previous next

§ vi. The Order and Connexion of the Speeches.

Disregarding the introductory and concluding scenes and looking at the rest of the dialogue as a whole, we see that it falls most naturally into three main divisions, three Acts as we might call them. In the First Act are comprised all the first five discourses; the Second, and central, Act contains the whole of the deliverances of Socrates; the Third Act consists of Alcibiades' encomium of Socrates1. We have to consider, accordingly, how each of these Acts is related to the others; and further, in regard to the first, we have to investigate the relative significance of each of its five sub-divisions or scenes.

1. The first five speeches and their relative significance.

Plato's own opinion of the earlier speeches appears clearly enough in the criticism which he puts in the mouth of Socrates (198 D ff.). Although that criticism is aimed primarily at the discourse of Agathon, it obviously applies, in the main, to the whole series of which his discourse formed the climax. Instead of endeavouring to ascertain and state the truth about the object of their encomia—such is the gist of Socrates' criticism—the previous speakers had heaped up their praises regardless of their applicability to that object (198 E ad init.). What they considered was not facts but appearances (ὅπως ἐγκωμιάζειν δόξει); consequently they described both the nature of Eros and the effects of his activity in such terms as to make him appear—in the eyes of the unsophisticated—supremely good and beautiful, drawing upon every possible source (198 E—199 A).

It thus seems clear that Plato intends us to regard all the first five speeches as on the same level, in so far as all alike possess the common defect of aiming at appearance only (δόξα), not at reality (ἀλήθεια), in virtue of which no one of them can claim to rank as a scientific contribution (ἐπιστήμη) to the discussion.

The relative order of the first five speeches. The question as to the principle upon which the order and arrangement of these speeches depends is an interesting one and has given rise to some controversy.

a It has been suggested (e.g. by Rötscher) that the speeches are arranged in the order of ascending importance, beginning with that of Phaedrus, which is generally admitted to be the slightest and most superficial, and proceeding gradually upwards till the culminating point is reached in the speech of Agathon2. This view, however, is untenable in the face of the obvious fact that Agathon's speech is in no real sense the best or most important of the series; rather, from the point of view of Socrates, it is the worst. The fact that each speaker commences his oration by a critique of his predecessor might seem, at first sight, to lend some colour to the view that each was actually making some improvement, some advance; but this preliminary critique is plainly nothing more than a rhetorical trick of method3.

b Steinhart4 would arrange the speeches in pairs, distinguishing each pair from the others according to the special spheres of the activity of Eros with which they deal. Phaedrus and Pausanias deal with the ethical sphere; Eryximachus and Aristophanes with the physical; Agathon and Socrates with the higher spiritual sphere.

This scheme, however, is no less artificial, although it contains some elements of truth; and a sufficient ground for rejecting it lies in the fact that the speech of Socrates cannot be classed along with the other five5.

c Hug's view is that the speeches are arranged from the aesthetic, rather than the logical, point of view, in groups of two each. The second speech in each of the groups is, he holds, richer in content than the first; and the groups themselves are arranged with a view to contrast and variety. But here again, little seems gained by the device of pair-grouping; and the development within the groups is obscure. Hug, however, is no doubt correct in recognizing that the arrangement of the speeches is governed mainly, if not entirely, by artistic considerations, and with a view to literary effect; and that an artistic effect depends largely upon the presence of variety and of contrast is beyond dispute.

d Any satisfactory explanation of the order in which the speeches are arranged must be based upon the internal indications supplied by the dialogue itself.

The first inference to be drawn from such indications is this: the speech of Socrates must be left to stand by itself, and cannot be grouped with any one of the first five speeches6. This is made quite evident by the tone of the whole interlude (198 A—199 C) which divides Agathon's discourse from that of Socrates, and in special by the definite expression οὐ γὰρ ἔτι ἐγκωμιάζω τοῦτον τὸν τρόπον...ἀλλὰ τά γε ἀληθῆ...ἐθέλω εἰπεῖν κατ᾽ ἐμαυτόν, οὐ πρὸς τοὺς ὑμετέρους λόγους (199 A—B): these last words should finally settle the matter.

We are thus left with five speeches, not six; and this of itself might be enough to show that a division into pair-groups is not feasible. And when we further examine the internal indications, the arbitrary character of any such grouping becomes yet more obvious. For although the first two speeches possess a good deal in common, and were, apparently, confounded together by Xenophon, the method of grouping them in one pair tends to obscure the great difference between them in point of substance, style, and general ability of statement, and to obscure also the fact that a number of other discourses intervened between these two (μετὰ δὲ Φαῖδρον ἄλλους τινας εἶναι 180 C). The express mention of this last fact is a land-mark not to be ignored.

Moreover, while this distinction is marked between the first speech and the second, there are internal indications which point to a special connexion between the third and the second. Eryximachus starts from the same assumption (the duality of Eros) as Pausanias; and, moreover, he expressly states that his speech is intended to supplement that of Pausanias (186 A ad init.). Furthermore, we find Aristophanes classing together these two (189 C).

As regards the fourth discourse (Aristophanes'), we are forbidden by similar internal indications to class it along with any of the preceding discourses. Although much of its point lies in its allusiveness to Eryximachus' theories, Aristophanes himself expressly emphasizes the difference between his speech and the others (189 C, 193 D); and indeed it is evident to the most cursory inspection. Nor is it possible, without reducing the group-system to the level of an unmeaning artifice, to pair the speech of Aristophanes with that of Agathon, which follows next in order. The only ground for such a grouping would be the purely fortuitous and external fact that both the speakers are professional poets: in style and substance the two speeches lie leagues apart, while not even an incidental connexion of any kind is hinted at in the text.

The reason for the position of the fifth discourse (Agathon's) is not hard to discover. Once the general plan of the dialogue, as consisting of three Acts, with the discourse of Socrates for the central Act, was fixed in the author's mind, it was inevitable, on artistic grounds, that Agathon's oration should be set in the closest juxtaposition with that of Socrates,—in other words, at the close of the first Act. This disposition is already pointed to in the introductory incident, where Agathon promises to engage in a match “concerning wisdom” with Socrates (175 E); and we have another indication of it at the very opening of the dialogue, where Glaucon in speaking of the banqueters mentions these three names only—Agathon, Socrates, Alcibiades (172 A). If then, for the purpose of the dialogue as a whole, Agathon is the most important of the first five speakers, it is essential that his discourse should form the climax of the series, and stand side by side with that of Socrates his rival, to point the contrast.

This gives us one fixed point. Another fixed point is the first speech: once Phaedrus has been designated πατὴρ τοῦ λόγου, the primary inventor of the theme7, the task of initiating the series can scarcely fall to other hands than his. Why the three intermediate discourses are placed in their present order is not so clear. Considerations of variety and contrast count for something, and it may be noticed that the principle of alternating longer and shorter speeches is observed8. Similarity in method of treatment counts for something too; and from this point of view we can see that the order Phaedrus— Pausanias—Eryximachus is more natural than the order Phaedrus— Eryximachus—Pausanias; since the middle speech of Pausanias has some points in common with both the others, whereas the speech of Eryximachus has practically nothing in common with that of Phaedrus. Granting, then, that on grounds at once of continuity and of variety of extent these three speeches may most artistically be set in their present order, and granting, further, that the proper place for Agathon's speech is the last of the series, the only vacant place left for the speech of Aristophanes is the fourth. Although it is a speech sui generis, possessing nothing in common with that of Agathon, yet the mere fact of the juxtaposition of the two famous poets is aesthetically pleasing; while a delightful variation is secured by the interposition of a splendid grotesque which, alike in style and in substance, affords so signal a contrast both to the following and to the preceding speeches9. More over, as is elsewhere shown, Aristophanes handles his theme with special reference to the medical theorists of whom Eryximachus is a type.

The first five speakers are all actual historical personages, not mere lay figures. None the less, we must recognize the probability that Plato is not literally true, in all details, to historical facts but, choosing his characters with a view to scenic effect, adapts their personalities to suit the requirements of his literary purpose. That is to say, we probably ought to regard these persons less as individuals than as types, and their speeches less as characteristic utterances of the individual speakers than as the expressions of well-marked tendencies in current opinion. The view proposed by Sydenham, approved by Schleiermacher, and developed by Rückert10, that under the disguise of the personages named other and more important persons were aimed at by Plato probably goes too far. It is true that some of the traits of Gorgias are reproduced in Agathon, and some of those of Isocrates in Pausanias; but where is the alter ego of Aristophanes to be found? Nor, in fact, was Plato at any time much concerned to attack individuals as such: the objects of his satire were rather the false tendencies and the tricks of style which belonged to certain sets and schools of rhetors and writers. And here in the Symposium his purpose seems to be to exhibit the general results of sophistic teaching in various contemporary circles at Athens; which purpose would be obscured were we to identify any of the characters of the dialogue with non-Attic personages.

The five intellectual types of which Plato here presents us with studied portraits are distinct, yet all the five are merely species of one and the same genus, inasmuch as all represent various phases of ungrounded opinion (δόξα), and inasmuch as all alike, in contrast to the philosopher Socrates, are men of unphilosophic mind11.

2. The relation of the speech of Socrates to the first five speeches.

The speech of Socrates, as we have seen, stands in contrast not only to the speech of Agathon but also to the whole series of which Agathon's speech forms the climax and conclusion; since all of them alike are tainted with the same vice of sophistry. We have now to examine this contrast in detail.

a Socrates v. Phaedrus. Phaedrus had declared Eros to be μέγας θεὸς καὶ θαυμαστός (178 A): Socrates, on the contrary, argues that Eros is no θεός but a δαίμων (202 C ff.). Phaedrus had relied for his proofs on ancient tradition (τεκμήριον δὲ τούτου κτλ., 178 B; ὁμολογεῖται, 178 C): Socrates bases his argument on dialectic, and on the conclusions of pure reason (Diotima being Reason personified). Phaedrus had ascribed the noble acts of Alcestis and Achilles to the working of sensual Eros (179 B ff.): Socrates ascribes the same acts to a more deeply seated desire—that for everlasting fame (ὑπὲρ ἀρετῆς ἀθανάτου κτλ., 208 D12:

b Socrates v. Pausanias. Pausanias had distinguished two kinds of Eros—Uranios and Pandemos (180 D—E): Socrates, on the other hand, treats Eros as a unity which comprises in its single nature opposite qualities (202 B, 203 C ff.); further, he shows that an apparent duality in the nature of Eros is to be explained as due to a confusion between Eros as genus (=Desire) and Eros in the specific sense of sex-passion (205 B ff.).

Pausanias had argued that sensual Eros, of the higher kind, is a thing of value in social and political life as a source of ἀρετή and ἀνδρεία (182 B—C, 184 D—E; 185 B13: Socrates shows that the production of ἀρετή in the sphere of politics and law is due to an Eros which aims at begetting offspring of the soul for the purpose of securing an immortality of fame (209 A ff., 209 D14. And Socrates shows further that for the true Eros τὸ ἐν τοῖς ἐπιτηδεύμασι καὶ τοῖς νόμοις καλόν (210 C) is not the τέλος. Lastly, the connexion between Eros (in the form of παιδεραστία) with φιλοσοφία which had been merely hinted at by Pausanias in 182 C, and superficially treated in 182 D—E, is explained at length by Socrates.

c Socrates v. Eryximachus. Eryximachus, following Pausanias, had adopted the assumption of the duality of Eros: this Socrates denies (202 B).

Eryximachus had extended the sphere of influence of Eros so as to include the whole of nature (the objects of medicine, music, astronomy, religion): Socrates shows that the Eros-instinct affects animals as well as men (207 A)—as equally included under the head of θνητά (207 D),— and he ascribes to the Eros-daemon the mediation between gods and men and the control of the whole sphere of religion; but he confines his treatment in the main to the narrower subject of Eros proper as concerned with humanity15.

d Socrates v. Aristophanes. Aristophanes had defined Eros as “the desire and pursuit of wholeness” (τοῦ ὅλου τῇ ἐπιθυμίᾳ καὶ διώξει ἔρως ὄνομα 192 E: cp. 192 B ὅταν...ἐντύχῃ τῷ αὑτοῦ ἡμίσει): Socrates corrects this by showing that wholeness, or one's other half, is only sought when it is good (οὔτε ἡμίσεος εἶναι τὸν ἔρωτα οὔτε ὅλου ἐὰν μὴ... ἀγαθὸν ὄν 205 E16). Both, however, agree in maintaining the negative position that Eros is not simply the desire for τῶν ἀφροδισίων συνουσία (192 C).

e Socrates v. Agathon. The strictly dialectical part of Socrates' speech (199 C—201 C), which takes the form of a cross-questioning of Agathon, consists, in the main, of a hostile critique and refutation of his speech. But in some few particulars Socrates indicates his agreement with statements made by Agathon. We may, therefore, summarize thus:—

(1) Points of Agreement: Socrates approves (199 C) of the rule of method laid down by Agathon (195 A) and of the distinction it implies (201 D ad fin.). Agathon stated the object of Eros to be the beautiful (197 B): Socrates adopts and developes this statement (201 A). Agathon ascribed ἀνδρεία to Eros (196 C—D): so does Socrates (203 D17).

(2) Points of Difference: Agathon's Eros is κάλλιστος καὶ ἄριστος (197 C): Socrates makes out Eros to be οὔτε καλὸς οὔτε ἀγαθός (201 E). In particular Socrates denies that Eros is σοφός (203 E f.), or ἁπαλός (203 C), as Agathon (196 E f., 195 C, D) had affirmed. Agathon had assumed Eros to be θεός (194 E, et passim): this Socrates corrects (202 B ff., E).

Agathon, like the rest, in his lavish laudations had confused Eros with the object of love (τὸ ἐρώμενον, τὸ ἐραστόν); whereas Socrates points out that Eros is to be identified rather with the subject (τὸ ἐρῶν, τὸ ἐπιθυμοῦν, 204 C).

3. The relation of Alcibiades' speech to the rest.

a The speech of Alcibiades is related to that of Socrates “as Praxis to Theory18.” Its main purpose is to present to us a vivid portrait of Socrates as the perfect exemplar of Eros ( τελέως ἐρωτικός); and thus to compel us to acknowledge that in the living Socrates we have before us both a complete φιλόσοφος—even as Eros is φιλοσοφῶν διὰ παντὸς τοῦ βίου (203 D),—and a δαιμόνιος ἀνήρ—even as Eros is a δαίμων. In addition to this main purpose, the speech serves the secondary purpose of vindicating the master against the charge of indulging in impure relations with his disciples (see § ii. A ad fin.).

But the language of Alcibiades echoes not only that of Socrates, in part, but also, in part, that of the earlier encomiasts of Eros. And this is due to the fact that Socrates—the Eros of Alcibiades—plays a double rôle; he is both ἐρώμενος and ἐρῶν. This ambiguity of the Socratic nature is already implied in the comparisons with satyrs and Sileni made by Alcibiades, which point to a character that is ἐραστός, however ἐνδεής in outward appearance. We may therefore tabulate the more detailed points of inter-relation as follows:—

a The Eros of the ἐραστής (as exhibiting ἔνδεια), Socrates' encomium.

203 D ἐπίβουλός ἐστι τοῖς καλοῖς καὶ τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς...ἀεί τινας πλέκων μηχανάς.

203 C φύσει ἐραστὴς ὢν περὶ τὸ καλόν.

Socrates as ἐραστής (his outward appearance of ἔνδεια) in Alcibiades' encomium.

213 C διεμηχανήσω ὅπως παρὰ τῷ καλλίστῳ...κατακείσῃ.

216 D Σωκράτης ἐρωτικῶς διάκειται τῶν καλῶν.

203 D ἀνυπόδητος καὶ ἄοικος, χαμαιπετὴς ἀεὶ ὢν καὶ ἄστρωτος...ὑπαίθριος κοιμώμενος.

203 D φρονήσεως ἐπιθυμητής.

203 D δεινὸς γόης καὶ φαρμακεὺς καὶ σοφιστής...πόριμος...ὅταν εὐπορήσῃ.

209 B εὐθὺς εὐπορεῖ λόγων περὶ ἀρετῆς.

220 B ἀνυπόδητος...ἐπορεύετο.

220 D εἱστήκει μέχρι ἕως ἐγένετο (with the context).

220 C ἐξ ἑωθινοῦ φροντίζων τι ἕστηκε (cp. 174 D ff.).

215 C ff. κηλεῖ τοὺς ἀνθρώπους (κατέχει, ἐκπλήττει), κτλ. 223 A εὐπόρως καὶ πιθανὸν λόγον ηὗρεν.

It will be noticed that in this list the passages which find responsions in the language of Alcibiades are all drawn from the discourse of Socrates. This is due to the fact that it is his discourse alone, of the earlier encomia, which treats Ἔρως on the side of its ἔνδεια. The previous speakers had, as we have seen, regarded Ἔρως as altogether lovely, i.e. as τὸ ἐρώμενον. Accordingly, it is to the next list of parallels that we must look for the passages where Alcibiades echoes their sentiments.

β) Ἔρωσ-ἐρώμενος ας κάλλιστος καὶ ἄριστος in the earlier encomia.

(1) Courage.

178 E (Phaedrus) στρατόπεδον ἐραστῶν ...μαχόμενοί γ᾽ ἂν νικῷεν, κτλ.

197 D (Agathon) ἐν πόνῳ ἐν φόβῳ... παραστάτης τε καὶ σωτὴρ ἄριστος.

203 D (Socrates) ἀνδρεῖος ὢν καὶ ἴτης καὶ σύντονος.

(2) Temperance.

196 C (Agathon) Ἔρως διαφερόντως ἂν σωφρονοῖ.

(3) Complete virtue.

196 D περὶ μὲν οὖν δικαιοσύνης καὶ σωφροσύνης καὶ ἀνδρείας τοῦ θεοῦ εἴρηται, περὶ δὲ σοφίας λείπεται.

(4) Admirableness.

180 B (Phaedrus) οἱ θεοὶ...μᾶλλον θαυμάξουσιν καὶ ἄγανται...ὅταν ἐρώμενος (e.g. Achilles) τὸν ἐραστὴν ἀγαπᾷ, κτλ.

197 D (Agathon) θεατὸς σοφοῖς, ἀγαστὸς θεοῖς.

210 E (Socrates) κατόψεταί τι θαυμαστὸν τὴν φύσιν καλόν.

(5) Inspiration of a sense of honour.

178 D (Phaedrus) ( ἔρως ἐμποιεῖ) τὴν ἐπὶ μὲν τοῖς αἰσχροῖς αἰσχύνην.

Socrates as the embodiment of Ἔρωσἐρώμενος in Alcibiades' encomium.

220 E ὅτι...φυγῇ ἀνεχώρει τὸ στρατόπεδον, κτλ.

220 E συνδιέσωσε...αὐτὸν ἐμέ.

221 B μάλα ἐρρωμένως ἀμυνεῖται.

219 E τοῖς πόνοις...ἐμοῦ περιῆν, κτλ.

220 E ἐκέλευον σοι διδόναι τἀριστεῖα.

216 D πόσης οἴεσθε γέμει...σωφροσύνης;

219 D ἀγάμενον...σωφροσύνην καὶ ἀνδρείαν ...εἰς φρόνησιν καὶ εἰς καρτερίαν.

219 D ἀγάμενον τὴν τούτου φύσιν, κτλ.

221 C Socr., as οὐδενὶ ὅμοιος, is superior to Achilles.

220 E ἄξιον ἦν θεάσασθαι Σωκράτη.

216 E τὰ ἐντὸς ἀγάλματα...εἶδον...πάγκαλα καὶ θαυμαστά.

216 B ἐγὼ δὲ τοῦτον μόνον αἰσχύνομαι.

(6) Indifference to personal beauty.

210 B (Socrates) ἑνὸς δὲ (τὸ κάλλος) καταφρονήσαντα, κτλ. (cp. 210 D, 211 E).

(7) Fruitfulness.

210 C (Socrates) τίκτειν λόγους...οἵτινες ποιήσουσι βελτίους τοὺς νέους (cp. 210 D).

212 A τίκτειν οὐκ εἴδωλα ἀρετῆς...ἀλλ᾽ ἀληθῆ.

209 B εὐπορεῖ λόγων περὶ ἀρετῆς καὶ οἶον χρὴ ε<*>ναι τὸν ἄνδρα τὸν ἀγαθόν (cp. 185 B πολλὴν ἐπεμέλειαν...πρὸς ἀρετήν).

210 D καλοὺς λόγους...τίκτῃ...ἐν φιλοσοφίᾳ ἀφθόνῳ.

(8) Range of Influence.

186 B (Eryximachus) ἐπὶ πᾶν θεὸς τείνει.

210 D (Socrates) ἐπὶ τὸ πολὺ πέλαγος ...τοῦ καλοῦ.

219 C ἐμοῦ...κατεφρόνησεν καὶ κατεγέλασεν τῆς ἐμῆς ὥρας.

222 A (τοὺς λόγους αὐτοῦ εὑρήσει) θειοτάτους καὶ πλεῖστα ἀγάλματα ἀρετῆς ἐν αὑτοῖς ἔχοντας καὶ...τείνοντας...ἐπὶ πᾶν ὅσον προσήκει σκοπεῖν τῷ μέλλοντι καλῷ κἀγαθῷ ἔσεσθαι (cp. 218 D ὡς ὅτι βέλτιστον γενέσθαι).

218 A δηχθεὶς ὑπὸ τῶν ἐν φιλοσοφίᾳ λόγων.

222 A (τοὺς λόγους αὐτοῦ εὑρήσει) ἐπὶ πλεῖστον τείνοντας, μᾶλλον δὲ ἐπὶ πᾶν, κτλ.

The foregoing lists contain, I believe, most if not all of the passages in which Alcibiades, describing Socrates, uses phrases which definitely echo the language or repeat the thought of the earlier encomiasts. When one considers the number of these “responsions” and the natural way in which they are introduced, one is struck at once both with the elaborate technique of Plato and, still more, with the higher art which so skilfully conceals that technique. For all its appearance of spontaneity, a careful analysis and comparison prove that the encomium by Alcibiades is a very carefully wrought piece of work in which every phrase has its significance, every turn of expression its bearing on the literary effect of the dialogue as a whole. Moreover, as we are now to see, the list of parallels already given by no means exhausts the “responsions” offered by Alcibiades.

b The speech of Alcibiades, although primarily concerned with Socrates, is also, in a secondary degree, concerned with Alcibiades himself. And Alcibiades, like Socrates, plays a double part: he is at once the παιδικά of Socrates the ἐραστής, and the ἐραστής of Socrates the ἐρώμενος. In his rôle of ἐραστής Alcibiades exhibits a spirit very similar to that described in the earlier speeches, in which every display of erotic passion is regarded as excusable if not actually commendable. We may call attention to the following echoes:—

218 A πᾶν ἐτόλμα δρᾶν τε καὶ λέγειν.

219 E ἠπόρουν δὴ καταδεδουλωμένος.

218 D ἐμοὶ μὲν γὰρ οὐδέν ἐστι πρεσβύτερον τοῦ ὡς ὅτι βέλτιστον ἐμὲ γενέσθαι. τούτου δὲ οἶμαί μοι συλλήπτορα οὐδένα κυριώτερον εἶναι σοῦ. ἐγὼ δὴ τοιούτῳ ἀνδρὶ... ἂν μὴ χαριζόμενος αἰσχυνοίμην τοὺς φρονίμους.

218 D εἴπερ...τις ἔστ᾽ ἐν ἐμοὶ δύναμις δἰ ἧς ἂν σὺ γένοιο ἀμείνων.

222 B οὓς οὗτος ἐξαπατῶν ὡς ἐραστὴς παιδικὰ...μὴ ἐξαπατᾶσθαι ὑπὸ τούτου.

217 C ὥσπερ ἐραστὴς παιδικοῖς ἐπιβουλεύων ...D αὖθις δ᾽ ἐπιβουλεύσας.

219 B ταῦτα...ἀφεὶς ὥσπερ βέλη.

219 B ὑπὸ τὸν τρίβωνα κατακλινεὶς τὸν τουτουί, περιβαλὼν τὼ χεῖρε...κατεκείμην τὴν νύκτα ὅλην.

215 D ἐκπεπληγμένοι ἐσμὲν καὶ κατεχόμεθα.

219 D οὔθ᾽ ...εἶχον (ὅπως) ἀποστερηθείην τῆς τούτου συνουσίας.

221 A παρακελεύομαί τε αὐτοῖν θαρρεῖν, καὶ ἔλεγον ὅτι οὐκ ἀπολείψω αὐτώ.

182 E (Pausanias) θαυμαστὰ ἔργα ἐργαζομένῳ...ποιεῖν οἷάπερ οἱ ἐρασταὶ πρὸς τὰ παιδικὰ, κτλ.

184 C (Paus.) ἐάν τις ἐθέλῃ τινὰ θεραπεύειν ἡγούμενος δἰ ἐκεῖνον ἀμείνων ἔσεσθαι... αὕτη αὖ ἐθελοδουλεία οὐκ αἰσχρά.

184 E τότε δὴ...συμπίπτει τὸ καλὸν εἶναι παιδικὰ ἐραστῇ χαρίσασθαι.

185 B πᾶν πάντως γε καλὸν ἀρετῆς ἕνεκα χαρίζεσθαι.

184 D μὲν δυνάμενος εἰς...ἀρετὴν συμβάλλεσθαι.

184 E ἐπὶ τούτῳ καὶ ἐξαπατηθῆναι οὐδὲν αἰσχρόν.

185 B καλὴ ἀπάτη.

203 D (Socrates) ἐπίβουλός ἐστι ( Ἔρως) τοῖς καλοῖς καὶ ἀγαθοῖς.

203 D (Socr.) θηρευτὴς δεινός.

191 E ff. (Aristoph.) χαίρουσι συγκατακείμενοι καὶ συμπεπλεγμένοι τοῖς ἀνδράσι... οὐ γὰρ ὑπ᾽ ἀναισχυντίας τοῦτο δρῶσιν ἀλλ᾽ ὑπὸ θάρρους...ἀποβαίνουσιν εἰς τὰ πολιτικὰ ἄνδρες οἱ τοιοῦτοι.

192 B (Aristoph.) θαυμαστὰ ἐκπλήττονται φιλίᾳ...καὶ ἔρωτι, οὐκ ἐθέλοντες...χωρίζεσθαι ἀλλήλων οὐδὲ σμικρὸν χρόνον.

179 A (Phaedrus) ἐγκαταλιπεῖν γε τὰ παιδικὰ μὴ βοηθῆσαι κινδυνεύοντι, οὐδεὶς οὕτω κακὸς, κτλ.

Since in this list echoes are found of the only two earlier encomiasts who were not represented in the former lists (viz. Pausanias and Aristophanes), it will be seen that the speech of Alcibiades contains references, more or less frequent, to sentiments and sayings expressed by every one of the previous speakers. It is chiefly in his description of himself that Alcibiades echoes the language of the first five speakers, and in his description of Socrates that he echoes the language of Socrates. The general impression made on the mind of the reader who attends to the significance of the facts might be summed up briefly in the form of a proportion: as Alcibiades is to Socrates in point of practical excellence and truth, so are the first five speeches to the discourse of Socrates-Diotima in point of theoretical truth and excellence. But while this is, broadly speaking, true of the inner nature (φύσις, τὰ ἔνδον) of Socrates as contrasted with that of Alcibiades, we must bear in mind that in his outward appearance (σχήμα) Socrates is “conformed to this world” and, posing as an erastes of a similar type to Alcibiades himself, serves to illustrate the theories and sentiments of the earlier speeches.

Lastly, attention may be drawn to one other parallel in Alcibiades' discourse which appears to have passed unnoticed hitherto. It can scarcely be a mere coincidence that Alcibiades' progress in erotics—in other words, “the temptation of saint” Socrates—is marked by a series of stages (συνουσία, συγγυμνασία, συνδειπνεῖν, 217 A ff.) until it reaches its climax in συγκεῖσθαι, and that a similar ἄνοδος by gradual stages (210 A ff., 211 C ff.) up to the final communion with Ideal Beauty had been described as the characteristic method of the true erastes. It seems reasonable to suppose that the method of false love is designedly represented as thus in detail contrasting with, and as it were caricaturing, the method of true love: for thereby an added emphasis is laid upon the latter.


1 Rettig and von Sybel make the First Act conclude with Arist.'s speech, and the Second Act begin with Agathon's: but that this is a perverse arrangement is well shown by F. Horn, Platonst. p. 254 (cp. Zeller, Symp.).

2 Cp. Susemihl, Genet. Entwick. d. plat. Phil. p. 407: “So bildet denn der Vortrag des Sokrates den eigentlichen theoretischen Mittelpunkt des Werkes, die übrigen aber mit dem Alkibiades eine aufsteigende Stufenreihe.”

3 Observe also how, in 193 E, Eryx. characterizes the first four speeches as πολλὰ καὶ παντοδαπά, “motley and heterogeneous.”

4 Similarly Deinhardt, Über Inhalt von Pl. Symp.

5 Cp. Jowett (Plato I. p. 527): “The speeches have been said to follow each other in pairs....But these and similar distinctions are not found in Plato; they are the points of view of his critics, and seem to impede rather than to assist us in understanding him.” This is sensibly observed; still, Jowett is inclined to dismiss the matter too lightly. I may add that, while from the artistic point of view it is absurd to class together the speeches of Arist. and Eryx., there is a certain connexion of thought between the two, in their common relation to physiological theories, and so far we may allow that Steinhart points in the right direction (see § iii. 4, above).

6 Cp. Jowett (Plato I. p. 256): “The successive speeches...contribute in various degrees to the final result; they are all designed to prepare the way for Socrates, who gathers up the threads anew, and skims the highest points of each of them. But they are not to be regarded as the stages of an idea, rising above one another to a climax. They are fanciful, partly facetious, performances....All of them are rhetorical and poetical rather than dialectical, but glimpses of truth appear in them.” This is well said.

7 That he is so designated may be due, as Crain thinks, to the desire to connect this dialogue with the Phaedrus.

8 The comparative lengths of the speeches, counted by pages of the Oxford text, are roughly these: Phaedrus 3 pp.; Paus. 6 1/2; Eryx. 3 3/4; Arist. 6; Agathon 4; Socr. a 3, b 14 1/2; Alc. 9 1/2. Thus, in round numbers, the total of the first five speeches comes to 23 pp., which very nearly balances the 24 pp. occupied by Socr. b and Alcib.

9 Jowett explains (Plato I. p. 530) that the transposition of the speeches of Arist. and Eryx. is made “partly to avoid monotony, partly for the sake of making Aristophanes ‘the cause of wit in others,’ and also in order to bring the comic and tragic poet into juxtaposition, as if by accident.” No doubt these considerations count for something, but, as I have already tried to show, there is another and a deeper reason for the transposition (see § iii. 4).

10 Rückert makes the following identifications: Phaedrus=Tisias; Pausanias =Protagoras or Xenophon; Eryximachus=Hippias; Aristophanes=Prodicus; Agathon=Gorgias. Jowett (Plato I. p. 529) says of Pausanias: “his speech might have been composed by a pupil of Lysias or of Prodicus, although there is no hint given that Plato is specially referring to them.” Sydenham supposed that Phaedrus stands for Lysias.

11 So Resl, Verhältnis, etc., p. 31: “Alle diese fünf Reden eine breite Basis, fast auf demselben Niveau stehend, bilden sollen für die später folgenden Reden des Sokrates und Alkibiades.”

12 This is the point noticed by Jowett (Plato I. p. 531): “From Phaedrus he (Socr.) takes the thought that love is stronger than death.”

13 Cp. Jowett (Plato I. p. 531): “From Pausanias (Socr. takes the thought) that the true love is akin to intellect and political activity.”

14 Gomperz (G. T. II. p. 396), à propos of his view that Plato is thinking of his παιδικά Dion in Symp., writes: “they were busy with projects of political and social regeneration, which the philosopher hoped he might one day realise by the aid of the prince. On this view there is point and pertinence in that otherwise irrelevant mention of legislative achievement among the fruits of the love-bond.” The suggestion is interesting, but the relevance does not depend upon its being true: Plato, in any cause, taught politics.

15 It is hardly correct to say with Jowett (Plato I. p. 531) that “from Eryximachus Socrates takes the thought that love is a universal phenomenon and the great power of nature”: this statement requires limitation.

16 It may be observed, however, that while the Platonic Socrates is here simply in contradiction to Arist., the idea of a “fall” from a primeval state of perfection which underlies the myth of Arist. is very similar to the view put forth by Plato in the Phaedrus and elsewhere that the earthly life of the soul involves a “fall” from its pristine state of purity in a super-terrestrial sphere. And in both Eros is the impulse towards restoration: to achieve communion with the Idea is to regain τὸ οἰκεῖον, τὸ ὅλον, ἀρχαία φύσις (193 D).

17 Another “glimpse of truth” which appears in A.'s speech is thus indicated by Jowett (Plato I. p. 526): “When Agathon says that no man ‘can be wronged of his own free will,’ he is alluding playfully to a serious problem of Greek philosophy (cp. Arist. Nic. Ethics, v. 9)”: see Symp. 190 C ad init. But, so far as I see, no reference is made to this point by Socrates.

18 Hug, p. lxvii.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 United States License.

An XML version of this text is available for download, with the additional restriction that you offer Perseus any modifications you make. Perseus provides credit for all accepted changes, storing new additions in a versioning system.

hide References (21 total)
  • Cross-references from this page (19):
    • Plato, Symposium, 174d
    • Plato, Symposium, 178b
    • Plato, Symposium, 178c
    • Plato, Symposium, 182c
    • Plato, Symposium, 182d
    • Plato, Symposium, 184d
    • Plato, Symposium, 185b
    • Plato, Symposium, 192b
    • Plato, Symposium, 193d
    • Plato, Symposium, 195c
    • Plato, Symposium, 203c
    • Plato, Symposium, 204c
    • Plato, Symposium, 208d
    • Plato, Symposium, 209d
    • Plato, Symposium, 210d
    • Plato, Symposium, 211c
    • Plato, Symposium, 211e
    • Plato, Symposium, 217a
    • Plato, Symposium, 218d
  • Cross-references in notes from this page (2):
    • Plato, Symposium, 190c
    • Plato, Symposium, 193e
hide Display Preferences
Greek Display:
Arabic Display:
View by Default:
Browse Bar: