Dates related to Plato’s life:
427 BC: Plato born in Athens to a prominent political family.
416: A symposium takes place in Agathon’s house to celebrate his winning a drama contest at the festival of Lenaia, dedicated to Dionysus. Plato would have been 11 years old.
399: Socrates is executed by the city of Athens for misleading the youth.
399-387: Plato leaves Athens in disgust at its political system and travels east.
387: Plato establishes a school outside the walls of Athens, in the grove of Akademos, dedicated to Athena, the Goddess of Wisdom. (origin ‘academic’).
387: Symposium written/begun by Plato
367: Plato travels to Syracuse in Sicily to teach the prince Dionysius II. Gets embroiled in political intrigues and returns to Athens.
347: Plato dies.
529 AD: Christian emperor Justinian abolishes The Platonic Academy since it allegedly misled students by disseminating pagan knowledge.
(In order of appearance)
In the Frame-Narrative:
Apollodorus: Follower of Socrates, relates the symposium speeches he heard about as a child.
Glaucon: Man who accosts Apollodorus to ask about the symposium speeches. A Businessman.
Aristodemus: a follower of Socrates who is invited by him to the symposium, relates the symposium speeches to Apollodorus.
The narrative of the speeches is Aristodemus relating the symposium speeches to Apollodorus who relates them to Glaucon, the businessman.
In the Speeches:
7. Diotima, in absentia
Summary of Speeches:
Phaedrus: A fellow-student of Plato’s and a follower of Socrates. First speech: The ancient ancestry of Eros, male lovers, the ennobling power of love, an army of lovers would be the most invincible since every lover would want to show his best and most courageious self to his lover. Compare this to the arguments put forth by the American army about why homosexuality would undermine morale!!
Pausanius: Agathon’s older lover (Erastes). Nothing is known of him outside The Symposium. Speech: Love is not a unitary thing, but there are two different kinds of love: Common vs. Divine, personified as Uranian and Pandemic Aphrodite. The Sociology of love, and the Athenian custom of erastes and eromenos: an older elite man (erastes) pursuing the young elite boy (eromenos); the mutual attraction should be intellectual and not just physical. Love is the force through which an intellectually vibrant and democratic society trains its younger members by ‘apprenticing’ them to older, and hopefully more wiser ones.
Eryximachus: Doctor, pedantic; proposes not to drink seriously, to send the flute girl away and talk on Eros since Phaedrus has complained that no one has composed encomia to him. Speech on the need for moderation in love.
Aristophanes: circa 450-385 BC. Greek dramatist remembered for his comedies, such as Clouds. Speech on the genesis of love in 3 original human sexes cut in half by Zeus as punishment for wild behavior; the subsequent search by incomplete humans for their lost half is love. “love is the name for the desire and pursuit of wholeness.”
Agathon: Greek dramatist and poet who won first prize for the tragedy contest in 416 BC and gave the party at which speeches were given in honor of Eros. Younger lover (Eromenos) of Pausanius. None of his tragedies survive. Speech: Love is young, sensitive, fluid, cannot abide force or compulsion, he is courageous. His is the most flowery speech, as Socrates is quick to point out.
Socrates: Begins his speech by disproving Agathon’s points. Proves that Eros is needy and lacking in beauty. Proceeds to reporting the teachings of Diotima, the only female character in The Symposium.
Diotima of Mantinea: (In absentia): Fault in logic: if a thing is not A it has to be B—a