and cold, moist and dry,
attain the harmonious love of one another and blend in temperance and
harmony, they bring to men, animals, and plants health and plenty, and
do them no harm; whereas the wanton love, getting the upper hand and
affecting the seasons of the year, is very destructive and injurious,
being the source of pestilence, and bringing many other kinds of
diseases on animals and plants; for hoar-frost and hail and blight
spring from the excesses and disorders of these elements of love, which
to know in relation to the revolutions of the heavenly bodies and the
seasons of the year is termed astronomy. Furthermore all sacrifices and
the whole province of divination, which is the art of communion between
gods and men--these, I say, are concerned only with the preservation
of the good and the cure of the evil love. For all manner of impiety is
likely to ensue if, instead of accepting and honouring and reverencing
the harmonious love in all his actions, a man honours the other love,
whether in his feelings towards gods or parents, towards the living or
the dead. Wherefore the business of divination is to see to these loves
and to heal them, and divination is the peacemaker of gods and men,
working by a knowledge of the religious or irreligious tendencies which
exist in human loves. Such is the great and mighty, or rather omnipotent
force of love in general. And the love, more especially, which is
concerned with the good, and which is perfected in company with
temperance and justice, whether among gods or men, has the greatest
power, and is the source of all our happiness and harmony, and makes us
friends with the gods who are above us, and with one another. I dare say
that I too have omitted several things which might be said in praise
of Love, but this was not intentional, and you, Aristophanes, may now
supply the omission or take some other line of commendation; for I
perceive that you are rid of the hiccough.

Yes, said Aristophanes, who followed, the hiccough is gone; not,
however, until I applied the sneezing; and I wonder whether the harmony
of the body has a love of such noises and ticklings, for I no sooner
applied the sneezing than I was cured.

Eryximachus said: Beware, friend Aristophanes, although you are going
to speak, you are making fun of me; and I shall have to watch and see
whether I cannot have a laugh at your expense, when you might speak in

You are right, said Aristophanes, laughing. I will unsay my words; but
do you please not to watch me, as I fear that in the speech which I
am about to make, instead of others laughing with me, which is to the
manner born of our muse and would be all the better, I shall only be
laughed at by them.

Do you expect to shoot your bolt and escape, Aristophanes? Well, perhaps
if you are very careful and bear in mind that you will be called to
account, I may be induced to let you off.

Aristophanes professed to open another vein of discourse; he had a
mind to praise Love in another way, unlike that either of Pausanias or
Eryximachus. Mankind, he said, judging by their neglect of him, have
never, as I think, at all understood the power of Love. For if they had
understood him they would surely have built noble temples and altars,
and offered solemn sacrifices in his honour; but this is not done, and
most certainly ought to be done: since of all the gods he is the best
friend of men, the helper and the healer of the ills which are the great
impediment to the happiness of the race. I will try to describe his
power to you, and you shall teach the rest of the world what I am
teaching you. In the first place, let me treat of the nature of man and
what has happened to it; for the original human nature was not like
the present, but different. The sexes were not two as they are now, but
originally three in number; there was man, woman, and the union of the
two, having a name corresponding to this double nature, which had once
a real existence, but is now lost, and the word 'Androgynous' is only
preserved as a term of reproach. In the second place, the primeval man
was round, his back and sides forming a circle; and he had four hands
and four feet, one head with two faces, looking opposite ways, set on a
round neck and precisely alike; also four ears, two privy members,
and the remainder to correspond. He could walk upright as men now do,
backwards or forwards as he pleased, and he could also roll over and
over at a great pace, turning on his four hands and four feet, eight in
all, like tumblers going over and over with their legs in the air; this
was when he wanted to run fast. Now the sexes were three, and such as I
have described them; because the sun, moon, and earth are three; and the
man was originally the child of the sun, the woman of the earth, and the
man-woman of the moon, which is made up of sun and earth, and they were
all round and moved round and round like their parents. Terrible was
their might and strength, and the thoughts of their hearts were great,
and they made an attack upon the gods; of them is told the tale of Otys
and Ephialtes who, as Homer says, dared to scale heaven, and would
have laid hands upon the gods. Doubt reigned in the celestial councils.
Should they kill them and annihilate the race with thunderbolts, as they
had done the giants, then there would be an end of the sacrifices and
worship which men offered to them; but, on the other hand, the gods
could not suffer their insolence to be unrestrained. At last, after a
good deal of reflection, Zeus discovered a way. He said: 'Methinks I
have a plan which will humble their pride and improve their manners; men
shall continue to exist, but I will cut them in two and then they will
be diminished in strength and increased in numbers; this will have the
advantage of making them more profitable to us. They shall walk upright
on two legs, and if they continue insolent and will not be quiet, I will
split them again and they shall hop about on a single leg.' He spoke and
cut men in two, like a sorb-apple which is halved for pickling, or
as you might divide an egg with a hair; and as he cut them one after
another, he bade Apollo give the face and the half of the neck a turn
in order that the man might contemplate the section of himself: he would
thus learn a lesson of humility. Apollo was also bidden to heal their
wounds and compose their forms. So he gave a turn to the face and pulled
the skin from the sides all over that which in our language is called
the belly, like the purses which draw in, and he made one mouth at
the centre, which he fastened in a knot (the same which is called the
navel); he also moulded the breast and took out most of the wrinkles,
much as a shoemaker might smooth leather upon a last; he left a few,
however, in the region of the belly and navel, as a memorial of the
primeval state. After the division the two parts of man, each desiring
his other half, came together, and throwing their arms about one
another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow into one, they
were on the point of dying from hunger and self-neglect, because they
did not like to do anything apart; and when one of the halves died and
the other survived, the survivor sought another mate, man or woman as
we call them,--being the sections of entire men or women,--and clung to
that. They were being destroyed, when Zeus in pity of them invented a
new plan: he turned the parts of generation round to the front, for this
had not been always their position, and they sowed the seed no longer as
hitherto like grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another; and after
the transposition the male generated in the female in order that by the
mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race might
continue; or if man came to man they might be satisfied, and rest, and
go their ways to the business of life: so ancient is the desire of one
another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original nature, making
one of two, and healing the state of man. Each of us when separated,
having one side only, like a flat fish, is but the indenture of a man,
and he is always looking for his other half. Men who are a section
of that double nature which was once called Androgynous are lovers of
women; adulterers are generally of this breed, and also adulterous women
who lust after men: the women who are a section of the woman do not care
for men, but have female attachments; the female companions are of this
sort. But they who are a section of the male follow the male, and while
they are young, being slices of the original man, they hang about men
and embrace them, and they are themselves the best of boys and youths,
because they have the most manly nature. Some indeed assert that they
are shameless, but this is not true; for they do not act thus from any
want of shame, but because they are valiant and manly, and have a manly
countenance, and they embrace that which is like them. And these when
they grow up become our statesmen, and these only, which is a great
proof of the truth of what I am saving. When they reach manhood they
are lovers of youth, and are not naturally inclined to marry or beget
children,--if at all, they do so only in obedience to the law; but they
are satisfied if they may be allowed to live with one another unwedded;
and such a nature is prone to love and ready to return love, always
embracing that which is akin to him. And when one of them meets with his
other half, the actual half of himself, whether he be a lover of youth
or a lover of another sort, the pair are lost in an amazement of love
and friendship and intimacy, and one will not be out of the other's
sight, as I may say, even for a moment: these are the people who pass
their whole lives together; yet they could not explain what they desire
of one another. For the intense yearning which each of them has towards
the other does not appear to be the desire of lover's intercourse, but
of something else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot
tell, and of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment.
Suppose Hephaestus, with his instruments, to come to the pair who are
lying side by side and to say to them, 'What do you people want of one
another?' they would be unable to explain. And suppose further, that
when he saw their perplexity he said: 'Do you desire to be wholly one;
always day and night to be in one another's company? for if this is what
you desire, I am ready to melt you into one and let you grow together,
so that being two you shall become one, and while you live live a common
life as if you were a single man, and after your death in the world
below still be one departed soul instead of two--I ask whether this
is what you lovingly desire, and whether you are satisfied to attain
this?'--there is not a man of them who when he heard the proposal would
deny or would not acknowledge that this meeting and melting into one
another, this becoming one instead of two, was the very expression of
his ancient need (compare Arist. Pol.). And the reason is that human
nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and
pursuit of the whole is called love. There was a time, I say, when we
were one, but now because of the wickedness of mankind God has dispersed
us, as the Arcadians were dispersed into villages by the Lacedaemonians
(compare Arist. Pol.). And if we are not obedient to the gods, there is
a danger that we shall be split up again and go about in basso-relievo,
like the profile figures having only half a nose which are sculptured
on monuments, and that we shall be like tallies. Wherefore let us exhort
all men to piety, that we may avoid evil, and obtain the good, of which
Love is to us the lord and minister; and let no one oppose him--he is
the enemy of the gods who opposes him. For if we are friends of the God
and at peace with him we shall find our own true loves, which rarely
happens in this world at present. I am serious, and therefore I must beg
Eryximachus not to make fun or to find any allusion in what I am saying
to Pausanias and Agathon, who, as I suspect, are both of the manly
nature, and belong to the class which I have been describing. But my
words have a wider application--they include men and women everywhere;
and I believe that if our loves were perfectly accomplished, and each
one returning to his primeval nature had his original true love, then
our race would be happy. And if this would be best of all, the best
in the next degree and under present circumstances must be the nearest
approach to such an union; and that will be the attainment of a
congenial love. Wherefore, if we would praise him who has given to
us the benefit, we must praise the god Love, who is our greatest
benefactor, both leading us in this life back to our own nature, and
giving us high hopes for the future, for he promises that if we are
pious, he will restore us to our original state, and heal us and make
us happy and blessed. This, Eryximachus, is my discourse of love, which,
although different to yours, I must beg you to leave unassailed by the
shafts of your ridicule, in order that each may have his turn; each, or
rather either, for Agathon and Socrates are the only ones left.

Indeed, I am not going to attack you, said Eryximachus, for I thought
your speech charming, and did I not know that Agathon and Socrates are
masters in the art of love, I should be really afraid that they would
have nothing to say, after the world of things which have been said
already. But, for all that, I am not without hopes.

Socrates said: You played your part well, Eryximachus; but if you were
as I am now, or rather as I shall be when Agathon has spoken, you would,
indeed, be in a great strait.

You want to cast a spell over me, Socrates, said Agathon, in the hope
that I may be disconcerted at the expectation raised among the audience
that I shall speak well.

I should be strangely forgetful, Agathon replied Socrates, of the
courage and magnanimity which you showed when your own compositions were
about to be exhibited, and you came upon the stage with the actors and
faced the vast theatre altogether undismayed, if I thought that your
nerves could be fluttered at a small party of friends.

Do you think, Socrates, said Agathon, that my head is so full of the
theatre as not to know how much more formidable to a man of sense a few
good judges are than many fools?

Nay, replied Socrates, I should be very wrong in attributing to you,
Agathon, that or any other want of refinement. And I am quite aware that
if you happened to meet with any whom you thought wise, you would care
for their opinion much more than for that of the many. But then we,
having been a part of the foolish many in the theatre, cannot be
regarded as the select wise; though I know that if you chanced to be in
the presence, not of one of ourselves, but of some really wise man, you
would be ashamed of disgracing yourself before him--would you not?

Yes, said Agathon.

But before the many you would not be ashamed, if you thought that you
were doing something disgraceful in their presence?

Here Phaedrus interrupted them, saying: not answer him, my dear Agathon;
for if he can only get a partner with whom he can talk, especially a
good-looking one, he will no longer care about the completion of our
plan. Now I love to hear him talk; but just at present I must not forget
the encomium on Love which I ought to receive from him and from every
one. When you and he have paid your tribute to the god, then you may

Very good, Phaedrus, said Agathon; I see no reason why I should not
proceed with my speech, as I shall have many other opportunities of
conversing with Socrates. Let me say first how I ought to speak, and
then speak:--

The previous speakers, instead of praising the god Love, or unfolding
his nature, appear to have congratulated mankind on the benefits which
he confers upon them. But I would rather praise the god first, and then
speak of his gifts; this is always the right way of praising everything.
May I say without impiety or offence, that of all the blessed gods he
is the most blessed because he is the fairest and best? And he is the
fairest: for, in the first place, he is the youngest, and of his youth
he is himself the witness, fleeing out of the way of age, who is swift
enough, swifter truly than most of us like:--Love hates him and will not
come near him; but youth and love live and move together--like to like,
as the proverb says. Many things were said by Phaedrus about Love in
which I agree with him; but I cannot agree that he is older than Iapetus
and Kronos:--not so; I maintain him to be the youngest of the gods, and
youthful ever. The ancient doings among the gods of which Hesiod
and Parmenides spoke, if the tradition of them be true, were done of
Necessity and not of Love; had Love been in those days, there would have
been no chaining or mutilation of the gods, or other violence, but peace
and sweetness, as there is now in heaven, since the rule of Love began.
Love is young and also tender; he ought to have a poet like Homer to
describe his tenderness, as Homer says of Ate, that she is a goddess and

'Her feet are tender, for she sets her steps, Not on the ground but on
the heads of men:'

herein is an excellent proof of her tenderness,--that she walks not
upon the hard but upon the soft. Let us adduce a similar proof of the
tenderness of Love; for he walks not upon the earth, nor yet upon the
skulls of men, which are not so very soft, but in the hearts and souls
of both gods and men, which are of all things the softest: in them
he walks and dwells and makes his home. Not in every soul without
exception, for where there is hardness he departs, where there is
softness there he dwells; and nestling always with his feet and in all
manner of ways in the softest of soft places, how can he be other than
the softest of all things? Of a truth he is the tenderest as well as
the youngest, and also he is of flexile form; for if he were hard and
without flexure he could not enfold all things, or wind his way into and
out of every soul of man undiscovered. And a proof of his flexibility
and symmetry of form is his grace, which is universally admitted to be
in an especial manner the attribute of Love; ungrace and love are always
at war with one another. The fairness of his complexion is revealed by
his habitation among the flowers; for he dwells not amid bloomless or
fading beauties, whether of body or soul or aught else, but in the place
of flowers and scents, there he sits and abides. Concerning the beauty
of the god I have said enough; and yet there remains much more which I
might say. Of his virtue I have now to speak: his greatest glory is that
he can neither do nor suffer wrong to or from any god or any man; for
he suffers not by force if he suffers; force comes not near him, neither
when he acts does he act by force. For all men in all things serve him
of their own free will, and where there is voluntary agreement, there,
as the laws which are the lords of the city say, is justice. And
not only is he just but exceedingly temperate, for Temperance is the
acknowledged ruler of the pleasures and desires, and no pleasure ever
masters Love; he is their master and they are his servants; and if he
conquers them he must be temperate indeed. As to courage, even the God
of War is no match for him; he is the captive and Love is the lord,
for love, the love of Aphrodite, masters him, as the tale runs; and the
master is stronger than the servant. And if he conquers the bravest of
all others, he must be himself the bravest. Of his courage and justice
and temperance I have spoken, but I have yet to speak of his wisdom; and
according to the measure of my ability I must try to do my best. In the
first place he is a poet (and here, like Eryximachus, I magnify my art),
and he is also the source of poesy in others, which he could not be if
he were not himself a poet. And at the touch of him every one becomes
a poet, even though he had no music in him before (A fragment of the
Sthenoaoea of Euripides.); this also is a proof that Love is a good poet
and accomplished in all the fine arts; for no one can give to another
that which he has not himself, or teach that of which he has no
knowledge. Who will deny that the creation of the animals is his doing?
Are they not all the works of his wisdom, born and begotten of him?
And as to the artists, do we not know that he only of them whom love
inspires has the light of fame?--he whom Love touches not walks
in darkness. The arts of medicine and archery and divination were
discovered by Apollo, under the guidance of love and desire; so that he
too is a disciple of Love. Also the melody of the Muses, the metallurgy
of Hephaestus, the weaving of Athene, the empire of Zeus over gods and
men, are all due to Love, who was the inventor of them. And so Love set
in order the empire of the gods--the love of beauty, as is evident, for
with deformity Love has no concern. In the days of old, as I began by
saying, dreadful deeds were done among the gods, for they were ruled
by Necessity; but now since the birth of Love, and from the Love of
the beautiful, has sprung every good in heaven and earth. Therefore,
Phaedrus, I say of Love that he is the fairest and best in himself, and
the cause of what is fairest and best in all other things. And there
comes into my mind a line of poetry in which he is said to be the god

'Gives peace on earth and calms the stormy deep, Who stills the winds
and bids the sufferer sleep.'

This is he who empties men of disaffection and fills them with
affection, who makes them to meet together at banquets such as these: in
sacrifices, feasts, dances, he is our lord--who sends courtesy and sends
away discourtesy, who gives kindness ever and never gives unkindness;
the friend of the good, the wonder of the wise, the amazement of the
gods; desired by those who have no part in him, and precious to those
who have the better part in him; parent of delicacy, luxury, desire,
fondness, softness, grace; regardful of the good, regardless of the
evil: in every word, work, wish, fear--saviour, pilot, comrade, helper;
glory of gods and men, leader best and brightest: in whose footsteps
let every man follow, sweetly singing in his honour and joining in that
sweet strain with which love charms the souls of gods and men. Such
is the speech, Phaedrus, half-playful, yet having a certain measure of
seriousness, which, according to my ability, I dedicate to the god.

When Agathon had done speaking, Aristodemus said that there was a
general cheer; the young man was thought to have spoken in a manner
worthy of himself, and of the god. And Socrates, looking at Eryximachus,
said: Tell me, son of Acumenus, was there not reason in my fears? and
was I not a true prophet when I said that Agathon would make a wonderful
oration, and that I should be in a strait?

The part of the prophecy which concerns Agathon, replied Eryximachus,
appears to me to be true; but not the other part--that you will be in a

Why, my dear friend, said Socrates, must not I or any one be in a strait
who has to speak after he has heard such a rich and varied discourse? I
am especially struck with the beauty of the concluding words--who could
listen to them without amazement? When I reflected on the immeasurable
inferiority of my own powers, I was ready to run away for shame, if
there had been a possibility of escape. For I was reminded of Gorgias,
and at the end of his speech I fancied that Agathon was shaking at me
the Gorginian or Gorgonian head of the great master of rhetoric, which
was simply to turn me and my speech into stone, as Homer says (Odyssey),
and strike me dumb. And then I perceived how foolish I had been in
consenting to take my turn with you in praising love, and saying that
I too was a master of the art, when I really had no conception how
anything ought to be praised. For in my simplicity I imagined that the
topics of praise should be true, and that this being presupposed, out
of the true the speaker was to choose the best and set them forth in the
best manner. And I felt quite proud, thinking that I knew the nature of
true praise, and should speak well. Whereas I now see that the intention
was to attribute to Love every species of greatness and glory,
whether really belonging to him or not, without regard to truth or
falsehood--that was no matter; for the original proposal seems to have
been not that each of you should really praise Love, but only that
you should appear to praise him. And so you attribute to Love every
imaginable form of praise which can be gathered anywhere; and you say
that 'he is all this,' and 'the cause of all that,' making him appear
the fairest and best of all to those who know him not, for you cannot
impose upon those who know him. And a noble and solemn hymn of praise
have you rehearsed. But as I misunderstood the nature of the praise when
I said that I would take my turn, I must beg to be absolved from the
promise which I made in ignorance, and which (as Euripides would say
(Eurip. Hyppolytus)) was a promise of the lips and not of the mind.
Farewell then to such a strain: for I do not praise in that way; no,
indeed, I cannot. But if you like to hear the truth about love, I
am ready to speak in my own manner, though I will not make myself
ridiculous by entering into any rivalry with you. Say then, Phaedrus,
whether you would like to have the truth about love, spoken in any words
and in any order which may happen to come into my mind at the time. Will
that be agreeable to you?

Aristodemus said that Phaedrus and the company bid him speak in
any manner which he thought best. Then, he added, let me have your
permission first to ask Agathon a few more questions, in order that I
may take his admissions as the premisses of my discourse.

I grant the permission, said Phaedrus: put your questions. Socrates then
proceeded as follows:--

In the magnificent oration which you have just uttered, I think that you
were right, my dear Agathon, in proposing to speak of the nature of Love
first and afterwards of his works--that is a way of beginning which I
very much approve. And as you have spoken so eloquently of his nature,
may I ask you further, Whether love is the love of something or of
nothing? And here I must explain myself: I do not want you to say that
love is the love of a father or the love of a mother--that would be
ridiculous; but to answer as you would, if I asked is a father a father
of something? to which you would find no difficulty in replying, of a
son or daughter: and the answer would be right.

Very true, said Agathon.

And you would say the same of a mother?

He assented.

Yet let me ask you one more question in order to illustrate my meaning:
Is not a brother to be regarded essentially as a brother of something?

Certainly, he replied.

That is, of a brother or sister?

Yes, he said.

And now, said Socrates, I will ask about Love:--Is Love of something or
of nothing?

Of something, surely, he replied.

Keep in mind what this is, and tell me what I want to know--whether Love
desires that of which love is.

Yes, surely.

And does he possess, or does he not possess, that which he loves and

Probably not, I should say.

Nay, replied Socrates, I would have you consider whether 'necessarily'
is not rather the word. The inference that he who desires something
is in want of something, and that he who desires nothing is in want of
nothing, is in my judgment, Agathon, absolutely and necessarily true.
What do you think?

I agree with you, said Agathon.

Very good. Would he who is great, desire to be great, or he who is
strong, desire to be strong?

That would be inconsistent with our previous admissions.

True. For he who is anything cannot want to be that which he is?

Very true.

And yet, added Socrates, if a man being strong desired to be strong, or
being swift desired to be swift, or being healthy desired to be healthy,
in that case he might be thought to desire something which he already
has or is. I give the example in order that we may avoid misconception.
For the possessors of these qualities, Agathon, must be supposed to have
their respective advantages at the time, whether they choose or not; and
who can desire that which he has? Therefore, when a person says, I am
well and wish to be well, or I am rich and wish to be rich, and I desire
simply to have what I have--to him we shall reply: 'You, my friend,
having wealth and health and strength, want to have the continuance of
them; for at this moment, whether you choose or no, you have them. And
when you say, I desire that which I have and nothing else, is not your
meaning that you want to have what you now have in the future?' He must
agree with us--must he not?

He must, replied Agathon.

Then, said Socrates, he desires that what he has at present may be
preserved to him in the future, which is equivalent to saying that he
desires something which is non-existent to him, and which as yet he has
not got:

Very true, he said.

Then he and every one who desires, desires that which he has not
already, and which is future and not present, and which he has not, and
is not, and of which he is in want;--these are the sort of things which
love and desire seek?

Very true, he said.

Then now, said Socrates, let us recapitulate the argument. First, is not
love of something, and of something too which is wanting to a man?

Yes, he replied.

Remember further what you said in your speech, or if you do not remember
I will remind you: you said that the love of the beautiful set in
order the empire of the gods, for that of deformed things there is no
love--did you not say something of that kind?

Yes, said Agathon.

Yes, my friend, and the remark was a just one. And if this is true, Love
is the love of beauty and not of deformity?

He assented.

And the admission has been already made that Love is of something which
a man wants and has not?

True, he said.

Then Love wants and has not beauty?

Certainly, he replied.

And would you call that beautiful which wants and does not possess

Certainly not.

Then would you still say that love is beautiful?

Agathon replied: I fear that I did not understand what I was saying.

You made a very good speech, Agathon, replied Socrates; but there is
yet one small question which I would fain ask:--Is not the good also the


Then in wanting the beautiful, love wants also the good?

I cannot refute you, Socrates, said Agathon:--Let us assume that what
you say is true.

Say rather, beloved Agathon, that you cannot refute the truth; for
Socrates is easily refuted.

And now, taking my leave of you, I would rehearse a tale of love which I
heard from Diotima of Mantineia (compare 1 Alcibiades), a woman wise in
this and in many other kinds of knowledge, who in the days of old, when
the Athenians offered sacrifice before the coming of the plague, delayed
the disease ten years. She was my instructress in the art of love, and
I shall repeat to you what she said to me, beginning with the admissions
made by Agathon, which are nearly if not quite the same which I made
to the wise woman when she questioned me: I think that this will be
the easiest way, and I shall take both parts myself as well as I can
(compare Gorgias). As you, Agathon, suggested (supra), I must speak
first of the being and nature of Love, and then of his works. First I
said to her in nearly the same words which he used to me, that Love was
a mighty god, and likewise fair; and she proved to me as I proved to him
that, by my own showing, Love was neither fair nor good. 'What do you
mean, Diotima,' I said, 'is love then evil and foul?' 'Hush,' she cried;
'must that be foul which is not fair?' 'Certainly,' I said. 'And is that
which is not wise, ignorant? do you not see that there is a mean between
wisdom and ignorance?' 'And what may that be?' I said. 'Right opinion,'
she replied; 'which, as you know, being incapable of giving a reason,
is not knowledge (for how can knowledge be devoid of reason? nor again,
ignorance, for neither can ignorance attain the truth), but is clearly
something which is a mean between ignorance and wisdom.' 'Quite true,'
I replied. 'Do not then insist,' she said, 'that what is not fair is of
necessity foul, or what is not good evil; or infer that because love
is not fair and good he is therefore foul and evil; for he is in a mean
between them.' 'Well,' I said, 'Love is surely admitted by all to be a
great god.' 'By those who know or by those who do not know?' 'By all.'
'And how, Socrates,' she said with a smile, 'can Love be acknowledged to
be a great god by those who say that he is not a god at all?' 'And who
are they?' I said. 'You and I are two of them,' she replied. 'How can
that be?' I said. 'It is quite intelligible,' she replied; 'for you
yourself would acknowledge that the gods are happy and fair--of course
you would--would you dare to say that any god was not?' 'Certainly not,'
I replied. 'And you mean by the happy, those who are the possessors of
things good or fair?' 'Yes.' 'And you admitted that Love, because he
was in want, desires those good and fair things of which he is in want?'
'Yes, I did.' 'But how can he be a god who has no portion in what is
either good or fair?' 'Impossible.' 'Then you see that you also deny the
divinity of Love.'

'What then is Love?' I asked; 'Is he mortal?' 'No.' 'What then?' 'As in
the former instance, he is neither mortal nor immortal, but in a mean
between the two.' 'What is he, Diotima?' 'He is a great spirit (daimon),
and like all spirits he is intermediate between the divine and the
mortal.' 'And what,' I said, 'is his power?' 'He interprets,' she
replied, 'between gods and men, conveying and taking across to the gods
the prayers and sacrifices of men, and to men the commands and replies
of the gods; he is the mediator who spans the chasm which divides them,
and therefore in him all is bound together, and through him the arts of
the prophet and the priest, their sacrifices and mysteries and charms,
and all prophecy and incantation, find their way. For God mingles not
with man; but through Love all the intercourse and converse of God
with man, whether awake or asleep, is carried on. The wisdom which
understands this is spiritual; all other wisdom, such as that of arts
and handicrafts, is mean and vulgar. Now these spirits or intermediate
powers are many and diverse, and one of them is Love.' 'And who,' I
said, 'was his father, and who his mother?' 'The tale,' she said, 'will
take time; nevertheless I will tell you. On the birthday of Aphrodite
there was a feast of the gods, at which the god Poros or Plenty, who is
the son of Metis or Discretion, was one of the guests. When the feast
was over, Penia or Poverty, as the manner is on such occasions, came
about the doors to beg. Now Plenty who was the worse for nectar (there
was no wine in those days), went into the garden of Zeus and fell into
a heavy sleep, and Poverty considering her own straitened circumstances,
plotted to have a child by him, and accordingly she lay down at his side
and conceived Love, who partly because he is naturally a lover of the
beautiful, and because Aphrodite is herself beautiful, and also because
he was born on her birthday, is her follower and attendant. And as his
parentage is, so also are his fortunes. In the first place he is always
poor, and anything but tender and fair, as the many imagine him; and he
is rough and squalid, and has no shoes, nor a house to dwell in; on the
bare earth exposed he lies under the open heaven, in the streets, or at
the doors of houses, taking his rest; and like his mother he is always
in distress. Like his father too, whom he also partly resembles, he is
always plotting against the fair and good; he is bold, enterprising,
strong, a mighty hunter, always weaving some intrigue or other, keen in
the pursuit of wisdom, fertile in resources; a philosopher at all times,
terrible as an enchanter, sorcerer, sophist. He is by nature neither
mortal nor immortal, but alive and flourishing at one moment when he is
in plenty, and dead at another moment, and again alive by reason of his
father's nature. But that which is always flowing in is always flowing
out, and so he is never in want and never in wealth; and, further, he
is in a mean between ignorance and knowledge. The truth of the matter
is this: No god is a philosopher or seeker after wisdom, for he is wise
already; nor does any man who is wise seek after wisdom. Neither do the
ignorant seek after wisdom. For herein is the evil of ignorance, that he
who is neither good nor wise is nevertheless satisfied with himself:
he has no desire for that of which he feels no want.' 'But who then,
Diotima,' I said, 'are the lovers of wisdom, if they are neither the
wise nor the foolish?' 'A child may answer that question,' she replied;
'they are those who are in a mean between the two; Love is one of them.
For wisdom is a most beautiful thing, and Love is of the beautiful; and
therefore Love is also a philosopher or lover of wisdom, and being a
lover of wisdom is in a mean between the wise and the ignorant. And of
this too his birth is the cause; for his father is wealthy and wise, and
his mother poor and foolish. Such, my dear Socrates, is the nature of
the spirit Love. The error in your conception of him was very natural,
and as I imagine from what you say, has arisen out of a confusion of
love and the beloved, which made you think that love was all beautiful.
For the beloved is the truly beautiful, and delicate, and perfect, and
blessed; but the principle of love is of another nature, and is such as
I have described.'

I said, 'O thou stranger woman, thou sayest well; but, assuming Love to
be such as you say, what is the use of him to men?' 'That, Socrates,'
she replied, 'I will attempt to unfold: of his nature and birth I have
already spoken; and you acknowledge that love is of the beautiful. But
some one will say: Of the beautiful in what, Socrates and Diotima?--or
rather let me put the question more clearly, and ask: When a man loves
the beautiful, what does he desire?' I answered her 'That the beautiful
may be his.' 'Still,' she said, 'the answer suggests a further question:
What is given by the possession of beauty?' 'To what you have asked,'
I replied, 'I have no answer ready.' 'Then,' she said, 'let me put the
word "good" in the place of the beautiful, and repeat the question once
more: If he who loves loves the good, what is it then that he loves?'
'The possession of the good,' I said. 'And what does he gain who
possesses the good?' 'Happiness,' I replied; 'there is less difficulty
in answering that question.' 'Yes,' she said, 'the happy are made happy
by the acquisition of good things. Nor is there any need to ask why a
man desires happiness; the answer is already final.' 'You are right.'
I said. 'And is this wish and this desire common to all? and do all men
always desire their own good, or only some men?--what say you?' 'All
men,' I replied; 'the desire is common to all.' 'Why, then,' she
rejoined, 'are not all men, Socrates, said to love, but only some of
them? whereas you say that all men are always loving the same things.'
'I myself wonder,' I said, 'why this is.' 'There is nothing to wonder
at,' she replied; 'the reason is that one part of love is separated
off and receives the name of the whole, but the other parts have other
names.' 'Give an illustration,' I said. She answered me as follows:
'There is poetry, which, as you know, is complex and manifold. All
creation or passage of non-being into being is poetry or making, and the
processes of all art are creative; and the masters of arts are all poets
or makers.' 'Very true.' 'Still,' she said, 'you know that they are not
called poets, but have other names; only that portion of the art which
is separated off from the rest, and is concerned with music and metre,
is termed poetry, and they who possess poetry in this sense of the word
are called poets.' 'Very true,' I said. 'And the same holds of love. For
you may say generally that all desire of good and happiness is only the
great and subtle power of love; but they who are drawn towards him
by any other path, whether the path of money-making or gymnastics or
philosophy, are not called lovers--the name of the whole is appropriated
to those whose affection takes one form only--they alone are said to
love, or to be lovers.' 'I dare say,' I replied, 'that you are right.'
'Yes,' she added, 'and you hear people say that lovers are seeking for
their other half; but I say that they are seeking neither for the half
of themselves, nor for the whole, unless the half or the whole be also a
good. And they will cut off their own hands and feet and cast them away,
if they are evil; for they love not what is their own, unless perchance
there be some one who calls what belongs to him the good, and what
belongs to another the evil. For there is nothing which men love but
the good. Is there anything?' 'Certainly, I should say, that there is
nothing.' 'Then,' she said, 'the simple truth is, that men love the
good.' 'Yes,' I said. 'To which must be added that they love the
possession of the good?' 'Yes, that must be added.' 'And not only the
possession, but the everlasting possession of the good?' 'That must be
added too.' 'Then love,' she said, 'may be described generally as the
love of the everlasting possession of the good?' 'That is most true.'

'Then if this be the nature of love, can you tell me further,' she said,
'what is the manner of the pursuit? what are they doing who show all
this eagerness and heat which is called love? and what is the object
which they have in view? Answer me.' 'Nay, Diotima,' I replied, 'if I
had known, I should not have wondered at your wisdom, neither should I
have come to learn from you about this very matter.' 'Well,' she said,
'I will teach you:--The object which they have in view is birth in
beauty, whether of body or soul.' 'I do not understand you,' I said;
'the oracle requires an explanation.' 'I will make my meaning clearer,'
she replied. 'I mean to say, that all men are bringing to the birth in
their bodies and in their souls. There is a certain age at which human
nature is desirous of procreation--procreation which must be in beauty
and not in deformity; and this procreation is the union of man and
woman, and is a divine thing; for conception and generation are an
immortal principle in the mortal creature, and in the inharmonious they
can never be. But the deformed is always inharmonious with the divine,
and the beautiful harmonious. Beauty, then, is the destiny or goddess
of parturition who presides at birth, and therefore, when approaching
beauty, the conceiving power is propitious, and diffusive, and benign,
and begets and bears fruit: at the sight of ugliness she frowns and
contracts and has a sense of pain, and turns away, and shrivels up, and
not without a pang refrains from conception. And this is the reason why,
when the hour of conception arrives, and the teeming nature is full,
there is such a flutter and ecstasy about beauty whose approach is the
alleviation of the pain of travail. For love, Socrates, is not, as you
imagine, the love of the beautiful only.' 'What then?' 'The love of
generation and of birth in beauty.' 'Yes,' I said. 'Yes, indeed,' she
replied. 'But why of generation?' 'Because to the mortal creature,
generation is a sort of eternity and immortality,' she replied; 'and if,
as has been already admitted, love is of the everlasting possession
of the good, all men will necessarily desire immortality together with
good: Wherefore love is of immortality.'

All this she taught me at various times when she spoke of love. And I
remember her once saying to me, 'What is the cause, Socrates, of love,
and the attendant desire? See you not how all animals, birds, as well as
beasts, in their desire of procreation, are in agony when they take the
infection of love, which begins with the desire of union; whereto is
added the care of offspring, on whose behalf the weakest are ready to
battle against the strongest even to the uttermost, and to die for them,
and will let themselves be tormented with hunger or suffer anything
in order to maintain their young. Man may be supposed to act thus from
reason; but why should animals have these passionate feelings? Can you
tell me why?' Again I replied that I did not know. She said to me: 'And
do you expect ever to become a master in the art of love, if you do not
know this?' 'But I have told you already, Diotima, that my ignorance is
the reason why I come to you; for I am conscious that I want a teacher;
tell me then the cause of this and of the other mysteries of love.'
'Marvel not,' she said, 'if you believe that love is of the immortal,
as we have several times acknowledged; for here again, and on the same
principle too, the mortal nature is seeking as far as is possible to be
everlasting and immortal: and this is only to be attained by generation,
because generation always leaves behind a new existence in the place of
the old. Nay even in the life of the same individual there is succession
and not absolute unity: a man is called the same, and yet in the short
interval which elapses between youth and age, and in which every animal
is said to have life and identity, he is undergoing a perpetual process
of loss and reparation--hair, flesh, bones, blood, and the whole body
are always changing. Which is true not only of the body, but also of the
soul, whose habits, tempers, opinions, desires, pleasures, pains, fears,
never remain the same in any one of us, but are always coming and going;
and equally true of knowledge, and what is still more surprising to us
mortals, not only do the sciences in general spring up and decay,
so that in respect of them we are never the same; but each of them
individually experiences a like change. For what is implied in the word
"recollection," but the departure of knowledge, which is ever being
forgotten, and is renewed and preserved by recollection, and appears to
be the same although in reality new, according to that law of succession
by which all mortal things are preserved, not absolutely the same, but
by substitution, the old worn-out mortality leaving another new and
similar existence behind--unlike the divine, which is always the same
and not another? And in this way, Socrates, the mortal body, or mortal
anything, partakes of immortality; but the immortal in another way.
Marvel not then at the love which all men have of their offspring; for
that universal love and interest is for the sake of immortality.'

I was astonished at her words, and said: 'Is this really true, O
thou wise Diotima?' And she answered with all the authority of an
accomplished sophist: 'Of that, Socrates, you may be assured;--think
only of the ambition of men, and you will wonder at the senselessness of
their ways, unless you consider how they are stirred by the love of an
immortality of fame. They are ready to run all risks greater far than
they would have run for their children, and to spend money and undergo
any sort of toil, and even to die, for the sake of leaving behind them
a name which shall be eternal. Do you imagine that Alcestis would have
died to save Admetus, or Achilles to avenge Patroclus, or your own
Codrus in order to preserve the kingdom for his sons, if they had not
imagined that the memory of their virtues, which still survives among
us, would be immortal? Nay,' she said, 'I am persuaded that all men do
all things, and the better they are the more they do them, in hope of
the glorious fame of immortal virtue; for they desire the immortal.

'Those who are pregnant in the body only, betake themselves to women and
beget children--this is the character of their love; their offspring,
as they hope, will preserve their memory and giving them the blessedness
and immortality which they desire in the future. But souls which are
pregnant--for there certainly are men who are more creative in their
souls than in their bodies--conceive that which is proper for the soul
to conceive or contain. And what are these conceptions?--wisdom and
virtue in general. And such creators are poets and all artists who are
deserving of the name inventor. But the greatest and fairest sort of
wisdom by far is that which is concerned with the ordering of states
and families, and which is called temperance and justice. And he who in
youth has the seed of these implanted in him and is himself inspired,
when he comes to maturity desires to beget and generate. He wanders
about seeking beauty that he may beget offspring--for in deformity he
will beget nothing--and naturally embraces the beautiful rather than
the deformed body; above all when he finds a fair and noble and
well-nurtured soul, he embraces the two in one person, and to such an
one he is full of speech about virtue and the nature and pursuits of a
good man; and he tries to educate him; and at the touch of the beautiful
which is ever present to his memory, even when absent, he brings forth
that which he had conceived long before, and in company with him tends
that which he brings forth; and they are married by a far nearer tie and
have a closer friendship than those who beget mortal children, for the
children who are their common offspring are fairer and more immortal.
Who, when he thinks of Homer and Hesiod and other great poets, would
not rather have their children than ordinary human ones? Who would not
emulate them in the creation of children such as theirs, which have
preserved their memory and given them everlasting glory? Or who would
not have such children as Lycurgus left behind him to be the saviours,
not only of Lacedaemon, but of Hellas, as one may say? There is Solon,
too, who is the revered father of Athenian laws; and many others there
are in many other places, both among Hellenes and barbarians, who have
given to the world many noble works, and have been the parents of virtue
of every kind; and many temples have been raised in their honour for the
sake of children such as theirs; which were never raised in honour of
any one, for the sake of his mortal children.

'These are the lesser mysteries of love, into which even you, Socrates,
may enter; to the greater and more hidden ones which are the crown of
these, and to which, if you pursue them in a right spirit, they will
lead, I know not whether you will be able to attain. But I will do my
utmost to inform you, and do you follow if you can. For he who would
proceed aright in this matter should begin in youth to visit beautiful
forms; and first, if he be guided by his instructor aright, to love one
such form only--out of that he should create fair thoughts; and soon
he will of himself perceive that the beauty of one form is akin to the
beauty of another; and then if beauty of form in general is his pursuit,
how foolish would he be not to recognize that the beauty in every form
is and the same! And when he perceives this he will abate his violent
love of the one, which he will despise and deem a small thing, and
will become a lover of all beautiful forms; in the next stage he will
consider that the beauty of the mind is more honourable than the beauty
of the outward form. So that if a virtuous soul have but a little
comeliness, he will be content to love and tend him, and will search out
and bring to the birth thoughts which may improve the young, until he
is compelled to contemplate and see the beauty of institutions and laws,
and to understand that the beauty of them all is of one family, and that
personal beauty is a trifle; and after laws and institutions he will
go on to the sciences, that he may see their beauty, being not like
a servant in love with the beauty of one youth or man or institution,
himself a slave mean and narrow-minded, but drawing towards and
contemplating the vast sea of beauty, he will create many fair and noble
thoughts and notions in boundless love of wisdom; until on that shore he
grows and waxes strong, and at last the vision is revealed to him of
a single science, which is the science of beauty everywhere. To this I
will proceed; please to give me your very best attention:

'He who has been instructed thus far in the things of love, and who has
learned to see the beautiful in due order and succession, when he comes
toward the end will suddenly perceive a nature of wondrous beauty (and
this, Socrates, is the final cause of all our former toils)--a nature
which in the first place is everlasting, not growing and decaying, or
waxing and waning; secondly, not fair in one point of view and foul
in another, or at one time or in one relation or at one place fair, at
another time or in another relation or at another place foul, as if fair
to some and foul to others, or in the likeness of a face or hands or any
other part of the bodily frame, or in any form of speech or knowledge,
or existing in any other being, as for example, in an animal, or
in heaven, or in earth, or in any other place; but beauty absolute,
separate, simple, and everlasting, which without diminution and without
increase, or any change, is imparted to the ever-growing and perishing
beauties of all other things. He who from these ascending under the
influence of true love, begins to perceive that beauty, is not far from
the end. And the true order of going, or being led by another, to the
things of love, is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards
for the sake of that other beauty, using these as steps only, and from
one going on to two, and from two to all fair forms, and from fair forms
to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from
fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at last
knows what the essence of beauty is. This, my dear Socrates,' said the
stranger of Mantineia, 'is that life above all others which man should
live, in the contemplation of beauty absolute; a beauty which if you
once beheld, you would see not to be after the measure of gold, and
garments, and fair boys and youths, whose presence now entrances you;
and you and many a one would be content to live seeing them only and
conversing with them without meat or drink, if that were possible--you
only want to look at them and to be with them. But what if man had eyes
to see the true beauty--the divine beauty, I mean, pure and clear and
unalloyed, not clogged with the pollutions of mortality and all the
colours and vanities of human life--thither looking, and holding
converse with the true beauty simple and divine? Remember how in that
communion only, beholding beauty with the eye of the mind, he will be
enabled to bring forth, not images of beauty, but realities (for he
has hold not of an image but of a reality), and bringing forth and
nourishing true virtue to become the friend of God and be immortal, if
mortal man may. Would that be an ignoble life?'

Such, Phaedrus--and I speak not only to you, but to all of you--were the
words of Diotima; and I am persuaded of their truth. And being persuaded
of them, I try to persuade others, that in the attainment of this
end human nature will not easily find a helper better than love: And
therefore, also, I say that every man ought to honour him as I myself
honour him, and walk in his ways, and exhort others to do the same,
and praise the power and spirit of love according to the measure of my
ability now and ever.

The words which I have spoken, you, Phaedrus, may call an encomium of
love, or anything else which you please.

When Socrates had done speaking, the company applauded, and Aristophanes
was beginning to say something in answer to the allusion which Socrates
had made to his own speech, when suddenly there was a great knocking at
the door of the house, as of revellers, and the sound of a flute-girl
was heard. Agathon told the attendants to go and see who were the
intruders. 'If they are friends of ours,' he said, 'invite them in, but
if not, say that the drinking is over.' A little while afterwards they
heard the voice of Alcibiades resounding in the court; he was in a great
state of intoxication, and kept roaring and shouting 'Where is Agathon?
Lead me to Agathon,' and at length, supported by the flute-girl and some
of his attendants, he found his way to them. 'Hail, friends,' he said,
appearing at the door crowned with a massive garland of ivy and violets,
his head flowing with ribands. 'Will you have a very drunken man as
a companion of your revels? Or shall I crown Agathon, which was my
intention in coming, and go away? For I was unable to come yesterday,
and therefore I am here to-day, carrying on my head these ribands, that
taking them from my own head, I may crown the head of this fairest and
wisest of men, as I may be allowed to call him. Will you laugh at me
because I am drunk? Yet I know very well that I am speaking the truth,
although you may laugh. But first tell me; if I come in shall we have
the understanding of which I spoke (supra Will you have a very drunken
man? etc.)? Will you drink with me or not?'

The company were vociferous in begging that he would take his place
among them, and Agathon specially invited him. Thereupon he was led in
by the people who were with him; and as he was being led, intending to
crown Agathon, he took the ribands from his own head and held them in
front of his eyes; he was thus prevented from seeing Socrates, who made
way for him, and Alcibiades took the vacant place between Agathon and
Socrates, and in taking the place he embraced Agathon and crowned him.
Take off his sandals, said Agathon, and let him make a third on the same

By all means; but who makes the third partner in our revels? said
Alcibiades, turning round and starting up as he caught sight of
Socrates. By Heracles, he said, what is this? here is Socrates always
lying in wait for me, and always, as his way is, coming out at all sorts
of unsuspected places: and now, what have you to say for yourself, and
why are you lying here, where I perceive that you have contrived to find
a place, not by a joker or lover of jokes, like Aristophanes, but by the
fairest of the company?

Socrates turned to Agathon and said: I must ask you to protect me,
Agathon; for the passion of this man has grown quite a serious matter to
me. Since I became his admirer I have never been allowed to speak to
any other fair one, or so much as to look at them. If I do, he goes wild
with envy and jealousy, and not only abuses me but can hardly keep his
hands off me, and at this moment he may do me some harm. Please to see
to this, and either reconcile me to him, or, if he attempts violence,
protect me, as I am in bodily fear of his mad and passionate attempts.

There can never be reconciliation between you and me, said Alcibiades;
but for the present I will defer your chastisement. And I must beg
you, Agathon, to give me back some of the ribands that I may crown the
marvellous head of this universal despot--I would not have him complain
of me for crowning you, and neglecting him, who in conversation is the
conqueror of all mankind; and this not only once, as you were the day
before yesterday, but always. Whereupon, taking some of the ribands, he
crowned Socrates, and again reclined.

Then he said: You seem, my friends, to be sober, which is a thing not to
be endured; you must drink--for that was the agreement under which I
was admitted--and I elect myself master of the feast until you are
well drunk. Let us have a large goblet, Agathon, or rather, he said,
addressing the attendant, bring me that wine-cooler. The wine-cooler
which had caught his eye was a vessel holding more than two quarts--this
he filled and emptied, and bade the attendant fill it again for
Socrates. Observe, my friends, said Alcibiades, that this ingenious
trick of mine will have no effect on Socrates, for he can drink any
quantity of wine and not be at all nearer being drunk. Socrates drank
the cup which the attendant filled for him.

Eryximachus said: What is this, Alcibiades? Are we to have neither
conversation nor singing over our cups; but simply to drink as if we
were thirsty?

Alcibiades replied: Hail, worthy son of a most wise and worthy sire!

The same to you, said Eryximachus; but what shall we do?

That I leave to you, said Alcibiades.

'The wise physician skilled our wounds to heal (from Pope's Homer, Il.)'

shall prescribe and we will obey. What do you want?

Well, said Eryximachus, before you appeared we had passed a resolution
that each one of us in turn should make a speech in praise of love, and
as good a one as he could: the turn was passed round from left to right;
and as all of us have spoken, and you have not spoken but have well
drunken, you ought to speak, and then impose upon Socrates any task
which you please, and he on his right hand neighbour, and so on.

That is good, Eryximachus, said Alcibiades; and yet the comparison of
a drunken man's speech with those of sober men is hardly fair; and
I should like to know, sweet friend, whether you really believe what
Socrates was just now saying; for I can assure you that the very reverse
is the fact, and that if I praise any one but himself in his presence,
whether God or man, he will hardly keep his hands off me.

For shame, said Socrates.

Hold your tongue, said Alcibiades, for by Poseidon, there is no one else
whom I will praise when you are of the company.

Well then, said Eryximachus, if you like praise Socrates.

What do you think, Eryximachus? said Alcibiades: shall I attack him and
inflict the punishment before you all?

What are you about? said Socrates; are you going to raise a laugh at my
expense? Is that the meaning of your praise?

I am going to speak the truth, if you will permit me.

I not only permit, but exhort you to speak the truth.

Then I will begin at once, said Alcibiades, and if I say anything which
is not true, you may interrupt me if you will, and say 'that is a lie,'
though my intention is to speak the truth. But you must not wonder if
I speak any how as things come into my mind; for the fluent and orderly
enumeration of all your singularities is not a task which is easy to a
man in my condition.

And now, my boys, I shall praise Socrates in a figure which will appear
to him to be a caricature, and yet I speak, not to make fun of him, but
only for the truth's sake. I say, that he is exactly like the busts of
Silenus, which are set up in the statuaries' shops, holding pipes and
flutes in their mouths; and they are made to open in the middle, and
have images of gods inside them. I say also that he is like Marsyas the
satyr. You yourself will not deny, Socrates, that your face is like that
of a satyr. Aye, and there is a resemblance in other points too. For
example, you are a bully, as I can prove by witnesses, if you will not
confess. And are you not a flute-player? That you are, and a performer
far more wonderful than Marsyas. He indeed with instruments used to
charm the souls of men by the power of his breath, and the players of
his music do so still: for the melodies of Olympus (compare Arist. Pol.)
are derived from Marsyas who taught them, and these, whether they are
played by a great master or by a miserable flute-girl, have a power
which no others have; they alone possess the soul and reveal the wants
of those who have need of gods and mysteries, because they are divine.
But you produce the same effect with your words only, and do not require
the flute: that is the difference between you and him. When we hear any
other speaker, even a very good one, he produces absolutely no effect
upon us, or not much, whereas the mere fragments of you and your words,
even at second-hand, and however imperfectly repeated, amaze and possess
the souls of every man, woman, and child who comes within hearing of
them. And if I were not afraid that you would think me hopelessly drunk,
I would have sworn as well as spoken to the influence which they have
always had and still have over me. For my heart leaps within me more
than that of any Corybantian reveller, and my eyes rain tears when
I hear them. And I observe that many others are affected in the same
manner. I have heard Pericles and other great orators, and I thought
that they spoke well, but I never had any similar feeling; my soul was
not stirred by them, nor was I angry at the thought of my own slavish
state. But this Marsyas has often brought me to such a pass, that I
have felt as if I could hardly endure the life which I am leading (this,
Socrates, you will admit); and I am conscious that if I did not shut my
ears against him, and fly as from the voice of the siren, my fate would
be like that of others,--he would transfix me, and I should grow old
sitting at his feet. For he makes me confess that I ought not to live as
I do, neglecting the wants of my own soul, and busying myself with the
concerns of the Athenians; therefore I hold my ears and tear myself away
from him. And he is the only person who ever made me ashamed, which you
might think not to be in my nature, and there is no one else who does
the same. For I know that I cannot answer him or say that I ought not to
do as he bids, but when I leave his presence the love of popularity gets
the better of me. And therefore I run away and fly from him, and when I
see him I am ashamed of what I have confessed to him. Many a time have
I wished that he were dead, and yet I know that I should be much more
sorry than glad, if he were to die: so that I am at my wit's end.

And this is what I and many others have suffered from the flute-playing
of this satyr. Yet hear me once more while I show you how exact the
image is, and how marvellous his power. For let me tell you; none of you
know him; but I will reveal him to you; having begun, I must go on. See
you how fond he is of the fair? He is always with them and is always
being smitten by them, and then again he knows nothing and is ignorant
of all things--such is the appearance which he puts on. Is he not like a
Silenus in this? To be sure he is: his outer mask is the carved head
of the Silenus; but, O my companions in drink, when he is opened, what
temperance there is residing within! Know you that beauty and wealth and
honour, at which the many wonder, are of no account with him, and are
utterly despised by him: he regards not at all the persons who are
gifted with them; mankind are nothing to him; all his life is spent in
mocking and flouting at them. But when I opened him, and looked within
at his serious purpose, I saw in him divine and golden images of such
fascinating beauty that I was ready to do in a moment whatever Socrates
commanded: they may have escaped the observation of others, but I saw
them. Now I fancied that he was seriously enamoured of my beauty, and I
thought that I should therefore have a grand opportunity of hearing him
tell what he knew, for I had a wonderful opinion of the attractions of
my youth. In the prosecution of this design, when I next went to him, I
sent away the attendant who usually accompanied me (I will confess the
whole truth, and beg you to listen; and if I speak falsely, do you,
Socrates, expose the falsehood). Well, he and I were alone together, and
I thought that when there was nobody with us, I should hear him
speak the language which lovers use to their loves when they are by
themselves, and I was delighted. Nothing of the sort; he conversed
as usual, and spent the day with me and then went away. Afterwards I
challenged him to the palaestra; and he wrestled and closed with me
several times when there was no one present; I fancied that I might
succeed in this manner. Not a bit; I made no way with him. Lastly, as
I had failed hitherto, I thought that I must take stronger measures and
attack him boldly, and, as I had begun, not give him up, but see how
matters stood between him and me. So I invited him to sup with me, just
as if he were a fair youth, and I a designing lover. He was not easily
persuaded to come; he did, however, after a while accept the invitation,
and when he came the first time, he wanted to go away at once as soon as
supper was over, and I had not the face to detain him. The second
time, still in pursuance of my design, after we had supped, I went
on conversing far into the night, and when he wanted to go away, I
pretended that the hour was late and that he had much better remain. So
he lay down on the couch next to me, the same on which he had supped,
and there was no one but ourselves sleeping in the apartment. All this
may be told without shame to any one. But what follows I could hardly
tell you if I were sober. Yet as the proverb says, 'In vino veritas,'
whether with boys, or without them (In allusion to two proverbs.); and
therefore I must speak. Nor, again, should I be justified in concealing
the lofty actions of Socrates when I come to praise him. Moreover I
have felt the serpent's sting; and he who has suffered, as they say, is
willing to tell his fellow-sufferers only, as they alone will be likely
to understand him, and will not be extreme in judging of the sayings or
doings which have been wrung from his agony. For I have been bitten by a
more than viper's tooth; I have known in my soul, or in my heart, or in
some other part, that worst of pangs, more violent in ingenuous youth
than any serpent's tooth, the pang of philosophy, which will make a man
say or do anything. And you whom I see around me, Phaedrus and Agathon
and Eryximachus and Pausanias and Aristodemus and Aristophanes, all of
you, and I need not say Socrates himself, have had experience of the
same madness and passion in your longing after wisdom. Therefore listen
and excuse my doings then and my sayings now. But let the attendants and
other profane and unmannered persons close up the doors of their ears.

When the lamp was put out and the servants had gone away, I thought that
I must be plain with him and have no more ambiguity. So I gave him a
shake, and I said: 'Socrates, are you asleep?' 'No,' he said. 'Do
you know what I am meditating? 'What are you meditating?' he said. 'I
think,' I replied, 'that of all the lovers whom I have ever had you are
the only one who is worthy of me, and you appear to be too modest to
speak. Now I feel that I should be a fool to refuse you this or any
other favour, and therefore I come to lay at your feet all that I have
and all that my friends have, in the hope that you will assist me in the
way of virtue, which I desire above all things, and in which I believe
that you can help me better than any one else. And I should certainly
have more reason to be ashamed of what wise men would say if I were to
refuse a favour to such as you, than of what the world, who are mostly
fools, would say of me if I granted it.' To these words he replied in
the ironical manner which is so characteristic of him:--'Alcibiades, my
friend, you have indeed an elevated aim if what you say is true, and if
there really is in me any power by which you may become better; truly
you must see in me some rare beauty of a kind infinitely higher than any
which I see in you. And therefore, if you mean to share with me and to
exchange beauty for beauty, you will have greatly the advantage of me;
you will gain true beauty in return for appearance--like Diomede, gold
in exchange for brass. But look again, sweet friend, and see whether you
are not deceived in me. The mind begins to grow critical when the bodily
eye fails, and it will be a long time before you get old.' Hearing this,
I said: 'I have told you my purpose, which is quite serious, and do you
consider what you think best for you and me.' 'That is good,' he said;
'at some other time then we will consider and act as seems best about
this and about other matters.' Whereupon, I fancied that he was smitten,
and that the words which I had uttered like arrows had wounded him, and
so without waiting to hear more I got up, and throwing my coat about him
crept under his threadbare cloak, as the time of year was winter, and
there I lay during the whole night having this wonderful monster in
my arms. This again, Socrates, will not be denied by you. And yet,
notwithstanding all, he was so superior to my solicitations, so
contemptuous and derisive and disdainful of my beauty--which really, as
I fancied, had some attractions--hear, O judges; for judges you shall
be of the haughty virtue of Socrates--nothing more happened, but in the
morning when I awoke (let all the gods and goddesses be my witnesses) I
arose as from the couch of a father or an elder brother.

What do you suppose must have been my feelings, after this rejection, at
the thought of my own dishonour? And yet I could not help wondering
at his natural temperance and self-restraint and manliness. I never
imagined that I could have met with a man such as he is in wisdom and
endurance. And therefore I could not be angry with him or renounce his
company, any more than I could hope to win him. For I well knew that if
Ajax could not be wounded by steel, much less he by money; and my only
chance of captivating him by my personal attractions had failed. So
I was at my wit's end; no one was ever more hopelessly enslaved by
another. All this happened before he and I went on the expedition
to Potidaea; there we messed together, and I had the opportunity of
observing his extraordinary power of sustaining fatigue. His endurance
was simply marvellous when, being cut off from our supplies, we were
compelled to go without food--on such occasions, which often happen in
time of war, he was superior not only to me but to everybody; there was
no one to be compared to him. Yet at a festival he was the only person
who had any real powers of enjoyment; though not willing to drink, he
could if compelled beat us all at that,--wonderful to relate! no
human being had ever seen Socrates drunk; and his powers, if I am not
mistaken, will be tested before long. His fortitude in enduring cold was
also surprising. There was a severe frost, for the winter in that region
is really tremendous, and everybody else either remained indoors, or if
they went out had on an amazing quantity of clothes, and were well shod,
and had their feet swathed in felt and fleeces: in the midst of this,
Socrates with his bare feet on the ice and in his ordinary dress marched
better than the other soldiers who had shoes, and they looked daggers at
him because he seemed to despise them.

I have told you one tale, and now I must tell you another, which is
worth hearing,

'Of the doings and sufferings of the enduring man'

while he was on the expedition. One morning he was thinking about
something which he could not resolve; he would not give it up, but
continued thinking from early dawn until noon--there he stood fixed
in thought; and at noon attention was drawn to him, and the rumour ran
through the wondering crowd that Socrates had been standing and thinking
about something ever since the break of day. At last, in the evening
after supper, some Ionians out of curiosity (I should explain that this
was not in winter but in summer), brought out their mats and slept in
the open air that they might watch him and see whether he would stand
all night. There he stood until the following morning; and with the
return of light he offered up a prayer to the sun, and went his way
(compare supra). I will also tell, if you please--and indeed I am bound
to tell--of his courage in battle; for who but he saved my life? Now
this was the engagement in which I received the prize of valour: for I
was wounded and he would not leave me, but he rescued me and my arms;
and he ought to have received the prize of valour which the generals
wanted to confer on me partly on account of my rank, and I told them so,
(this, again, Socrates will not impeach or deny), but he was more eager
than the generals that I and not he should have the prize. There was
another occasion on which his behaviour was very remarkable--in the
flight of the army after the battle of Delium, where he served among the
heavy-armed,--I had a better opportunity of seeing him than at Potidaea,
for I was myself on horseback, and therefore comparatively out of
danger. He and Laches were retreating, for the troops were in flight,
and I met them and told them not to be discouraged, and promised to
remain with them; and there you might see him, Aristophanes, as you
describe (Aristoph. Clouds), just as he is in the streets of Athens,
stalking like a pelican, and rolling his eyes, calmly contemplating
enemies as well as friends, and making very intelligible to anybody,
even from a distance, that whoever attacked him would be likely to
meet with a stout resistance; and in this way he and his companion
escaped--for this is the sort of man who is never touched in war; those
only are pursued who are running away headlong. I particularly observed
how superior he was to Laches in presence of mind. Many are the marvels
which I might narrate in praise of Socrates; most of his ways might
perhaps be paralleled in another man, but his absolute unlikeness to any
human being that is or ever has been is perfectly astonishing. You
may imagine Brasidas and others to have been like Achilles; or you may
imagine Nestor and Antenor to have been like Pericles; and the same may
be said of other famous men, but of this strange being you will never be
able to find any likeness, however remote, either among men who now are
or who ever have been--other than that which I have already suggested of
Silenus and the satyrs; and they represent in a figure not only himself,
but his words. For, although I forgot to mention this to you before,
his words are like the images of Silenus which open; they are ridiculous
when you first hear them; he clothes himself in language that is like
the skin of the wanton satyr--for his talk is of pack-asses and smiths
and cobblers and curriers, and he is always repeating the same things
in the same words (compare Gorg.), so that any ignorant or inexperienced
person might feel disposed to laugh at him; but he who opens the bust
and sees what is within will find that they are the only words which
have a meaning in them, and also the most divine, abounding in fair
images of virtue, and of the widest comprehension, or rather extending
to the whole duty of a good and honourable man.

This, friends, is my praise of Socrates. I have added my blame of him
for his ill-treatment of me; and he has ill-treated not only me, but
Charmides the son of Glaucon, and Euthydemus the son of Diocles, and
many others in the same way--beginning as their lover he has ended by
making them pay their addresses to him. Wherefore I say to you, Agathon,
'Be not deceived by him; learn from me and take warning, and do not be a
fool and learn by experience, as the proverb says.'

When Alcibiades had finished, there was a laugh at his outspokenness;
for he seemed to be still in love with Socrates. You are sober,
Alcibiades, said Socrates, or you would never have gone so far about
to hide the purpose of your satyr's praises, for all this long story is
only an ingenious circumlocution, of which the point comes in by the
way at the end; you want to get up a quarrel between me and Agathon, and
your notion is that I ought to love you and nobody else, and that you
and you only ought to love Agathon. But the plot of this Satyric or
Silenic drama has been detected, and you must not allow him, Agathon, to
set us at variance.

I believe you are right, said Agathon, and I am disposed to think that
his intention in placing himself between you and me was only to divide
us; but he shall gain nothing by that move; for I will go and lie on the
couch next to you.

Yes, yes, replied Socrates, by all means come here and lie on the couch
below me.

Alas, said Alcibiades, how I am fooled by this man; he is determined to
get the better of me at every turn. I do beseech you, allow Agathon to
lie between us.

Certainly not, said Socrates, as you praised me, and I in turn ought to
praise my neighbour on the right, he will be out of order in praising me
again when he ought rather to be praised by me, and I must entreat you
to consent to this, and not be jealous, for I have a great desire to
praise the youth.

Hurrah! cried Agathon, I will rise instantly, that I may be praised by

The usual way, said Alcibiades; where Socrates is, no one else has any
chance with the fair; and now how readily has he invented a specious
reason for attracting Agathon to himself.

Agathon arose in order that he might take his place on the couch by
Socrates, when suddenly a band of revellers entered, and spoiled the
order of the banquet. Some one who was going out having left the door
open, they had found their way in, and made themselves at home; great
confusion ensued, and every one was compelled to drink large quantities
of wine. Aristodemus said that Eryximachus, Phaedrus, and others went
away--he himself fell asleep, and as the nights were long took a good
rest: he was awakened towards daybreak by a crowing of cocks, and
when he awoke, the others were either asleep, or had gone away; there
remained only Socrates, Aristophanes, and Agathon, who were drinking out
of a large goblet which they passed round, and Socrates was discoursing
to them. Aristodemus was only half awake, and he did not hear the
beginning of the discourse; the chief thing which he remembered was
Socrates compelling the other two to acknowledge that the genius of
comedy was the same with that of tragedy, and that the true artist in
tragedy was an artist in comedy also. To this they were constrained to
assent, being drowsy, and not quite following the argument. And first
of all Aristophanes dropped off, then, when the day was already
dawning, Agathon. Socrates, having laid them to sleep, rose to depart;
Aristodemus, as his manner was, following him. At the Lyceum he took a
bath, and passed the day as usual. In the evening he retired to rest at
his own home.

*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Symposium" ***

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