The Symposium


Title: The Banquet

Author: Plato

Translator: Mohammad Ali Foroughi

Publisher: Backpack

Subject: Love, Greek philosophy, Socrates

Age category: Adult

Cover: Paperback

Number of pages: 120 pages

Language: Farsi



The Symposium of Plato is a treatise on love in a narrative and fictional way. The banquet is one of Plato’s most important dialogues on the subject of eros or love, which takes place at an Athenian party attended by Socrates.

This dialogue is one of Plato’s Socratic dialogues in which Socrates is its first face. This treatise is a narrative in which the reader witnesses the dialogue of its actors with each other. The date of writing of this treatise is not clear, but it appears that it was written after 385 BC.

Aristotle, nicknamed Plato or Plato, is the second of the three great Greek philosophers (Socrates, Plato and Aristotle). Plato was the first philosopher to be left with written works. He is also considered by many to be the greatest philosopher of history. What’s more famous than Plato himself, and perhaps the reason why people are so familiar with Plato, is a concept called Platonic love. The root of this phrase goes back to this book.
The Syposium is Plato’s definition of love, as it is also called the Treatise on Love. Plato is a noisy philosopher. Someone who translated Socrates’s collection of writings into writing, and this has led many to doubt that Socrates was a figure born of Plato and did not exist at all. On the other hand, some modern scholars and philosophers believe that Plato diverted philosophy from its original purpose. According to them, philosophy was created to make man and society self-aware and to make life enjoyable for the human race. With all this, the Banquet can be a new look at one of the richest human concepts, love.

In a part of The Symposium book, we read:
Apollodorus said to his friend:

I still seem to remember the subject you are asking me. What I was yesterday when I was returning to my hometown from Fallerone, in the way of one of my comrades named Glacon, who had seen me from behind, jokingly called me from afar and called me to him. So I stood up until he arrived and said:

O Falleron, can you tell me about the standing moments from the conversations about love that took place in Agathon’s house with Socrates, Alcibiades, and a few others, and let me know? I’m very eager to hear what is being said about love. Because my friend Phoenix, the son of Philip, knew about it and told me that you could tell that story clearly and in detail. So do not withhold your favor from me and tell me the story. Why did I find you honest in quoting your friends’ news?

Holding symposiums has been a common custom in Athens, especially among the free men of Athens. Usually the guests were all male, lying on beds half asleep.
After dinner, a prayer was offered to the gods, after which the drinking of wine began. During the party, the host entertained the guests with various means such as dancing and acrobatic movements of the maids and slaves and even in some cases the maids gave each other hugs to the guests. The guests usually discussed various topics, which lasted until late at night. At the symposium, Plato hosts Agathon.

Before reading this work, the reader should be aware of the social conditions and norms of ancient Greece. Pedophilia, which is different from homosexuality, was very common in ancient Greece. In Athenian society, despite great intellectual advances, women enjoyed a very low social status. Athenian men viewed women only as agents of reproduction and maintenance of the home and children, and in many cases women did not marry men out of love. In Athenian society, women rarely left the house.
The concept of love was defined for many Athenians in the emotional connection between two men; Who was usually the lover of a young boy whose virtues had just grown; So men married women and had children, but they had a romantic relationship with young boys. The main reason for such a stable relationship was to train young boys to acquire moral and political virtues. But from time to time, this romantic relationship leads to sexual intercourse, and for this reason, it was strongly condemned.

Banquet Conversation Summary
One hears that love was spoken of at the party of Agathon, who was also Socrates. On the way to Piraeus-Athens, he stops Apollodorus, one of Socrates’ friends, and asks him to hear the story of the feast. Apollodorus says that this story goes back many years and he himself heard from Aristodemus from the followers of Socrates. Aristodemus had said that one day he would see Socrates adorned as usual.

He asks him where he is going and Socrates answers Agathon’s party and asks him to accompany him and walk past him. Aristodemus arrives at Agathon’s house, but Socrates sits on the porch of the neighbor’s house thinking and left. Agathon brings Socrates home. The party was celebrated in honor of Agathon’s victory at the Athens Literary Competition, and the other guests were Phaedrus, Pausanias, Oroximachus and Aristophanes.

With the arrival of Socrates, the guests talked about the method of windmill, and since a few of them had been drinking yesterday, they preferred not to overdo it and instead talk about love.
Phaedrus is the first speaker. He considers love as one of the gods through which goodness and happiness are obtained. In his view, true love is defined in the relationship of a man with a young boy; But ideal love is when the boy is a man of virtue and manners and the relationship does not end only in sex.
The second speaker is Pausanias. Pausanias’s lover is Agathon. Pausanias’s attitude is similar to that of Phaedrus, but more complex. In his view, love has a hierarchy. In his view, the most basic type is a romantic relationship with women, and the transcendent type is a romantic relationship with handsome boys with ideas and wisdom.

He speaks of the need for law-abiding communication between the parties, and challenges societies that do not have these laws. For example, he harshly criticizes the rule of the Berbers [meaning imperial Iran] (in Iran at that time same-sex love was not acceptable). Pausanias sees this as a conspiracy by what he calls “dictators.” He argues that authoritarians want true love to be defined between rulers and the people, and are afraid of the transcendent love that is defined between two men.
Aroximachus is a physician, and in his speech he defines love as a much more universal concept, taking it out of the monopoly of human relations.
He considers love as a factor of moderation and maintaining order and harmony. He gives numerous examples of medicine, music, sports, agriculture, and the natural system, and explains his theory. In his view, love is a force and a motivation that eliminates excesses and brings true comfort.

Balancing hot and cold, bitter and sweet, dry and wet, etc., and it depends on the host’s knowledge of what kind of love to attract in order to strike a true balance. In other words, he considers love more than the medical view of disease and the health of body and soul. For example, his definition of music is: “Music is, in fact, an art in which love manifests itself in the form of rhythm and harmony.” Or, from his natural point of view, he considers nature as a set of contradictions and excesses, which include cold and heat, dryness and humidity, and love, in the meantime, is the factor of establishing moderation that makes man enjoy nature.

Aristophanes’s speech at The Symposium

He claims that in the beginning of the world there was another sex besides men and women called Androgonus; But eventually the norm disappears and is divided into male and female. The cause of Nermada’s splitting was a conspiracy hatched by Zeus, the god of the gods, to destroy Nermadeh’s supreme power. He argues that love is an inner force that exists in all human beings and motivates them to find the lost pair with their tension. In his view, man has a hidden inner desire that he will not rest and will not see happiness until he returns to his original nature and finds his mate. Aristophanes formulates love openly in rebellion against the gods.

He generalizes this argument and concludes that love is nothing but the desire for unity and perfection.

Agathon Lecture
Like Aroximachus, he introduces an abstract concept of love and, with poetic praise, considers love to be the manifestation of beauty in the world.

Socrates’s speech

Socrates’s speech is different from the others because he tries to provide a precise and philosophical definition and there is no trace of praise in his speech. Socrates’s theory is summarized as follows:

1- Love is desire because it always comes with something that a person does not have, such as love of beauty, love of knowledge and ..

2- What love demands, it lacks and tries to possess.

3- What love demands is definitely good because it causes happiness.

4- No one wants something good temporarily and wants to own it forever.
5. The desire to have something forever is nothing but the desire for immortality.

6- “Relative immortality” is achieved by creating a work. The creation of a work can be reproduction or a child, or the creation of a lasting literary or artistic work.

7- Creating a work or creativity is possible in a situation where the background and environment are provided, which requires beauty.

8- Therefore, love and beauty come together at this point and cause immortality.

So from Socrates’ point of view:
A: Everyone has a strong desire for immortality.

B: Creativity is the product of the desire for immortality.

Socrates defines hierarchy for beauty: the first stage is the love of an object; Second, love of all bodies; Third, the love of beautiful customs and laws; Fourth, the love of the beautiful sciences and true immortality is achieved by the love of absolute beauty, which is philosophy.

Lecture by Alcibiades
Alcibiades, the beloved of Socrates, was one of the most beautiful young men in Athens. He enters the party after Socrates’ speech. He was completely drunk when he arrived.

In his speech, he only describes his romantic relationship with Socrates. He says that he is very happy that a very prominent figure like Socrates has chosen him, but in their relationship the place of the lover and the beloved has changed and he has fallen in love with Socrates. He plainly complains that Socrates did not have sex with him, but admits that Socrates’ conception of love is beyond his comprehension. He points out that Socrates always tries to establish a relationship with him and the youth and motivates them to acquire wisdom and knowledge.

In his speech he makes a very romantic and poetic definition of Socrates’ moral virtues.
After this speech, a group went and a group fell asleep, but Socrates and Agathon Aristophanes sat down to talk until morning. When Pegah came, the other two fell asleep, and Socrates left the house after washing, and Aristodemus, who had woken up, left.

In Plato’s symposium, the definition of love begins with witnessing and culminates in a hierarchy that culminates in Socrates’s speech.

Related books

1- Introducing the book The Symposium on YouTube

2- Introducing the book The Symposium in Aparat


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