§ i. Summary of the Argument.

I. The Preface: 172 A-174 A.

Apollodorus, in reply to the enquiry of some friends, explains the occasion on which the supper-party at Agathon's was held, when Socrates and others delivered Discourses on Eros. The matter is fresh in his memory and, as a φιλόλογος himself, he is quite ready to repeat the whole story as he had it from Aristodemus,—an eye-witness and an intimate disciple of Socrates,—just as he had repeated it a few days before to his friend Glaucon.

II. Aristodemus's Prologue: 174 A-178 A.

Aristodemus meeting Socrates smartly attired expresses his surprise at so unusual a circumstance. Socrates explains that being invited to dine with Agathon he feels bound to go “in finery to the fine”; and he presses Aristodemus, although uninvited, to accompany him. On the road Socrates, immersed in thought, lags behind, and Aristodemus arrives at Agathon's alone. Not till they are half-way through the meal does Socrates appear; and Agathon rallies him on his devotion to σοφία. The proposal of Pausanias to restrict the potations, in view of yesterday's banquet, and that of Eryximachus to dismiss the flute-girl and amuse themselves by λόγοι, are unanimously agreed to. Then Eryximachus propounds an idea of Phaedrus, that Eros is the best possible theme for encomia, and suggests that each of the party in turn, commencing with Phaedrus, should now deliver an encomium on Eros. This suggestion is applauded by Socrates. Of the encomia the most noteworthy were the following:—

III. The Discourse of Phaedrus: 178 A-180 B.

Prologue: Eros is a great and wondrous god.

a He is wondrous in origin, being eldest of gods and unbegotten —witness what Homer and others say of him.

b He is the supreme benefactor of mankind, (1) as inspiring a high sense of honour in private, civic and military life; (2) as inspiring self-sacrifice, which wins divine favour (e.g. Alcestis and Achilles, contrasted with the cowardly Orpheus).

Epilogue: Thus Eros is most ancient, venerable, and beneficent.

IV. The Discourse of Pausanias: 180 C-185 C.

Prologue: Eros being not single but dual, we must begin by defining which Eros is to be our theme.

a The dual nature of Eros follows from the dual nature of Aphrodite: as there is an Aphrodite Urania and an Aphrodite Pandemos, so there is Eros Uranios and Eros Pandemos.

b From the principle that no action is in the abstract good or bad but derives its moral quality solely from the manner of its execution it follows that Eros is bad or good according to the kind of love-making to which it prompts.

c The general characteristics (1) of Eros Pandemos are that it is directed to women as well as boys, to the body rather than the soul, to unscrupulous satisfaction of lust; (2) whereas Eros Uranios shuns females and seeks only such males as are noble and nearly mature both in mind and body. It is the followers of Eros Pandemos who have brought paederastia into disrepute.

d The varying νόμοι concerning Eros may be classified thus:—

(1) In all Greek states except Athens the νόμος is simple, either (α) approving paederastia, as in Elis and Boeotia; or (β) condemning it, as in Ionia and states subject to barbarian rule, where it is held to foster a dangerous spirit of independence (e.g. Harmodius and Aristogiton).

(2) At Athens the νόμος is complex. (α) Eros is approved, and its excesses condoned, when directed towards superior youths approaching manhood. (β) It appears to be condemned, in so far as parents forbid their boys to hold converse with “erastae.” The explanation of this ambiguous attitude must be sought in the principle laid down above, that the moral quality of an act depends upon the conditions of its performance. The Athenian νόμος provides a test for distinguishing between good and bad forms of Eros: the test of time shows whether or not the right motive (desire for ἀρετή) actuates both the lover and his object. This motive alone justifies all erotic pursuits and surrenders, even mutual deception: hence we conclude that καλὸν ἀρετῆς ἕνεκα χαρίζεσθαι.

Epilogue: This Eros Uranios, which inspires zeal for ἀρετή, possesses the highest value alike for the individual and for the State.

V. The first Interlude: 185 C-E.

It was the turn of Aristophanes next; but being seized with a hiccough he called upon Eryximachus either to cure him or to speak in his stead. So Eryximachus, having first prescribed a number of remedies, spoke next.

VI. The Discourse of Eryximachus: 185 E-188 E.

Prologue: Pausanias was right in asserting the dual nature of Eros; but he failed to observe that the god's sway extends over the entire universe.

a The body, with its healthy and diseased appetites, exhibits the duality of Eros; and medicine is “the science of bodily erotics in regard to replenishment and depletion.” It is the object of “the Art” of Asclepios to produce the Eros which is harmony between the opposite elements—the hot and the cold, the wet and the dry, etc. Eros is, likewise, the patron-god of gymnastics and husbandry.

b Similarly with music. The “discordant concord” of Heraclitus hints at the power of music to harmonize sounds previously in discord, and divergent times. Thus music is “the science of Erotics in regard to harmony and rhythm.” It is less in the pure theory than in applied music (metrical compositions and their educational use) that the dual nature of Eros comes to light; when it does, the Eros Pandemos must be carefully guarded against.

c Again, in the spheres of meteorology and astronomy we see the effects of the orderly Eros in a wholesome temperate climate, of the disorderly Eros in blights and pestilences; for astronomy is “the science of Erotics in regard to stellar motions and the seasons of the year.”

d Lastly, in religion, it is the disorderly Eros which produces the impiety which it is the function of divination to cure; and religion may be defined as “the science of human Erotics in regard to piety.”

Epilogue: To Eros, as a whole, belongs great power; to the virtuous Eros great influence in effecting human concord and happiness.—If my eulogy is incomplete, it is for you, Aristophanes, to supplement it, if you choose.

VII. The second Interlude: 189 A-C.

Aristophanes explains that he is now cured of his hiccough, as a result of sneezing according to Eryximachus' prescription. He makes a jocular allusion to Eryximachus' discourse, to which the latter retorts, and after some further banter Aristophanes proceeds to deliver his encomium.

VIII. The Discourse of Aristophanes: 189 C-193 D.

Prologue: Men have failed to pay due honour to Eros, the most “philanthropic” of gods, who blesses us by his healing power, as I shall show.

a Man's original nature was different from what it now is. It had three sexes—male, female, androgynous; all globular in shape and with double limbs and organs; derived respectively from sun, earth and moon.

b Man's woes were due to the pride of these primal men which stirred them to attempt to carry Heaven by assault. In punishment Zeus sliced them each in two, and then handed them to Apollo to stitch up their wounds. But, because they then kept dying of hunger, owing to the yearning of each for his other-half, Zeus devised for them the present mode of reproduction, altering the position of the sexorgans accordingly. Thus Eros aims at restoring the primal unity and healing the cleft in man's nature.

c Each of us is a split-half of an original male, female, or androgynon; and the other-halves we seek in love are determined accordingly. Courage is the mark of boy-loving men and of man-loving boys, as both derived from the primal male. In the intense passion of Eros it is not merely sexual intercourse that is sought but a permanent fusing into one (as by the brazing of an Hephaestus); for Love is “the pursuit of wholeness.

d As it was impiety that caused our “dioikismos” and bisection, so in piety towards the god Eros lies the hope of meeting with our proper halves and regaining our pristine wholeness.

Epilogue: Let us, then, laud Eros as the giver both of present blessings and of bright hopes of healing and restoration in the future.

IX. The third Interlude: 193 D-194 E.

Some conversation ensues between Aristophanes, Eryximachus, Socrates, and Agathon. Upon Socrates attempting to entangle Agathon in an argument, Phaedrus intervenes and bids Agathon proceed without further delay to offer his meed of praise to the god.

X. The Discourse of Agathon: 194 E-197 E.

Prologue: The method of previous speakers needs amendment. The correct method, which I shall adopt, is to laud first the character of Eros, and secondly his gifts to men.

(A) The attributes of Eros are (1) supreme felicity, (due to) (2) supreme beauty and (3) goodness.

(2) Eros is most beautiful, since he is a the youngest of gods (all tales to the contrary being false), witness his aversion to old-age; b most tender, witness his choosing soft souls for his abode; c supple, witness his power to steal unnoticed in and out of souls; d symmetrical, because comely as all allow; e fair-of-skin, for he feeds on flowers amid sweet scents.

(3) Eros is supremely good, since he is a most just, having no lot in violence or injustice; b most temperate, for he is the master of pleasure since no pleasure is greater than love; c most courageous, as holding sway over Ares, the most courageous of the gods; d most wise, being expert (α) in both musical and creative poesy, and (β) in the practical arts, as instructor of Zeus, Apollo and Athene in their respective crafts (he, too, inspired the gods with love of beauty and dethroned Necessity).

(B) The blessings conferred by Eros are, like his attributes, beauty and goodness. He produces peace and pleasantness in all spheres of life: he is the object of universal admiration, the author of all delights, best guide and captain for gods and men alike, whose praises it behoves all to chant in unison.

Epilogue: Such is my tribute of eulogy, not wholly serious nor wholly playful.

XI. The fourth Interlude: 198 A-199 C.

Agathon “brought down the house” with his peroration; and Socrates remarked to Eryximachus that its eloquence left him in despair —petrified by the Gorgon of Agathon's brilliant Gorgianisms. “Now,” he said, “I must retract my rash tongue-pledge to join in a eulogy of Eros, since I perceive that I was quite astray in my ideas about the encomiastic art: for I supposed that truth came first, ornamental compliment second, whereas the contrary is evidently the fact. Such an encomium is quite beyond my poor powers; but if you care for an unvarnished speech about Eros, that I am ready to make.” Phaedrus and the rest bidding him proceed in his own fashion, Socrates began by the following conversation with Agathon.

XII. Socrates' preliminary Discussion with Agathon: 199 C-201 D.

(1) “Your exordium on Method was admirable, Agathon. But tell me further, is Eros a relative notion, like ‘father’ or ‘brother’?” “Certainly it is.”

(2) “Next, you agree that if Eros desires its object it must lack it; and if a man wishes for some good he already possesses, what he really desires is what he lacks, viz. the future possession of that good.” “True.”

(3) “Again, if Eros is (as you said) love for beauty, Eros must lack beauty, and therefore goodness too, and be neither beautiful nor good.” “I cannot gainsay you.”

XIII. The Discourse of Socrates (Diotima): 201 D-212 C.

Prologue: I will now repeat the discourse on Eros which I once heard from my instructress in Erotics, Diotima the prophetess—assuming the conclusions formulated just now, and treating first of the character and secondly of the effects of Eros, according to Agathon's own method.

A. [The nature of Eros, 201 E—204 C.]

(1) Diotima showed me that Eros, although (as we have seen) neither beautiful nor good, is not therefore ugly and bad but rather a mean between these contraries.

(2) She argued also that Eros is not a god, since godhead involves the possession of just those goods which Eros desires and lacks. But neither is he a mortal, but stands midway between the two, being a great daemon; and the function of the daemonian is to mediate between gods and men.

(3) As to origin, Eros is son of Poros and Penia, and partakes of the nature of both parents—the fertile vigour of the one, the wastrel neediness of the other. As he is a mean between the mortal and the immortal, so he is a mean between the wise and the unwise, i.e. a wisdom-lover (philosopher). The notion that Eros is a beautiful god is due to a confusion between subjective Eros and the object loved.

B. [The effects, or utility, of Eros, 204 D—212 A.]

(1) [The object or end of Eros.]

What does Eros as “love of the beautiful” precisely imply? In the case of the good, its acquisition is a means to happiness as end. But Eros is not used in this generic sense of “desire for happiness,” so much as in a narrower specific sense. And if we say that Eros is “the desire for the good,” we must expand this definition into “the desire for the everlasting possession of the good.

(2) [The method or mode of action of Eros.]

Eros works by means of generation, both physical and psychical, in the beautiful.

a Generation, being an immortal thing, requires harmony with the divine, i.e. beauty; without which the process is hindered. And generation is sought because it is, for mortals, the nearest approach to immortality. It is in the desire for immortality that we must find the explanation of all the sexual passion and love of offspring which we see in the animal world, since it is only by the way of leaving a successor to take its place that the mortal creature, in this world of flux, can secure a kind of perpetuity.

b But the soul has its offspring as well as the body. Laws, inventions and noble deeds, which spring from love of fame, have for their motive the same passion for immortality. The lover seeks a beautiful soul in order to generate therein offspring which shall live for ever; and the bonds of such soul-marriages are stronger than any carnal ties.

c After this elementary prelude, we reach the highest stage of the Mysteries of Love. The right method in Erotic procedure is to pass in upward course from love of bodily beauty to love of soul beauty, thence to the beauty of the sciences, until finally one science is reached which corresponds to the Absolute, Ideal Beauty, in which all finite things of beauty partake. To gain the vision of this is the goal of Love's endeavour, and to live in its presence were life indeed. There, if anywhere, with truth for the issue of his soul, might the lover hope to attain to immortality.

Epilogue: Believing that for the gaining of this boon Eros is man's best helper, I myself praise Eros and practise Erotics above all things and I urge others to do likewise. Such is my “encomium,” Phaedrus, if you choose to call it so.

XIV. The fifth Interlude: 212 C-215 A.

Applause followed. Then suddenly, when Aristophanes was on the point of making an observation, a loud knocking was heard at the door. Presently Alcibiades, leaning on a flute-girl, appeared. “I am come to crown Agathon,” he cried, “if you will admit a drunken reveller.” Being heartily welcomed, he took the seat next Agathon, where Socrates had made room for him. And as soon as he perceived Socrates, he began playfully to abuse him. Then, taking some of the ribbands with which he had bedecked Agathon, he crowned “the marvellous head of Socrates, the invincible in words.”

Next Alcibiades insisted on all the company drinking along with him. And, when Eryximachus protested against bare drinking without song or speech and explained to him what the previous order of procedure had been, Alcibiades replied, “In the presence of Socrates I dare not eulogize anyone else, so that if I am to deliver an encomium like the rest, Socrates must be my theme.”

XV. Alcibiades' eulogy of Socrates: 215 A-222 C.

Prologue: My eulogy will take the form of parables—aiming not at mockery but at truth. Socrates resembles a Silenus-statuettes which serve as caskets for sacred images; b the Satyr Marsyas.

I. In form he resembles both a the Sileni, and b the Satyr.

II. (In character) he resembles (b) the Satyr, being (1) a mocker, (2) a flute-player. As to (2) he excels Marsyas, since his words alone, without an instrument, fascinate all, old and young. Me he charms far more than even Pericles could, filling me with shame and selfcontempt, and driving me to my wit's end.

III. He resembles a the Sileni in the contrast between his exterior and interior. (α) Externally he adopts an erotic attitude towards beautiful youths: (β) but internally he despises beauty and wealth, as I know from experience. For I tried to bribe him with my beauty, but all my many attempts came to nothing. Private conversations, gymnastics together, a supper-party à deux, even a night on the same couch—all was of no use. Against my battery of charms he was armed (by his temperance) in “complete steel”; and I charge him now before you with the crime of ὕβρις. His hardihood was shown in the Potidaea campaign, where none could stand the cold like him. His valour was displayed in the battle where he saved my life, and in the retreat from Delium. Especially amazing is his unique originality, which makes it impossible to find anyone else like him—except Satyrs and Sileni.

IV. His speeches too, I forgot to say, are like the Silenus-statuettes, in outward seeming ridiculous, but in inner content supremely rational and full of images of virtue and wisdom.

Epilogue: Such is my eulogy, half praise, half blame. Let my experience, and that of many another, be a warning to you, Agathon: court Socrates less as an “erastes” than as an “anterastes”!

XVI. Concluding Scene: 222 C-end.

The company laughed at the erotic candour of Alcibiades. Then ensued some banter between Socrates and Alcibiades as rival “erastae” of Agathon, which was interrupted by the entrance of a band of revellers who filled the room with uproar. Some of the guests left, and Aristodemus himself fell asleep. On awaking, about dawn, he found only three of the party still present and awake—Agathon, Aristophanes, and Socrates: Socrates was trying to convince the others that the scientific tragedy-writer must be capable also of writing comedy. Presently Aristophanes, and then Agathon, dozed off; whereupon Socrates, still “shadowed” by Aristodemus, departed.

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