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§ viii. The Date.

We must begin by drawing a distinction between a the date of the actual Banquet, b that of Apollodorus' narrative, and c that of the composition of the dialogue by Plato.

a That the date of the Banquet is B.C. 416 (Ol. 90. 4) is asserted by Athenaeus (v. 217 A): μὲν γὰρ (sc. Ἀγάθων) ἐπὶ ἄρχοντος Εὐφήμου στεφανοῦται Ληναίοις. It is true, as Sauppe and others have pointed out, that the description in 175 E (ἐν μάρτυσι...τρισμυρίοις, cp. 223 B n.), would suit the Great Dionysia better than the Lenaea; but this discrepancy need not shake our confidence in the date assigned by Athenaeus. The year 416 agrees with the mention of Agathon as νέος (175 B), and of Alcibiades as at the height of his influence (216 B) before the ill-fated Sicilian expedition.

b The date of the prefatory scene may be approximately fixed from the following indications: (1) It was a considerable number of years after the actual Banquet (οὐ νεωστί 172 C, παίδων ὄντων ἡμῶν ἔτι 173 A); (2) several years (πολλὰ ἔτη 172 C) after Agathon's departure from Athens; (3) within three years of the commencement of Apollodorus' close association with Socrates (172 C); (4) before the death of Socrates (as shown by the pres. tense συνδιατρίβω 172 C); (5) before the death of Agathon (as shown by the perf. ἐπιδεδήμηκεν 172 C). It seems probable that Agathon left Athens about 408, at the latest, and resided till 399 at the court of Archelaus of Macedon1. Hence any date before 399 will satisfy the two last data. And since the two first data demand a date as far removed as possible from the years 416 and 408, we can hardly go far wrong if we date the dramatic setting circ. 400 B.C.

c We come now to the more important question of the date of composition. The external evidence available is but slight. A posterior limit is afforded by two references in Aristotle (Pol. II. 4. 1262^{b} 12: de An. II. 415^{a} 26), a possible allusion by Aeschines (in Timarch. 345 B.C.), and a probable comic allusion by Alexis in his Phaedrus (ap. Athen. XIII. 562 A)—a work which probably cannot be dated before 370 at the earliest.

The internal evidence is more extensive but somewhat indefinite. It is commonly assumed2 that in 193 A (διῳκίσθημεν...Λακεδαιμονίων) we have a definite reference to the διοικισμός of Mantinea in 385 B.C. But even if this be granted—as I think it must, in spite of the contradiction of Wilamowitz—it by no means follows that the dialogue must be dated 385—4. We find Isocrates (Panegyr. 126) mentioning the same event five years later. All that it affords us is a prior limit. Little weight can be given to Dümmler's view that the previous death of Gorgias (circ. 380) is implied by the allusion to him in 198 C (Γοργίου κεφαλὴν κτλ.3. Nor can we lay much stress on the conclusions drawn (by Rückert and others) from the absence of reference to the re-establishment of Mantinea in 370, or to the exploits of the Theban “Sacred Band” at Leuctra (371), which (as Hug thinks) might naturally have been alluded to in 178 E.

The evidence of date afforded by “stylometric” observations is not of a convincing character. M. Lutoslawski, it is true, dogmatically asserts that the Symposium stands between the Cratylus and Phaedo in the “First Platonic Group”; but his arguments, when examined, prove to be of the most flimsy character. Beyond affording a confirmation of the general impression that our dialogue stands somewhere in the “middle” period, the labours of the stylometrists give us little assistance. If we choose to date it in 390 they cannot refute us, nor yet if we date it 10 or 15 years later. The question as to whether the Symposium preceded the Phaedrus or followed it is one of special interest in view of the number of points at which the two writings touch each other. The evidence on the whole seems in favour of the priority of the Phaedrus4; but, even if this be granted, little light is shed on the date of composition of the Symp., since that of the Phaedrus eludes precise determination.

Equally difficult is it to draw any certain conclusions from the relation in which our dialogue stands to the Symposium of Xenophon. That there are many points of connexion, many close parallels, between the two works is obvious, but which of the two is prior in date is a problem which has called forth prolonged controversy5. This is not the place to investigate the problem: I can only state my firm opinion that the Xenophontic Sympos. (whether genuine or not) is the later work. But attempts to fix its date are little better than guess-work: Roquette puts it circ. 380—76; Schanz, after 371; K. Lincke (Neue Jahrb. 1897), after 350.

It will be seen that the available evidence is not sufficient to justify us in dogmatizing about the precise date of composition of our dialogue. The most we can say is that circ. 383—5 seems on the whole the most probable period.

1 Fritzsche's view that Ar. Ran. 72 implies the previous death (i.e. ante 405) of A. is refuted by Rettig, Symp. pp. 59 ff.

2 See e.g. Zeller, Plato (E.T.) p. 139 n.; Teichmüller, Litt. Fehd. II. 262.

3 See Dümmler, Akademica, p. 40; and the refutation by Vahlen, op. Acad. 1. 482 ff.

4 So I hold with Schleierm., Zeller, I. Bruns, Hahn and others; against Lutosl., Gomperz and Raeder. It is monstrous to assert, as Lutosl. does, “that the date of the Phaedrus as written about 379 B.C. is now quite as well confirmed as the date of the Symp. about 385 B.C.” I agree rather with the view which makes Phaedrus P.'s first publication after he opened his Academy, i.e. circ. 388-6 (a view recently supported in England by E. S. Thompson, Meno xliii ff., and Gifford, Euthyd. 20 ff.). The foll. are some of the parallels: Phaedrus 232 E=Symp. 181 E, 183 E; 234 A=183 E; 234 B=183 C; 250 C=209 E; 251 D (240 C)=215 E, 218 A; 251 A=215 B, 222 A; 252 A= 189 D; 266 A=180 E; 267 A (273 A)=200 A; 272 A=198 D; 276 A=222 A; 276 E=209 B; 278 D=203 E; 279 B=216 D, 215 B.

5 Among those who claim priority for Xenophon are Böckh, Ast, Delbrück, Rettig, Teichmüller, Hug, Dümmler, Pfleiderer; on the other side are C. F. Hermann, I. Bruns, Schenkl, Gomperz. Beside the broader resemblances set forth by Hug, the foll. refs. to echoes may be of interest:— Xen. Plat. i. 1 =178 A, 197 E ii. 23=213 E, 214 A ii. 26 (iv. 24)=185 C, 198 C iv. 14=183 A, 184 B, 179 A iv. 15=178 E, 179 B, 182 C iv. 16=178 E iv. 17=181 E, 183 E iv. 19 (v. 7)=215 A (216 D, 221 D) iv. 23=181 D iv. 25=193 D iv. 28=217 E iv. 47—8=188 D iv. 48=188 D iv. 50=189 A, 197 E Xen. Plat. iv. 53 =219 B v. 1, 7 =218 E (175 E) viii. 1 =218 B (187 D) viii. 8 =219 D viii. 13=184 B viii. 21=214 C viii. 23=183 A (203 B), 172 C viii. 24=217 E, 222 C viii. 31=179 E viii. 38=209 E viii. 32 (iv. 16)=178 E viii. 34 =182 B viii. 35 =179 A The last three parallels are specially interesting, since Xen. ascribes to Pausan. some of the sentiments which Pl. gives to Phaedrus. Possibly (as Hug, Teichm. and others suppose) both writers are indebted to an actual apologia of the real Pausan., which Pl. is handling more freely, Xen. more exactly (cp. I. Bruns, Vorträge, p. 152).

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  • Cross-references from this page (6):
    • Plato, Symposium, 175e
    • Plato, Symposium, 178e
    • Plato, Symposium, 193a
    • Plato, Symposium, 198c
    • Plato, Symposium, 217a
    • Plato, Symposium, 223b
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (30):
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 232e
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 234a
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 234b
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 250c
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 251a
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 251d
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 252a
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 266a
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 267a
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 272a
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 276a
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 276e
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 278d
    • Plato, Phaedrus, 279b
    • Plato, Symposium, 172c
    • Plato, Symposium, 179a
    • Plato, Symposium, 179b
    • Plato, Symposium, 181e
    • Plato, Symposium, 182c
    • Plato, Symposium, 183e
    • Plato, Symposium, 184b
    • Plato, Symposium, 189d
    • Plato, Symposium, 197e
    • Plato, Symposium, 198c
    • Plato, Symposium, 214a
    • Plato, Symposium, 215b
    • Plato, Symposium, 218a
    • Plato, Symposium, 221d
    • Plato, Symposium, 222a
    • Plato, Symposium, 222c
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