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[189a] Then, as my friend related, Aristophanes took up the word and said: “Yes, it has stopped, though not until it was treated with a course of sneezing, such as leaves me wondering that the orderly principle of the body should call for the noises and titillations involved in sneezing; you see, it stopped the very moment I applied the sneeze to it.”

“My good Aristophanes,” replied Eryximachus, “take heed what you are about. Here are you buffooning before ever you begin, and compelling me [189b] to be on the watch for the first absurdity in your speech, when you might deliver it in peace.”

At this Aristophanes laughed, and “Quite right, Eryximachus,” he said; “I unsay all that I have said. Do not keep a watch on me for as to what is going to be said, my fear is not so much of saying something absurd—since that would be all to the good and native to my Muse—as something utterly ridiculous.”

“You think you can just let fly, Aristophanes, and get off unscathed! Have a good care to speak only what you can defend; [189c] though perhaps I may be pleased to let you off altogether.”

1“It Is indeed my intention, Eryximachus,” said Aristophanes, “to speak in somewhat different strain from you and Pausanias. For in my opinion humanity has entirely failed to perceive the power of Love: if men did perceive it, they would have provided him with splendid temples and altars, and would splendidly honor him with sacrifice; whereas we see none of these things done for him, though they are especially his due. [189d] He of all gods is most friendly to men; he succors mankind and heals those ills whose cure must be the highest happiness of the human race. Hence I shall try and introduce you to his power, that you may transmit this teaching to the world at large. You must begin your lesson with the nature of man and its development. For our original nature was by no means the same as it is now. In the first place, there were three kinds of human beings, [189e] not merely the two sexes, male and female, as at present: there was a third kind as well, which had equal shares of the other two, and whose name survives though, the thing itself has vanished. For ‘man-woman’2 was then a unity in form no less than name, composed of both sexes and sharing equally in male and female; whereas now it has come to be merely a name of reproach. Secondly, the form of each person was round all over, with back and sides encompassing it every way; each had four arms, and legs to match these, and two faces perfectly alike

1 The Speech of Aristophanes

2 i.e. “hermaphrodite”; cf. Lucret. v. 837ff.

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