Symposium (Plato)

The Symposium (Ancient Greek: Συμπόσιον) is a philosophical text by Plato dated c. 385–380 BC. It concerns itself at one level with the genesis, purpose and nature of love, and (in latter-day interpretations) is the origin of the concept of Platonic love.

Plato

Plato

Love is examined in a sequence of speeches by men attending a symposium, or drinking party. Each man must deliver an encomium, a speech in praise of Love (Eros). The party takes place at the house of the tragedian Agathon in Athens. Socrates in his speech asserts that the highest purpose of love is to become a philosopher or, literally, a lover of wisdom. The dialogue has been used as a source by social historians seeking to throw light on life in ancient Athens, in particular upon sexual behavior, and the symposium as an institution.

Literary form

The Symposium is written as a dramatic dialogue, a form used by Plato in more than thirty works and, according to Walter Hamilton, it is his most perfect one. It is set in the Athenian social life, in which develops its content about the subject of love and Socrates’ character. There is little doubt that the content of the dialogue is fictitious, although Plato has built a very realistic atmosphere.

Symposium North Wall

Symposium North Wall

Andrew Dalby considers the opening pages of the Symposium the best description in any ancient Greek source of the ramifications of an oral tradition. Plato has set up a multitude of layers between the original symposium and his written narrative: he heard it fourth-hand (if we are to identify him with Apollodorus’s friend), so it comes to the written text fifth-hand. In addition, the story Socrates narrates was told to Socrates by Diotima, creating one more layer between the reader and the philosophic path that Socrates traces. Source Wikipedia.

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