Plato's Symposium (Oxford Approaches to Classical Literature)
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Oxford Approaches to Classical Literature (Series Editors: Kathleen Coleman and Richard Rutherford) introduces individual works of Greek and Latin literature to readers who are approaching them for the first time. Each volume sets the work in its literary and historical context, and aims to offer a balanced and engaging assessment of its content, artistry, and purpose. A brief survey of the influence of the work upon subsequent generations is included to demonstrate its enduring relevance and power. All quotations from the original are translated into English.
Plato's Symposium tells of a dinner party at a crucial point in Athenian history at which the guests decide that they will each in turn deliver a speech in praise of love. The humorous and brilliant work that follows points the way towards all Western thinking about love. The Symposium is also one of Plato's most sophisticated meditations on the practice of philosophy. This book introduces the literary and historical context of Plato's work, surveys and explains the arguments, and considers why Plato has cast this work in a highly unusual narrative form. A final chapter traces the influence of the Symposium from antiquity to the modern day.
consists. Pausanias’s model is traditional, not innovative, but Socrates’ cross-examination of Protagoras’s claims shows us what kind of an examination might lie in wait for Pausanias’s unreﬂective notions. That Pausanias is indeed thinking of (an ill-deﬁned) civic virtue is also suggested by the political frame of his pederastic program. Whereas Phaedrus drew solely on poetic myth, Pausanias’s principal exhibits are the greatest heroes of Athenian democratic myth, the tyrant-slayers Harmodius
practice of piety is helpful to the state. Socrates and Diotima will show us (again) that an encomium of erôs must explain the positive nature of what erôs does for us, and this Aristophanes has singularly failed to do. A Platonic answer to Hephaestus would stress that what every lover should want is help in the ascent toward knowledge. We cannot fail 35 Cf. Rowe’s () note on e –. Rowe suggests that the whole idea of “doubleness” derives from sexual intercourse, in which two human
systematization and simpliﬁcation (but one which was to prove very inﬂuential) of the much more diﬀuse and often apparently inconsistent set of ideas about divine beings and forces which characterized Greek society (as many others);7 it is the kind of classiﬁcatory distinction we might have expected from a religious expert, but of itself it is not intended to sound radically innovative (that there are “many daimones of all diﬀerent kinds” [a – ] is a view to which most ordinary Greeks would
ﬁfth century. Moreover, this is a “prelapsarian” Athens, situated just before the disasters of the last years of the century, after which, in the standard model of popular history, there was to be no return to the golden age. That those disasters are clearly foreshadowed within the work merely adds to our (manipulable) sense of regret for an irrecoverable and better past; we may perhaps compare it to all those modern books and ﬁlms which depict English society before the First World War as a
particularly from the period of the so-called Second Sophistic, a brilliant ﬂowering of Greek culture in the Roman Empire of the late ﬁrst and second centuries ad. At the heart of this culture was a rethinking, and indeed often reliving, of the classical past through its great texts and monuments. Plato played a central role in this life of the imagination. Thus, for example, Plutarch’s Erôtikos (or Amatorius) is the record of conversations between Plutarch and his friends at a Boeotian festival