Plato’s Symposium

The Symposium is one of Plato’s finest works and one of Western literature’s most masterful explorations of the nature of love. The speakers of the dialogue recall a famous drinking party from years before at which the cream of Athenian intellectual society rose to give extemporaneous speeches in praise of Eros. Among the guests at the party are Socrates and the comic playwright Aristophanes, and the party’s host Agathon, who just that day has won an important prize for tragic drama; later in the evening a drunken Alcibiades, the most popular and notorious Athenian of the time, joins the group.

Among the dazzling speeches, Aristophanes charms the crowd with his famous myth of the androgynes. The evening culminates when Socrates takes the floor to tell his audience of the views of Diotima, the prophetess who taught him that love is our means of trying to attain goodness. Socrates’ speech describing Diotima’s “Ladder of Love” remains of the most famous, and challenging, in the history of philsosophy. Late in the evening, Alcibiades, bursts in upon the party—drunk—and  insists on praising Socrates himself rather than love, giving us a brilliant sketch of Socrates’ still-enigmatic character.


  • One-meeting, 5-hour intensive study
  • Recommended edition: The Symposium (Penguin Classics), by Plato, Christopher Gill (Introduction, Translator); Penguin Classics; Rev Ed edition (27 Feb. 2003); ISBN-13: 978-0140449273

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Posted on

April 15, 2018