BECK Index

The Banquet

by Sanderson Beck
(based on Plato's Symposium)

SOCRATES: A Series of Philosophical Plays is now published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.



Scene: A street near the house of Agathon in the year 416 BC.
ARISTODEMUS meets SOCRATES, who is fresh from a bath and
wearing his finest sandals.

Where are you going, Socrates?
For I see you're even wearing sandals today.

To Agathon's for a banquet
celebrating his theater prize.
I evaded him yesterday because of the crowd,
but I agreed to come today,
and so I'm dressed up.
How do you feel about
going unasked to the banquet?

I'll do whatever you say.

Come along then.

See that you have an excuse for me,
as I won't admit going unasked,
but I'll say I was invited by you.

With two going together,
the one ahead shall plan what we'll say.
So let's go.

Socrates and Aristodemus walk together down the street. After a while Socrates becomes absorbed in his thoughts and pauses, waving Aristodemus to go on without him. Aristodemus arrives at the door to Agathon's house and knocks, nervously expecting Socrates to arrive at any moment. A SERVANT opens the door and leads Aristodemus inside to the banquet where he is met by AGATHON.

Oh, Aristodemus,
you're welcome to join the banquet!
If you came for anything else, put it off.
Yesterday I went up to invite you
but couldn't find you.
But why didn't you bring Socrates with you?

Aristodemus looks behind him again, still expecting Socrates to come in at any moment.

Well, he was just with me
and should be here soon.
In fact it was Socrates who invited me to dine.

Good of you to come, but where is he?

He was following right behind me,
but I wonder where he went.

Agathon commands a servant.

Go look for him and bring him in.
And you, Aristodemus,
sit down next to Eryximachus.

ANOTHER SERVANT offers Aristodemus a bowl of water to rinse
his hands and then a towel to dry them. Then Aristodemus reclines on
a couch. Meanwhile the first servant returns and reports to Agathon.

Socrates is standing on the neighbor's porch,
but when I asked him to come in, he refused.

How strange!
Go call him again, and don't let him go.

No, leave him alone; it's a habit he has.
Sometimes he turns aside
anywhere by chance and stands.
I think he'll be here soon;
so don't disturb him.

That must be, if you think so.
But boys, serve the feast now to the rest of us.
Bring on whatever you wish,
with no one directing you.
I've never done it this way;
so now, imagine me and the company
to be at your banquet,
and serve us so that we'll praise you.

The servants begin to serve the food to the guests as the scene

In the new scene they are about halfway through dinner, as Socrates
comes into the room. Agathon, who is sitting at one end of a
semi-circle, invites Socrates to sit by him.

Here, Socrates, please come sit by me,
so that by contact with you
I may benefit from the wisdom
that came to you there in the porch.
For clearly you must have discovered it,
or you wouldn't have come away.

Socrates sits down next to Agathon.

That would be good, Agathon, if wisdom
could flow out of the fuller into the emptier of us
by our mere contact with each other,
just like water flows through wool
from a fuller cup to an emptier one.
For if wisdom was like that,
I would value much sitting next to you
in order to be filled with fine wisdom.
For my own is poor and ambiguous like a dream,
while yours is bright and generous,
as it shone from your youth the other day
before more than thirty thousand Greek witnesses.

You are outrageous, Socrates;
and a little later I'll indict you about wisdom,
using Dionysus as a judge,
but enjoy your dinner first.

The scene dissolves.

In the new scene, the food has been cleared away, and only the wine
remains. Those still remaining in the semi-circle, in order after
Socrates and Agathon, are: Aristodemus, ERYXIMACHUS,

Well, Gentlemen,
how shall we drink comfortably?
I tell you I'm hard pressed from yesterday's bout,
and I ask for some relief;
and I think most of you were present yesterday.
So consider how we could drink more comfortably.

That's a good idea, Pausanias,
that we consider comfort,
for I myself got soaked yesterday.

Well said, and I'd like to hear
how Agathon feels about drinking.

No, I'm not up to it either.

That would be lucky for us,
that is, for me and Aristodemus and Phaedrus,
if you powerful drinkers are now exhausted,
for we are always unable to drink.
I exclude Socrates, for he can do either,
and he'll not mind whichever we do.
Since it appears no one is eager for heavy drinking,
maybe it will be less painful now
if I tell you the truth about intoxication.
For it has been made clear to me
from the practice of medicine
that drunkenness is harmful to people;
and I would not agree, if I could help it,
to excessive drinking, nor would I recommend it,
especially when suffering from the previous bout.

You know,
I always obey you in medical matters,
and now the rest will too,
if they're well advised.

Most in the group seem to nod in agreement.

Well then, I can have the wine removed.

Just a moment, Agathon;
just because we don't want to get drunk again
doesn't mean we don't want any wine at all.
I propose that we each drink as we please,
but don't try to outdo each other in drinking.

That sounds like a good solution, Aristophanes.
Leave the wine, and bring in the flute-girl.

A FLUTE-GIRL enters and begins to dance.

Then since it has been resolved that we will drink
only so much as each desires,
with no compulsion on any,
I propose that the flute-girl be dismissed.
Let her play for herself or for the women inside,
but let's entertain ourselves today with conversation.
I am ready, if you wish, to suggest
what the topic of discussion should be.

Everyone nods and murmurs in agreement.

What I have to say
actually comes from Phaedrus here.
He often complains to me saying,
"Isn't it odd, Eryximachus,
that while other gods are honored
by hymns and psalms of the poets,
the god of Love, so ancient and great,
has no song of praise composed by any poet?
Prodicus has eulogized Heracles,
and I even found a book
praising the usefulness of salt,
but why aren't there proper hymns to Love?
Why is so great a god neglected?"
I think Phaedrus is right about this.
So I want to make a contribution of my own,
and it seems to me the present is a good time
for those of us here to honor this god.
So if you agree
we could spend our time in speeches.
Let each of us speak in turn,
praising Love as beautifully as we can.
Phaedrus will begin,
for he is at the end of the table,
and he is also the father of the discussion.

No one, Eryximachus, will vote against you.
For I couldn't refuse,
since I don't claim to know about anything else
except about matters of love;
and I don't think any of the others will refuse either.
Yet those of us who sit at the other end
don't really get a fair chance;
but if the earlier ones speak well,
it's enough for us.
But good luck to Phaedrus,
and let the eulogy of Love begin.

Love is certainly a great god,
a marvel both to people and the gods.
That Love is the most ancient is proven by this:
that there are no parents of Love,
nor are any recorded in prose or poetry.
Hesiod says that Chaos came first into being
and the broad-breasted Earth arose, the seat of all,
and then Love;
and Acusilaus' genealogy confirms this.
Parmenides says that Birth
"Invented Love before all other gods."
Also as the agreed upon oldest god
Love is responsible for the greatest goods.
I would say that someone in early youth
can have no greater good
than an honorable lover,
or a lover nothing better
than an honorable favorite.
For humans should choose
as their guiding principle
for all our life if we want to live well,
not family nor honor nor wealth
nor anything but Love.
What do I mean by this?
The shame we feel for what is disgraceful,
and the ambition for what is fine;
for without these no city nor individual
would do fine and great works.
I say a man who is in love,
if found doing something shameful or cowardly,
would not feel half so bad at anyone observing it,
as he would if his favorite did.
In the same way we see how the beloved
is especially ashamed before lovers
when one is observed doing something shameful.
Only those in love are willing to die for others.
Not just men but women too,
as can be seen from the story of Alcestis,
who alone was willing to die for her husband,
though he still had a father and mother.
So high did her love exalt her
that the gods granted her the privilege
of restoring her soul from Hades.
But Orpheus was sent back a failure,
because he lacked the spirit to die,
as Alcestis did for the sake of love.
Thus he was punished and killed by women.
Yet Achilles was honored
and sent to the Blessed Isles,
because he bravely chose
to avenge his lover Patroclus,
even though he knew it meant his own death.
Thus I speak of Love,
the oldest and most valuable god
who has the most authority to provide
virtue and happiness for humans alive and dead.

The listeners applaud the speech by Phaedrus.

Phaedrus, I don't think
our plan of speaking is good,
if the rule is simply to make eulogies of Love;
for if Love were only one, that would be fine;
but Love is not one, and this being so
it is more correct to say
which ought to be praised.
Now I will amend this by deciding first
which Love deserves our praise,
and then I'll praise that god in worthy terms.
We all know that there is
no Aphrodite without Love.
Now if she were one,
then Love would be one also,
but since there are two Aphrodites,
then there must be two kinds of Love.
The elder Aphrodite was not born of a mother,
but as daughter of heaven we call her Heavenly;
while the younger was the child of Zeus and Dione,
and we call her Common.
Thus there are two Loves, Heavenly and Common.
Every god is to be praised,
but still I must differentiate between these two;
for every action may be done rightly or wrongly,
whether we drink or sing or talk,
none of these things is good in itself;
each is such only according to how it is done.
So when loving is done well, it is fine;
but when it is done wrong, it is base.
Love is only worthy of celebration
when we love in a good way.

The love of the Common Aphrodite is truly common,
and it works only by chance;
this is the Love we see in the poorer people,
who first, love women as well as boys;
and second, love the body more than the soul;
and third, choose the most unintelligent,
since they only look to accomplish the love
and don't care whether it is good or not.
So they do everything by chance,
whether it is good or the opposite,
for this Love proceeds from the younger goddess
and partakes more of the physical;
but the other Love
springs from the Heavenly goddess
and has a larger share in the mind.
The common lovers are responsible for the scandal
that it's shameful to gratify one's lover;
for their reckless and wrong doings are observed.
But what is done in an orderly and lawful way
can never be justly brought under reproach.

In our city it is more honorable
to love openly than in secret,
especially when the beloved excels
not so much in beauty but in virtue.
The lover gets encouragement from us all,
and success in the pursuit is praised.
Our customs allow one to do admirable things,
which if attempted for any other purpose
would be severely criticized as shameful.
For example, if one were
trying to gain from another
money or an office or any kind of influence,
and behaved as lovers do to their favorites---
pressing their suit with begging,
binding themselves with vows,
sleeping on doorsteps,
and submitting to slavery no slave would endure---
both the friends and enemies would prevent
a person from behaving in that manner,
the latter by reproaching and mocking,
the former by admonishing and feeling ashamed.
But in the lover such actions win favor,
and our customs allow this
because of its honorable end.
They're even given indulgence by the gods
when they break the vows they have sworn;
for they say a vow of passionate love is no vow.
Thus both gods and humans
give lovers complete license.
However, if the lover is acting in a base manner,
parents and tutors seek to protect young people
from the wicked attentions of crude lovers.
By "wicked" we mean the common lover,
who desires the body rather than the soul,
since he is in love with what does not last;
therefore this love will not last.
As soon as the bloom
of the body he loves begins to fade,
he flutters off and is gone,
leaving promises unhonored;
but the lover of the finer nature
lasts throughout life,
being joined into one with the lasting.
Thus custom regards a quick attachment as a disgrace,
for it should take some time;
it's also disgraceful if the surrender is for gold
or political prestige or from fear of ill treatment;
for these don't endure unless there is real friendship.
The only honorable motive is for the sake of virtue.
In our culture when one freely devotes oneself
to another believing the friend will make one wiser,
this is not considered base or flattery.
So the older lover may contribute to the education
and the intellectual development of the younger;
in this way the favorite may indulge the lover.
But if the youth gave in for the sake of wealth,
and was deceived, finding that the lover is poor,
this would be most disgraceful.
But when a youth gratifies a friend,
believing him virtuous and expecting to be improved
as a result of the lover's affection,
and then finds oneself deceived,
because the friend is not virtuous,
nevertheless the deceived youth is still honorable,
because the motive of virtue redeems the situation.
So it is right to bestow favors for the sake of virtue,
and this is the Love of the Heavenly Goddess,
precious both in public and private life,
for it leads the lover and the beloved alike
to take care for their own virtue.
But all the other lovers are of the common sort.
This, Phaedrus, is my offering to Love.

The listeners applaud. Aristophanes has been hiccuping during the
speech by Pausanias. Now he turns to Eryximachus.

I look to you as a---hic---physician, Eryximachus,
either to stop my hiccups or to speak---hic---
in my place until I can stop them.

But I'll do both, for I'll take your turn to speak,
and when you have stopped, you take mine.
During my speech, if you will hold your breath,
the hiccups may stop;
but if not, gargle with water.
If they are very strong and still persist,
take something to tickle your nostrils and sneeze;
if you do this once or twice,
even if they are very strong, they will stop.

Go ahead with your speech,
and I will---hic---do this.

During the first part of the speech by Eryximachus, Aristophanes is
trying to hold his breath, but every few moments he loses control of
his breath in a sudden hiccup.

Since Pausanias didn't properly end his speech
which he began so well,
I must try to add a conclusion.
I think his division of Love into two is good;
but medicine has shown that Love is not merely
the attraction of humans to beauty
but of all creatures,
and it works in the bodies of all animals
and of what grows on the earth,
in fact in everything.
I have learned how powerful
and wonderful is this god
over all affairs both human and divine.
Let us respect this skill and begin with medicine.
This double Love is part of the nature of bodies;
for physical health and disease have differences
and so desire different things.
The desire felt by a healthy body
is quite different than that felt by a sick body.
Now I agree with Pausanias
that it's right to gratify the good
and wrong to gratify the dissolute.
Similarly if one intends
to be skilled in treating bodies
it's right to encourage
the good and healthy elements,
which is what the physician does;
but it's shameful
not to discourage bad and sick desires.

Not finding success by holding his breath, Aristophanes now begins to gargle, but shortly after each gargle a hiccup occurs.

For medicine may be defined as the science
of loving the body in satisfying and emptying it,
and the best physician can distinguish
between good and bad loves
and can change one desire into another;
the good practitioner is skilled
in producing love where it ought to be
but doesn't exist
and in removing love
from where it shouldn't be.
He must be able to make friends and lovers
of the sharpest opponents in the body.
The most contrary qualities are cold and heat,
bitter and sweet, dry and moist, and so on.
It was by knowing how
to foster love between these
that our ancestor Asclepius created this science.
Not only is medicine governed by this god,
but also athletics, agriculture, and music.
For music clearly depends on
harmonizing various notes
and using rhythm to balance the fast and slow.
So the knowledge of love in harmony and rhythm
must also be applied to social relations
whether we compose melodies or through training
learn to play already composed tunes and measures.
Thus we come to the same conclusion that
well-ordered people and those seeking to be regulated
are to be granted this Love,
which is the Heavenly one.
But the Common Love of inharmonious songs
must be watched
so that no debauchery is implanted in reaping pleasure,
just as in our skill we place great importance
on the right use of appetite and proper foods.

Aristophanes now takes a feather to tickle his nose, finally inducing a
loud sneeze. After that he is pleased to find that no more hiccups

Even the yearly seasons have these two forces,
and orderly Love brings
a temperate harmony of them,
producing fertility and health for all living creatures.
But when insolent Love takes control,
destruction comes from disturbances and pestilences.
Astrology studies the patterns of these seasons,
and divination and sacrifices allow communion
between gods and people to bring the cure of Love;
for impiety results from refusing to gratify Love
or to yield to Love in relating to parents or gods.
Divination is a way devised to treat these Loves
and bring harmony between gods and humans.

Thus Love has a great and complete power,
which is consummated for a good purpose,
prudently and justly, both on earth and in heaven,
and it provides us with perfect happiness
so that we can live together and love the gods.
Perhaps I have omitted many points in praising Love,
but whatever I left out is for Aristophanes to fill,
or you may praise the god in a different way,
since you have stopped the hiccups.

Yes, they have stopped,
though not until I sneezed,
which makes me wonder
that the body's orderly principle
should call for the titillation involved in sneezing,
but you see they stopped as soon as I sneezed.

Good Aristophanes, watch what you're doing;
you're joking when about to speak,
forcing me to be on guard against your jokes,
when you might have spoken in peace.

You're right, Eryximachus,
I take back what I said.
But please don't be on guard against me,
for I'm afraid, not of saying something funny,
for this is natural to the comic muse,
but of saying something ridiculous.

Don't think you can get away with it, Aristophanes,
but speak only what you can defend;
yet perhaps, I think, I'll let you off.

I have it in mind, Eryximachus,
to speak in a different way from you and Pausanias.
For it seems to me humans have not at all
perceived the power of Love,
since if they did,
they would have made splendid temples to the god.
Love is the god most friendly to people,
helping humans and healing those ills
whose cure is the highest happiness of humanity.
I'll try to explain this power
so that you may spread this teaching to the world.
The lesson begins with
human nature and its experience.
For our original nature
was not the same as it is now.
First of all, there were three sexes of humans,
not merely the male and female of the present;
there was a third of both
called the man-woman or androgyne,
and the androgynous was a unity then
in form as well as name, made of both sexes
and sharing equally in the male and female.
Second, the form of each person was round all over;
each had four arms and four legs
and two faces but on only one head.
There were four ears, two private members,
and everything else as you might think in proportion.
They could walk upright as now, forward or back;
and to run fast they put out four legs and four arms
and so whirling over could really roll along speedily.
The three sexes were because originally
the male was of the sun, the female of the earth,
and the androgynous was of the moon which is both.
They were globular in shape as in their movement,
because they took after their parents.
Then they were quite strong and capable,
and their thinking was so great
that they conspired against the gods
and tried to ascend to heaven.

So Zeus and the other gods took counsel
and they were unsure what they should do;
for they didn't want to kill them like the giants,
because they would lose the honors and observances
they had from the humans;
yet they couldn't permit the rebellion.
So Zeus said, "I think I have a way to make them
stop their evil by lessening their strength.
For I will cut them each in two,
and by making them weaker
they'll also be more useful,
because there will be more of them;
and they will walk erect on two legs.
And if they continue to cause problems,
I'll cut them in two again,
and they'll have to go around
by hopping on one leg."
So he sliced each human being in two,
like they cleave apples or split an egg with a hair;
and he asked Apollo to turn the face to the section
so that they could see what was done.
Then the god Apollo healed them up
and pulled their skin together in front,
like with purses you draw closed with a string;
the little opening he tied up in the belly's navel.
He smoothed out the rest
like a shoemaker does leather
but left a few wrinkles around the belly
to remind us of our previous fall.
So when our first form was cut in two,
each half longed to come to the other half again;
and they would fling their arms around each other
and embrace as though trying to be grafted together,
till they began to die of hunger and laziness,
refusing to do anything apart.
And when the other half died leaving one alone,
they went looking for any half of the whole woman
or man or of the missing other sex.
In this plight they were dying off,
when Zeus out of pity made an adjustment.
He moved their private parts to the front;
for they had been on the outside
and they had sowed seeds on the ground like crickets.
With these parts now shifted to the front,
they were used for propagating on each other,
in the female genitals by means of the male,
so that when a man was drawn to a woman,
there would be conception
and continuation of the race.
Also males with males and females together
might find some relief and satisfaction in union
and then turn their hands to work and daily life.
Thus was the mutual love
ingrained anciently in humans,
and by reassembling this early condition
we try to combine two in one
and heal human nature.

Thus each human is a half seeking a mate.
Men who were androgynes court women,
and such women court men,
and from them come adulteries.
The women who were a double woman don't like men,
and they are inclined toward women and are lesbians.
Men who were all male pursue the masculine
by making male friends and wanting to lie with them;
when they are older they are boy-lovers,
but they take wives and have children only from custom.

The cause of all this coupling is as I have described;
for we once were whole and complete,
and the desire to become whole is called Love.
We were one, but for our sins were divided by God;
we should be careful lest we be split again,
and our noses will be sawed down the middle
and our shape will be like the reliefs on tombs.
Therefore we should exhort others to a pious life
so that we may escape harm and find happiness
under the great leadership of Love.
Don't oppose Love,
or you'll incur the hate of heaven.
If we make friends with the god and are reconciled,
we'll be fortunate to find our proper favorites.
Don't let Eryximachus mock me
and say I mean Pausanias and Agathon:
they may be so fortunate in being males by nature;
but the way to bring happiness to our race
is to give our love its true fulfillment
and let everyone find their own favorites;
and so they may return to their primal state.
If this is best, then we should accordingly
choose a favorite whose nature is like our mind.
The god Love brings this about and deserves hymns.
For not only in the present does Love do this,
but also Love gives us hope for the future
that if we respect the gods piously,
we will be restored to our ancient life
and be healed and given the happiness of the blessed.

That is my speech about Love, Eryximachus;
it's different from yours,
but don't make fun of it
so that we can hear
what the others are going to say;
for Agathon and Socrates are left.

I shall obey you, for I liked your speech.
If I didn't know that Socrates and Agathon
were clever in matters of love,
I'd be afraid they wouldn't know what to say
after so much has been said already;
but I'm confident all the same.

You spoke your part well, Eryximachus,
but if you could be where I am now,
or where I'll be when Agathon has spoken,
you would very likely be afraid as I am now.

You want to put a spell on me, Socrates,
so that I'll be thrown into confusion
by the audience's high expectations for my speech.

Surely I would be forgetful, Agathon,
after seeing your courage and greatness
when you stepped on the stage with your actors
and faced the theater about to show off your words,
if now I thought you would be in confusion
on account of a few people like us.

But Socrates, do you imagine
I'd be so led astray by the theater,
as to be ignorant that a few intelligent people
are to be more respected
than many thoughtless ones?

No, Agathon, I'd not do well
to think you such a clown,
but I know that in finding yourself with the wise
you'd be more concerned
about them than the majority;
yet we may not be wise,
and we were in that crowd.
But if you did find yourself with the wise,
you would probably feel bad
if you did something shameful;
what do you say to that?

That's true.

But you would not be ashamed before the crowd,
if you were to do something bad, would you?

Dear Agathon, if you go on answering Socrates,
he'll no longer care about what we're doing here,
as long as he has someone to debate,
especially someone handsome.
I enjoy listening to Socrates debate too,
but I must take charge of the eulogy for Love
and receive a speech from each one of us;
so you each must offer to the god
before you debate.

You're right, Phaedrus,
and nothing prevents my speaking;
for there'll be many times
when I can debate Socrates.
All the previous speakers did not praise the god,
but described how the god makes humans happy;
not one of them has told us
the nature of Love itself.
So first I'll praise what Love is,
and then I'll say what blessings Love gives us.

I say Love is the happiest of all the gods,
being the most beautiful and the best.
Love is most beautiful,
first because the youngest.
Great proof of this is that Love flees old age,
hates its nature and refuses to come near it;
for Love is always associating with the young.
I disagree with Phaedrus on this,
that Love is more ancient than Kronos.
I say Love is the youngest of the gods and ever young,
and Hesiod's stories I take to be caused by Necessity
and not by Love, if there is any truth in them;
for there would have been no gelding and chaining
or any violence at all if Love had been there,
but only friendship and peace as now occur
ever since Love has been reigning over the gods.
So Love is young and also delicate,
and while Homer says the feet of Ate were so delicate
that she tread only on human heads,
I say that Love is so delicate
that it goes not on heads, which are hard,
but in hearts, which are soft;
Love even bypasses hearts which are hard
but lives in the softest parts of the softest creatures.
Love is pliant so that it can pass
in and out of every soul secretly.
Love always has a shapely grace and beauty,
as in colorful flowers and sweet blossoms,
but Love never stays when the bloom fades away.

That's enough about Love's beauty;
next I shall describe the virtue of Love.
The greatest argument of this is that
Love never harms any nor is it harmed by any,
for violence has no part in Love.
Agreements made willingly are held to be just.
Beyond justice, Love is endowed with prudence.
For we all agree that
prudence is controlling desires,
and no pleasure can be stronger than Love;
if weaker, they are controlled by Love,
and Love controlling desires is eminently prudent.
As for courage,
not even Aries can withstand Love,
for the god of war is caught
by Aphrodite, who is Love.
The captor is stronger and so braver than the caught.
So much for justice and prudence and courage.
What about wisdom and ability?
If I may dignify my art as Eryximachus did his,
Love is the cause of composing
for poets and musicians;
for nothing inspires as much as Love.
And who can deny that all of life's creatures
are produced and generated because of Love?
In fact all arts are motivated by the love of beauty;
for Love has nothing to do with the ugly.
Since this god arose, love of beautiful things
has brought many benefits to gods and people.
Thus Love is of surpassing beauty and goodness,
and is the cause of such excellence in others.
Love brings peace and pleasant sleep for pain.
Love casts out alienation and draws in intimacy,
brings us together in friendly gatherings,
urges courtesy and sends away rudeness,
is a giver of kindness, a forgiver of enmity,
gracious to the good, a marvel to the wise,
a joy to the gods, desired by those without it,
and treasured by those who have it;
father of daintiness, tenderness, elegance,
grace, longing, and fondness;
caring about the good, not caring about the bad;
in work, in fear, in drink, in speech,
our pilot, helper, champion, savior;
Love is the order of gods and humans together,
fairest and best leader, whom all should follow,
joining in the song that enchants the thought of all.
That is the speech, Phaedrus, I offer to the god;
I've done my best
to bring a measure of seriousness.

Everyone applauds the speech with great enthusiasm. Socrates looks
at Eryximachus as he speaks.

Don't you think, son of Acumenus,
I had reason to fear,
and wasn't I prophetic when I said just now
that Agathon would make a marvelous speech,
and I would be at a loss what to say?

You were prophetic that Agathon would speak well,
but I don't believe you to be at a loss.

But surely I am at a loss to speak, my friend,
after so much beautiful eloquence.
Some of it was not particularly surprising,
but weren't the phrases at the end wonderful?
I don't think I could say anything half as beautiful,
and so in shame I was ready to sneak away, if I could.
For his speech reminded me of Gorgias
so that as in Homer I was afraid at the end
Agathon would confront me with the head of Gorgias
and with these phrases turn me speechless into stone.
Then I realized how ridiculous it was for me to agree
to take my turn in eulogizing Love
and to claim that I am an expert in matters of love,
when I'm really ignorant
of how these eulogies are done.
For I was foolish enough to think that
one ought to tell the truth in the eulogy;
so I assumed I'd find some facts and present them,
and I was thinking I was great,
because I could speak well, knowing the truth.
But now it seems that wouldn't be beautiful praise,
which is to ascribe all the best qualities to Love,
whether they are so or not;
and if they're false, it doesn't really matter.
For the proposal seems to be for each of us
to seem to eulogize Love, not actually do so,
and so to make Love appear
to be best and most beautiful
to those who don't know Love,
but not to those who know.
And the praise has been beautifully presented.
But I was mistaken about the method of praising,
and not knowing this I agreed to take my turn.
So I can't keep the promise I made in ignorance
and eulogize by this method of flattery.
Yet if you like,
I'll speak the truth in my own way,
not like your speeches,
which would make me ridiculous.
So Phaedrus, see if you need to hear a speech
about the truth of Love in whatever terms may occur.

Certainly, Socrates; proceed however you wish.

Then permit me to put a few questions to Agathon
so that I can get his agreement before I speak.

I grant it; go ahead and ask.

I thought you began your speech well, Agathon,
saying that first you should show off what Love is
and then later describe the works of Love.
I admire this beginning very much.
So about Love you went through the qualities
beautifully and magnificently;
but tell me: Is Love the love of something or not?
I don't mean love of a father or mother---
that's absurd;
but is a father a father of someone or not?
Surely if you wished to answer well,
you would say
a father is father of a son or daughter,
wouldn't you?


And the same for a mother?

Of course.

Now try to tell me is Love
love of nothing or of something?

Of something.

Then keeping in mind this something,
tell me whether Love desires that object or not.


Does one have this object
before one desires or loves it?

Probably not.

Not likely, but consider if the one desiring
must desire what one lacks,
and if not desiring it, does one have a lack?
It seems necessary to me, Agathon;
what do you think?

It seems the same to me.

So would someone large wish to be large,
or the strong wish to be strong?

Impossible from what is agreed.

For they are not lacking that quality.


Since we do think that people in some cases
may also desire what they already have---
I'm going into this so we won't be deceived, Agathon---
if you ask why the healthy would want to be healthy,
or a wealthy person would want to be wealthy,
when they already have this in the present,
we would suggest that
they desire these present things
to be present in the future as well.
Do you agree with this?


So then loving something
not yet secured for the future
may be described as loving
what one fears may be lacking.


Then everyone who feels desire,
feels it for what is not secured
or for something they don't have or are not or lack;
and is this the object of love?


Come, let's agree on what we've said.
First, is love of something?
and second, is that something what Love lacks?


Do you remember what you mentioned
in your speech as objects of Love?
If you wish, I'll remind you.
For I believe it was that affairs are arranged
by the gods through the love of beautiful things;
for there was no love for the ugly.
Isn't this what you said?

I did.

And you spoke correctly, my friend;
and if this is so, could Love be anything
other than love of beauty and not ugliness?

I agree.

Now wasn't it agreed that one loves
what one lacks and doesn't have?


Then Love lacks and doesn't have beauty.

By necessity.

But do you say that what lacks beauty
and doesn't possess it at all is beautiful?

Definitely not.

So do you still agree that Love is beautiful,
if this is the case?

I probably didn't know what I was saying, Socrates.

You're right, Agathon;
but tell me one more thing:
do you think good things are beautiful?

I do.

Then if Love lacks beautiful things,
and good things are beautiful,
it also lacks good things.

I'm not able to contradict you, Socrates,
but let it be as you say.

No, it's the truth, dear Agathon,
you can't contradict,
since contradicting Socrates is not hard at all.
I'll let you alone now,
and turn to the speech about Love,
which I heard from the Mantinean woman Diotima,
who is wise in these matters and many others;
when she had Athenians sacrifice before the plague,
there was a ten-year delay of the disease.
She also taught me love matters---
the speech she gave
I'll try to go through with you,
as best I can
from what Agathon and I just agreed on.
First as you suggested, Agathon,
one should go through
who and what Love is, then its works.
It seems easiest to me to do so,
as she did then by questioning and answering.
For what I said to her was much like
what Agathon just now said to me,
that Love was a great god,
and was of beautiful things;
and she refuted me
with the same arguments I used,
showing that the god
was neither beautiful nor good.

The scene dissolves to an earlier scene in which a younger Socrates is
talking with DIOTIMA.

What do you mean, Diotima?
Is Love then ugly and bad?

Do you think what isn't beautiful must be ugly?

Most certainly.

Or what is not wise ignorant?
Haven't you observed that
there is something between wisdom and ignorance?

What is that?

Don't you know that it isn't knowing
to have a correct opinion without a reason for it?
How can it be knowledge without reason?
And it can't be ignorance either;
for how can what happens to be so be ignorance?
Clearly correct opinion is in between
understanding and ignorance.


Then don't compel what is not beautiful to be ugly,
or what is not good to be bad.
So when you admit Love is not good nor beautiful,
one shouldn't assume it to be ugly nor bad,
but something in between these.

But it's agreed by all that Love is a great god.

By all who don't know,
or also by those who know?

By everyone.

DIOTIMA (Laughing)
Socrates, how could they agree Love is a great god
who say that Love is not a god at all?

Who are they?

You are one, and I another.

What do you mean by that?

It's easy. Don't you say that
all gods are happy and beautiful?
Or would you dare say
a god is not beautiful and happy?

By God, not I.

Don't you say they are happy
who possess good and beautiful things?


But you agreed that Love,
from the lack of good and beautiful things,
desires these things it lacks.

I did.

How can one be a god without sharing in
things which are beautiful and good?

It's impossible.

So do you see that you don't consider Love a god?

Then what would Love be? Mortal?

Not at all.

But what then?

As I said before, between mortal and immortal.

What is that, Diotima?

A great spirit, Socrates;
for all the spiritual is between the divine and mortal.

What power does it have?

Interpreting and translating things
from humans to gods and from gods to humans,
prayers and sacrifices from below,
and ordinances and answers from above;
being in the middle it fulfills both sides
so that all is combined into the same thing.
Through this comes all divination
and the art of sacred things concerning
sacrifices, initiations, chants and magic.
God does not mingle with the human,
but through this there is communion and dialog,
both when they are awake and when they sleep.
Whoever is wise in such things is spiritual,
and whoever is wise in anything else,
whether it be arts or handicrafts, is mechanical.
These spirits are many and of all kinds,
and one of them is Love.

Who are the father and mother?

That's a long story, but nevertheless I'll tell you.
On Aphrodite's birthday, the gods were feasting,
and among them was Resource,
the son of Contriving.
While they were dining, good cheer being there,
Poverty came begging at the door.
So Resource drunk with nectar---
for there was no wine yet---
went into Zeus's garden and fell into a heavy sleep.
Then Poverty being herself helpless
decided to make a child from Resource,
and laying down with him conceived Love.
Thus Love has been a follower
and minister of Aphrodite,
having been engendered on her birthday,
and is naturally also a lover of beauty,
since Aphrodite is beautiful.
So as the child of Resource and Poverty
Love is ordained first to be always poor,
and must be far from beautiful, which many believe,
but stiff and rough, barefoot and homeless,
always laying without a bed
in doorways and on roads under the sky,
having the mother's nature, always living in need.
Like the father,
plotting for good and beautiful things,
Love is brave, eager, and intense,
a clever hunter, always weaving some device,
desiring thoughtfulness and resourceful,
a philosopher through all of life,
and clever in magic, charms, and tricks.
By nature neither immortal nor mortal,
at one time Love is flourishing
and alive when abundant,
but at another time dying,
yet reviving again through the father's nature;
but the resources are always slipping away
so that Love is never helpless nor wealthy,
and is in the middle of wisdom and ignorance.
For it's this way:
none of the gods love wisdom
nor desire to become wise,
for they are so,
nor does anyone else wise love wisdom.
Neither do the ignorant love wisdom
nor do they desire to become wise;
for this ignorance is a hard thing,
not being beautiful and good nor thoughtful
it seems self-satisfied.
Thus whoever does not believe oneself to be in need
does not desire what they don't believe they need.

Then who are the ones who love wisdom, Diotima,
if they are neither the wise nor the ignorant?

It's clear now even to a child
that Love is one of those in between both.
For wisdom is about the most beautiful things,
and Love is love of the beautiful,
so that Love must be a philosopher,
a philosopher being in between the wise and ignorant.
The cause of this is the origin,
for the father is wise and resourceful,
while the mother is not wise and helpless.
So this is the nature of the spirit, dear Socrates,
and it's not surprising you thought Love was different,
for you thought, as indicated by what you said,
that the beloved and not the lover is Love.
Therefore, I think, Love seemed to you all-beautiful.
For the lovable is really beautiful,
tender, perfect, and blessed;
but the lover has another form, which I described.

Well then, stranger, if you're right,
of what use is Love to humanity?

I'll try to teach you, Socrates.
For while being of this origin,
Love is of beautiful things, as you say.
What if someone asked us, "Socrates and Diotima,
what is love of beautiful things?"
Or let me ask it more clearly:
What is the love of the lover of beautiful things?

That they may be one's own.

But your answer still asks something like:
What will it be for that one to get beautiful things?

I don't have a handy answer for that.

But what if someone inquired
changing it to the good
instead of using the beautiful;
come, Socrates, I ask you:
what is the love of the lover of good things?

That they may be one's own.

And what will it be for that one to get good things?

For this I have a more resourceful answer,
that one will be happy.

For by possessing good things the happy are happy,
and it's not necessary to ask
why one wishes to be happy,
since this answer seems to be final.


Do you think this wish or love
is common to all people,
and that everyone always
wishes to have good things?

It's common to all.

Well then, Socrates,
if we say everyone always loves the same things,
are we saying everyone loves?
or are we saying that some love and some don't?

I am wondering myself.

Don't; for we simply named a certain form of love
and applied this name to the whole of love,
and there are other names we misuse.

Like what?

Like this.
You know that composing is a plural thing;
for composing is the cause of everything
which goes from not being into being,
as the works of all the arts are compositions
and all their workers are composers.


But still you know that they're not called composers
but have other names,
and only one part of the whole is named composing,
that concerning music and rhythms.
For only this is called composing,
and only those doing this part are composers.


Then it's the same concerning love:
generally it's all who desire
good things and happiness.
But the ones turning toward it in many other ways,
in money-making or athletics or philosophy
are not called loving nor lovers,
but those devoted to
one certain form of the whole name
are held to be loving and lovers.

That's probably true.

It's been said that lovers seek their other half;
but my argument says love is neither half nor whole,
unless that happens to be good, my friend;
since people would have their hands and feet cut off
if they thought these were harmful to themselves.
For I think each values their own
only if they think theirs is good and the other's bad;
as people love nothing else other than the good;
or do you think they do?

Heavens no.

Then can it be said absolutely
that people love the good?


To which may we add that
they love the good to be theirs?

We may.

And not only that but always?

Add that too.

Then in sum one loves the good
to be one's own forever.

Most true.

If love is always of this,
what is the method of those pursuing it,
and what would the action
of love's effort and system be called?
What does this work happen to be?
Can you tell me?

No, I wouldn't be admiring your wisdom
and visiting you if I understood these things.

I'll tell you: for it's generating in beauty
by both the body and the soul.

What you mean needs divination;
I don't understand.

I'll say it more clearly.
All people conceive by both body and soul,
and when reaching a certain age
our nature desires to generate.
It can't generate in the ugly, but in the beautiful.
For the joining of man and woman is generating.
This conception and engendering is a divine affair
and is really the immortal in mortal life.
And it cannot occur in the unfit.
The ugly is unsuited to everything divine,
but the beautiful is suitable.
Beauty is the destiny and goddess of birth.
Thus when one conceiving approaches the beautiful
one becomes gracious, and delighted one pours out,
impregnates and engenders;
but when with the ugly, sad and sullen one coils up,
turns away, shrivels up and does not engender,
but in misery holds back conception.
So when one has conceived and is already swollen
much excitement has occurred concerning the beauty
through great labor pains to release the one having it.
For love is not of the beautiful,
Socrates, as you think.

But of what then?

Of engendering and generating in the beautiful.

So then why of the engendering?

Because engendering is everlasting
and the immortal in the mortal.
From what has been agreed
one must desire the immortal with the good,
since love is for the good to be one's own forever.
So from this logic love must be of the immortal.

That's clear.

Socrates, what do you think is
the cause of this love and desire?
Haven't you observed how
animals are strangely disposed
when they desire to engender,
both beasts and birds,
how they're sick and erotically disposed,
first to unite with each other,
then for feeding the ones born,
and on their behalf even the weakest are ready
to fight the strongest and die,
even when stretched with hunger they feed them
and do anything else for them?
For one might think humans do this from reasoning,
but what is the cause
of this loving disposition in the animals?
Can you tell me?

I don't think so.

Then how do you intend
to become clever in love matters,
if you don't understand this?

This is why, as I just said, Diotima,
I came to you, because I need teaching;
please tell me the cause.

Then if you believe that the nature of love is
what we have agreed,
you don't have to wonder.
For by that same argument
mortal nature always seeks
the ability to be immortal.
It can only do this by engendering,
so that it will always leave behind
a new creature in place of the old,
since only for a while is each living creature
called alive and the same,
as it is said one is the same
from childhood to old age;
yet though one is called the same,
one never really is,
but one is always becoming new and losing things
like hair, flesh, bones, blood and the whole body.
Not only in the body but in the soul too,
manners, habits, opinions, desires,
pleasures, pains, and fears
are never the same for each,
but they come into existence and pass away.
It's even stranger that not only knowledge we learn
comes into existence for us and passes away
and we're never the same according to knowledge,
but also each kind of knowledge experiences this.
For study implies knowledge is being lost;
since forgetting is loss of knowledge,
and study substitutes the fresh for the old that has gone
in order to save knowledge so that it seems the same.
For everything mortal is saved in this way,
not by keeping them always the same, like the divine,
but by replacing what has gone and is old
with the new which is similar to it.
By this device, Socrates, the mortal shares immortality,
both the body and all other things;
and it's impossible any other way.
So don't be surprised if
everything naturally values its own offspring;
for this effort and love is found
in everyone for the sake of immortality.

Well, most wise Diotima, can this be true?

You know, Socrates, if you look at the ambition of people,
you might be surprised at what I said,
unless you consider how much they are motivated by
love of reputation and of winning immortal fame forever,
and even more than for their children
they're ready to risk any danger,
spend money, work hard at any task, and even die.
Do you think Alcestis would have died for Admetus,
or Achilles would have died after Patroclus
or the Athenian king Codrus for his children,
if they didn't think there would be
an immortal memory for their virtue, which we now have?
Far from it, but everyone will do anything
for immortal virtue and such glorious renown;
for they love the immortal.
So those lusting for the body turn rather toward women
and are erotic in this way,
thinking through children they may procure
immortality, a memorial, and happiness for all time.
But those who conceive in the soul rather than in bodies
conceive and engender what is proper to the soul.
So what is proper? Thoughtfulness and other virtues,
of which the generators are all poets and artists
who are said to be inventors;
and the greatest and finest thoughtfulness concerns
the regulating of states and communities,
the name of which is prudence and justice.
When a soul being divine conceiving these from youth,
and having come of age desires to engender,
it goes around seeking to generate in the beautiful;
for one never generates in the ugly.
So one embraces beautiful bodies rather than the ugly,
and if one happens on a beautiful and well-endowed soul,
certainly one embraces both together,
and with this person one prospers in discussing virtue
and what the brave and good should be and practice;
and so one undertakes education.
For I think by clinging to the beautiful
and by intercourse with them,
what one conceived long ago is engendered,
and remembering the present and the absent,
they nurture together in common what was produced
so that they share greater community
and stronger friendship with each other
than that which comes from children,
because the children they have shared
are more beautiful and immortal.
Surely everyone would choose such over human children,
looking at Homer and Hesiod and other good poets,
envying their productions they left behind,
which provided them with immortal fame.
Lycurgus left behind customs as saviors of Sparta;
Solon was also honored for generating laws;
and many others in Greece and foreign lands
did many fine works and generated every virtue;
and for such children many shrines have been raised,
but not for human children.

So Socrates, even you may be initiated
into these mysteries of love,
but as to the final mysteries,
even if one is freed correctly,
I don't know if you could.
So I'll speak and not leave out any zeal;
and try your best to follow.
Going into this business correctly
one should begin in youth to be near beautiful bodies,
and first, if the one guiding leads correctly,
one will be in love with one body
and there engender beautiful discourse,
but next one should notice that
the beauty in this body is like that in another,
and if one should pursue beauty in its form,
it would be very unintelligent not to lead one
to the same beauty which is in all bodies;
and having understood this
one is rendered a lover of all beautiful bodies,
and relaxes this excessive love for one,
seeing it in perspective as small.
After this, one is led to value
beauty in souls more than in the body
so that even if the bloom in the soul
is only a little bit suitable,
it is enough to love and care for,
to engender discourse
and to seek to make the youth better,
so that one may be compelled
to contemplate beauty in practices and laws
and to see that this is all together in relationship,
so that one will count the body's beauty little.
After practices one is led to sciences
in order to see the beauty of knowledge,
and looking at beauty in many,
no longer in one, like a slave of little understanding
loving the beauty of one child or person or practice,
but turning to the larger ocean of beauty
and contemplating much and beautiful meanings
and engendering great understanding
in ungrudging philosophy,
until strengthened and confirmed
one perceives one knowledge, which is this beauty.
Please give me your very best attention.

Whoever is tutored thus far in love matters,
contemplating the beauties in order and correctly,
being now at the goal of love
suddenly will be revealed something wonderful
and beautiful in nature, Socrates,
which is the reason for all the previous tasks.
First it always is, neither becoming nor passing away,
neither increasing nor decreasing;
next it's not somewhat beautiful and somewhat ugly,
nor such now and not then,
nor in one way beautiful and in another ugly,
nor beautiful here and ugly there,
as beautiful to some and ugly to others;
nor will this beauty appear to one as a face or hands
or any other part of the body,
nor as some meaning or knowledge,
nor as being somewhere in something different,
such as in an animal or in the earth
or in heaven or in anything else,
but as itself always being in a single form with itself,
while all beautiful things share in it in a way,
though they are coming to be and passing away,
it becomes neither full nor less,
not being affected by anything.
When someone by correctly loving the young
lets go of that and begins to explore beauty,
one has almost reached the goal.
For this is going or being led by another
correctly into love matters,
beginning from the beauties of that one,
on account of beauty always going up,
like climbing a ladder,
from one to two and from two to all beautiful bodies,
and from beautiful bodies to beautiful practices,
and from the practices to beautiful learning,
and from learning to perfect that learning,
which is nothing but learning that beauty itself,
so that finally one knows what beauty itself is.
That life, dear Socrates, if anything is,
is livable for a person, in contemplating beauty itself.
Whoever sees this, is no longer seduced
by seeing gold or clothes or the young.
What if one could see beauty itself
absolute, pure, unmixed,
and not infected with human flesh and blood
and other mortal nonsense,
but could perceive the single form
of divine beauty itself?
Do you think that's a poor life for a human
looking there and contemplating that and being with it?
Or don't you realize that only there will it happen,
seeing the beautiful in the visible,
engendering virtue not images,
since one attains not images but the truth?
Engendering true virtue and beginning the nurturing
one becomes a friend of God,
and if any person may be immortal, it is that one.

The scene dissolves back to the banquet.

This, Phaedrus and the rest, is what Diotima said,
and I have been convinced and will try to convince others
that in acquiring this no one may easily find
a better helper for human nature than Love.
Thus I say everyone should honor Love,
even as I honor and especially practice matters of love
and encourage others to do so;
both now and always I extol
the power and valor of Love as best I can.
So, Phaedrus, if you wish, consider this speech
a eulogy for Love or whatever you like to name it.

Everyone applauds except for Aristophanes who is trying to say
something, but he is ignored by the rest. During the applause much
noise is heard coming from the door. Agathon commands a servant.

Go see who is there.
If they are our friends, invite them in;
but if not, say we're not drinking but resting now.

With great commotion ALCIBIADES, his FLUTE-GIRL, and other
REVELERS come in. They are all drunk, and Alcibiades is crowned
with a wreath of ivy, violets and various ribbons.

Where is Agathon? Lead me to Agathon!

The servant leads Alcibiades to Agathon, but Alcibiades is so drunk
and occupied with the crowning of Agathon that he fails to even
notice the presence of Socrates sitting next to him.

Greetings, men!
Will you invite one quite drunk to your party?
Or shall I merely set a wreath on Agathon and go away?
For I say I couldn't get to you yesterday,
but now I've come with ribbons on my head
so that I can take them off
and put them on the wisest and most beautiful head,
if I speak---like this.
You're laughing at me, because I'm drunk.
Even if you laugh, you know I'm telling the truth.
But tell me straight,
if I may enter on these terms or not?
Will you drink with me or not?

They all welcome him.

Please Alcibiades, come and sit down.

Alcibiades puts the wreath and ribbons on Agathon, while he has his
back to Socrates and then sits between them, Socrates having moved
over to make room for him. Agathon commands a servant.

AGATHON (Cont'd.)
Boy, take off the sandals of Alcibiades,
so that he can be a third sitting here.

Certainly, but who's the third drinking with us?

When Alcibiades turns around to see Socrates, he jumps up.

O Heracles, who's this?! Socrates!
You're lying in wait here as usual,
turning up whenever I least expect you.
What are you up to now?
And why are you sitting here
and not next to Aristophanes or some other joker,
but how did you contrive
to sit next to the one most handsome?

Agathon, see if you can protect me,
for my love for this person has been no poor affair.
From the time I fell in love with him
it hasn't been possible for me
to look at or talk with anyone handsome,
or this guy works himself into a jealous rage
and abuses me, hardly keeping his hands off me.
See that he doesn't do so now, but reconcile us;
or if he attempts to use force, protect me,
since I'm quite trembling at his amorous madness.

But there is no reconciliation for you and me.
I'll be revenged on you another time;
but now Agathon, give me some of the ribbons
so that I may crown this marvelous head,
and he won't complain that I crowned you and not him,
though he conquers all people in discussion,
not only once like you did the other day, but always.

Alcibiades takes some of the ribbons off the head of Agathon and puts them on Socrates, then sits down again.

Well, men, you seem sober to me.
I won't put up with that;
but drink, for you agreed to this.
So I appoint myself ruler of the drinking,
until you have drunk sufficiently.
Agathon, let someone bring a large goblet.
Oh never mind; boy, bring that cooler.

The servant brings the wine-cooler which holds about a half gallon.
Alcibiades fills it up with a mixture of wine and water, and then
drinks it off.

Now fill it up for Socrates.
With Socrates, men, my plan is nothing,
for however much you order him to drink,
he never gets drunk at all.

The servant fills the cooler, and Socrates drinks it off.

So what should we do, Alcibiades?
Aren't we going to talk or sing with the drink,
or are we going to drink artlessly like the thirsty?

Oh Eryximachus, best son of the best father
and most prudent: greetings!

And to you; but what should we do?

Whatever you order; since we should obey you:
"For a physician is equivalent to many others."
So prescribe what you advise.

Then listen. Before you came in,
we decided that each in turn from left to right
should make the finest speech he could
about Love as a eulogy.
Now all of us here have spoken,
and since you have not spoken and have drunk,
it is right that you should speak;
and after speaking you should prescribe
whatever you advise for Socrates,
as he is on your right, and so on with the rest.

You speak well, Eryximachus, but to compare
a drunken man with sober speeches is hardly equal.
Besides, my friend, were you persuaded
by anything Socrates just said?
Don't you know everything is opposite to what he said?
For he's the one who, if in his presence
I should praise any god or any human other than himself,
would not keep his hands off me.

Won't you praise?

By Poseidon, I have nothing against this,
since I couldn't praise anyone else in your presence.

Then do so, if you wish; praise Socrates.

Do you mean it? Do you think I should, Eryximachus?
Am I to be imposed on the man
and be revenged in front of you?

Is this what you have in mind?
To make fun of me by praising, or what?

I'll tell the truth. But see if you allow it.

Not only do I allow you to tell the truth, I order it.

I'll begin soon, and you must do this:
if I say anything that's not true,
interrupt in the middle if you wish
and say that I'm lying about that;
for I won't lie on purpose.
Yet don't be surprised if I tell
what I remember from one place to another;
for it's not easy for someone in my condition
to recount your eccentricity fluently and regularly.

Men, I'll try to praise Socrates through similarities.
He'll probably think I'm making fun,
but the similarity is for the truth, not as a joke.
For I say he is most like the statues of Silenus,
the ones the artisans make holding pipes or flutes,
The two halves being opened
there appears inside figures of the gods.
I also say he is like the satyr Marsyas.
Even you yourself, Socrates, will not doubt
that you look like these images;
but you are also like them in other ways,
and listen to this: are you overbearing or not?
For if you don't agree, I have witnesses present.
Are you a flute-player? A much more marvelous one.
With the organs of the mouth he can command people,
and flute-players of his ideas still do so even now.
Olympus taught the flute to Marsyas,
and whoever plays the tunes makes it clear
who is divine and should be initiated in divinity.
But you differ only in that you do the same thing
without instruments by bare words.
When we hear another speaker, even a good orator,
no one cares for it at all;
but when someone hears you
or your words from another, even if a poor speaker,
whether the listener is a woman or a man or a youngster,
we are astounded and possessed.
Men, if it wasn't that you'd think I'm quite drunk,
I'd swear to you what I've experienced from his words
and still do experience even now.
For when I listen, more than the frenzied mystics
my heart leaps, and tears pour out due to his words;
and I see a great many having the same experience.
But when I listened to Pericles and other good orators,
I didn't experience anything like this,
nor was my soul upset
nor did I complain of being slavishly disposed;
yet by this Marsyas I have often been so disposed,
so that it seemed to me existing as I do is not livable.
And Socrates, you won't say these things aren't true.
Even now I realize in myself,
that if I would provide my ears, I couldn't resist,
but I would experience the same thing.
For he compels me to agree I am missing much
by neglecting myself and doing things for Athens.
So by force as if holding my ears from the sirens
I go on escaping, lest I grow old sitting with him.
Only with this person have I experienced,
what no one would expect in me, the feeling of shame.
For I realize in myself that I can't contradict him
and that I should do what he orders;
but when I go away,
I'm overcome by the values of the majority.
So I run away and escape;
and when I see him, I'm ashamed of the agreements.
Often I'd be glad to find he's no longer among humans;
yet if this should happen,
I'm sure that I'd be much more grieved,
so that I don't know what I want with this person.

Such things I and many others have experienced
from the satyr and his fluteplaying;
but hear from me how he is like them in other ways
and what an amazing power he has.
For be aware that none of you really knows him;
but I'll reveal him, since I've begun.
You see how Socrates inclines to the love of beauties
and is always around them and enraptured,
and how he's ignorant of everything
and doesn't know anything, as he pretends.
Is this not Silenus? Definitely.
For he wears this on the outside,
just like the sculptured Silenus;
but if you open up the inside, fellow drinkers,
can you imagine how full of prudence he is?
Be aware that he doesn't care if someone is beautiful,
but he looks down on that more than you think,
nor if someone is wealthy,
nor if one has any kind of honor blessed by the crowd.
He considers all these possessions worth nothing
and us as nothing,---I tell you,---
and he continues feigning ignorance
all his life playing with people.
I don't know if any of you have seen the images inside
when he is serious and opened up;
but I saw them once, and they seemed to me
so divine, golden, all-beautiful and amazing,
that in brief I'd do whatever Socrates would order.
Believing he was serious about my youthful gifts
I felt this was a god-send and my wonderful luck
that it was possible by granting Socrates everything
for me to hear whatever he knew;
for I thought my youthful charms were amazing.
So then with this in mind,
for I usually didn't meet with him
alone without an attendant,
I sent away the attendant so I could meet him alone.
For I should tell you the whole truth;
but pay attention; and if I lie, Socrates, refute it.
For I met him, men, alone,
and I thought he would discuss with me the same things
a lover discusses with youths in private, and I was glad.
But nothing at all like that happened,
as he discussed the usual things with me,
and having spent the day together he went away.
After that I suggested he go with me to the gymnasium,
as there something might happen.
So he exercised and wrestled with me
often with no one else present;
and what should I say? For I got no further along.
Since this never accomplished anything,
I thought I'd impose on the man with strength
and not be put off, once I'd engaged,
but I'd soon know what the affair is.
So I invited him to dine with me,
simply like a lover scheming for youths.
Even this he was not quick to accept,
but after a time he was persuaded.
When he came the first time,
having dined he wanted to go away.
That time I was ashamed and let him go;
but the next time I had a scheme:
when he had dined, I went on conversing into the night,
and when he wanted to go away,
I made the excuse it was late and compelled him to stay.
So he rested on the couch next to me, where he'd eaten,
and no one else was sleeping in the room but us.

Until now this account could well be told to anyone;
but from here on I wouldn't let you hear it,
unless first, "wine and children are truthful,"
and second, since the task is to praise Socrates
it would be unjust not to show his arrogance.
Besides, my experience is like one bitten by a snake,
who would not describe the experience
to anyone except to those bitten,
because they alone would understand and empathize
if the telling became wild from the agony.
Now I've been bitten by something more painful---
for my heart or soul or whatever you want to name it
has been struck and bitten by philosophical meanings,
which hang on more fiercely than any snake
when they take hold of a young and not untalented soul,
and make it do or say whatever---
just look at Phaedrus, Agathon, Eryximachus,
Pausanias, Aristodemus, and Aristophanes.
Should one mention Socrates himself and the rest?
For you all share this philosophic mania and frenzy;
therefore you all shall hear.
For you'll empathize with what was done then
and what is spoken now;
but the household servants
and anyone else uninitiated and uncultivated
should certainly close great doors on their ears.

So when the light was extinguished
and the servants were outside,
I decided not to beat around the bush with him
but to freely speak what I thought.
Then shaking him I said,...

The scene dissolves to the one described with Alcibiades and Socrates
laying in the dark.

Socrates, are you asleep?

Of course not.

So do you know what I'm thinking?


I think you're my only worthy lover,
and you appear hesitant to mention it to me.
So I have it this way:
I believe it's very foolish not to grant this to you,
or if you need anything else that's mine or my friends'.
For nothing is more important to me
than becoming the best I can,
and I don't think anyone is a better partner
and more masterful in this than you.
Thus I'd be more ashamed before thoughtful people
for not indulging you,
than I would among the many thoughtless for indulging.

Dear Alcibiades, you don't run the risk of being poor
if what you say about me happens to be true,
and there is a power in me
through which you could improve;
the beauty you see in me must be irresistible
and vastly superior compared to your fine form.
If you're looking to attempt to share
and exchange with me beauty for beauty,
you're counting on no small advantage
in getting true beauty instead of the appearance;
and you're attempting and thinking
to trade in reality "bronze for gold."
But consider, my friend:
you may be better, and I may be nothing.
The intellectual sight begins to look sharp
when the eyes of the untiring are starting to fade;
but you are still far from that.

You heard what I said,
and this is nothing else but what I think;
so you decide what you believe is best for you and me.

This you say is good;
for in the time to come we'll decide to do
what appears in the mind is best
concerning this and other things.

The scene dissolves back to the banquet scene again.

Hearing and saying these things,
and letting them pass like an arrow,
I thought I had wounded him;
and getting up, not letting him say anything else,
I wrapped my coat around him---for it was winter---
and lay down under his worn garment,
put my arms around this spirit so truly amazing,
and lay there the whole night.
And you won't say I'm lying about this, Socrates.
Having done this he was superior
and despised and laughed at my charms
and was overbearing concerning that which
I thought was something, men of the jury,
for you are judges of Socrates' arrogance.
For understand, by the gods, and the goddesses,
I had no more slept around with Socrates when I got up
than if I had slept with a father or an older brother.

After that, can you imagine what was in my mind,
feeling slighted and admiring his prudent, brave nature?
For I had chanced on such a person
I never would have dreamed of meeting
in respect to thoughtfulness and patience.
So I couldn't be angry and deprive myself of his company
nor of the opportunity to seduce him.
For I was well aware that
he is much more invulnerable to money on every side
than Ajax was to a spear,
and I thought the only way to catch him had escaped me.
I was at a loss, and went around enslaved by this person,
as no one ever was by anyone else.

For all this had happened to me
before our campaigns into Potidaea,
and there we ate together in common.
First in the hardships he surpassed not only me
but also everyone else;
whenever we were compelled to go without food,
as happens on campaigns,
the rest of us did not endure it as well at all;
again in enjoyment he alone could appreciate things,
and though he didn't intend to drink,
when compelled, he overcame everyone,
and what is most surprising of all,
no person has ever seen Socrates drunk.
I think this will soon be tested too.
But it was his endurance of winter---
for the winters there are terrible---
which was marvelous among other things;
there was the most terrible frost as could be,
and everyone stayed inside; or if they did go out,
they wrapped up in amazing amounts of clothing and furs;
but he walked out in the coat he usually wore
and traveled more easily over the ice without shoes
than the rest of us did with shoes.
The soldiers looked aside at him,
since they thought he was looking down on them.

And that is that.
"Here again the enduring man dared and accomplished"
when there on the campaign, something worth hearing.
For meditating something on a spot at dawn
he stood there considering it;
and when he couldn't get ahold of it,
he wouldn't give up, but stood there searching.
Soon it was mid-day, and people were noticing,
and amazed they said to each other
that Socrates had been standing there
thinking over something since dawn.
Finally some Ionians in the evening after dinner---
for it was summer then---brought out their mattresses
so they could sleep in the cool,
and they watched if he would stand at night too.
He stood until it was dawn and the sun came up;
then offering a prayer to the sun he went away.

If you wish to know about battles,
what is just should be rendered to him.
For in the battle when the generals gave me the award,
no one else but this person saved me;
when I was wounded, he wouldn't leave me behind
but helped save both my armor and myself.
And Socrates, then I ordered the generals
to give the award to you,
and on this you won't blame me nor say I lie;
but in regarding my rank
the generals decided to give the award to me,
you even more urging the generals to pick me over you.
Now men, it's worth still more to see what Socrates did
when the army was retreating in flight from Delium;
For I happened to be alongside on horseback,
while he was among those marching with heavy arms.
So he was retreating with Laches
when already the men were scattering;
and I came around and seeing
I right away urged them to be confident,
and I said that I wouldn't leave them behind.
There I saw an even finer Socrates than at Potidaea;
for I was less in fear myself due to being on a horse;
first he was superior to Laches in being sensible;
since it seemed to me, Aristophanes, in your phrase,
that he went across there like this:
"holding his head up and casting his eyes to the sides,"
calmly considering friends and enemies on both sides,
so that it was clear to all even from afar,
that whoever attacked this man
would meet a very vigorous defense.
Thus both he and his friend got away safely;
for someone with this disposition in war
is almost never attacked,
but they pursue the ones fleeing headlong.

So there are many other wonderful things
one could praise in Socrates;
and though I could talk about his other habits,
in one he is not like any other humans,
neither the ancients nor those existing now,
which is worthy of total wonder.
For Achilles may have resembled Brasidas,
and Pericles may be like Nestor and Antenor;
but this person is so odd, both himself and his words,
that searching one could never find anyone near,
unless as I say you compare him and his words
not to anyone human, but to Silenuses and satyrs.

For I left this out at the start,
that his words are most like the Silenuses which open.
For if you are willing to listen to Socrates' words,
they appear at first quite ridiculous;
Such terms and phrases clothe them on the outside,
like the skin of an overbearing satyr.
For he mentions pack-asses
and smiths and shoemakers and tanners,
and always appears to be saying
the same thing in the same way,
so that every inexperienced and ignorant person
might ridicule his words.
But opened up and seeing them on the inside,
first one finds they are the only intelligent words,
next that they are most divine and,
having in them images full of virtue and purpose,
more than all relate to becoming fine and good.

This, men, is my praise of Socrates,
and I mixed in what I criticized in his arrogance to me.
Yet he has done this not only to me,
but also to Charmides, Euthydemus and many others,
whom he deceived as a lover of youths,
but then established himself as the beloved instead.
I tell you, Agathon, not to be deceived by this,
but learning from our experiences be careful
so that you won't learn, according to the adage,
like the childish, from suffering.

There is a mixture of laughing and applause at the conclusion of
Alcibiades' speech.

You seem sober to me, Alcibiades,
or you wouldn't have attempted to hide something
by wrapping so elegantly around you all this you've said,
nor would you have added it in passing at the end,
since the reason you've said all this
is to cause a quarrel between Agathon and me,
thinking I should be your lover and no one else,
and Agathon is to be loved by you and by no one else.
But you're caught,
and your satyric and silenic drama has been exposed.
But dear Agathon, he won't succeed,
and you should be prepared lest he cause us to quarrel.

You probably tell the truth, Socrates,
and I take his sitting between you and me as a sign
that he is trying to separate us.
So that he won't succeed, I'll come and sit by you.

Certainly, come sit below me.

Zeus, look what I suffer from this person.
He thinks he should surpass me in every way.
But at least, o wonder, let Agathon sit in between us.

But that's impossible, for you praised me,
and I should praise the one on my right.
So if Agathon sits below you,
wouldn't he have to praise me again,
before being praised by me?
But let the youngster come here, o spirit,
and don't refuse to let him be praised by me;
for I'm quite eager to eulogize him.

Aha, Alcibiades, there's no question of staying here,
but I'll change at once
so that I may be praised by Socrates.

It's the same as usual; with Socrates present
it's impossible for anyone else to share the beauties.
Even now he resourcefully found a plausible reason
for this guy to sit next to him.

Agathon has gotten up to move next to Socrates, when suddenly a
party of revelers comes and causes an uproar.

I must go now, Agathon.

I'm afraid I must too.
The banquet was most enjoyable.

As Eryximachus and Phaedrus say goodby to Agathon, the scene

In the new scene several hours have passed. Socrates is debating with
Agathon and Aristophanes, who both appear to be quite drunk and
tired, while Aristodemus has fallen asleep.

So you see, Agathon, from this argument
you needn't limit yourself to tragedy,
for the truly wise can write both tragedy and comedy.
Don't you agree, Aristophanes?

Huh? Oh yes, of course.

Aristophanes and Agathon both nod off, just as Aristodemus seems to
be waking up. Socrates makes sure that the two sleeping writers are
comfortable on their couches; then he turns to Aristodemus.

Well, Aristodemus, are you ready to go?
It's morning and, I think, time to wash up.

Socrates and Aristodemus go out.


Copyright 1996, 2008 by Sanderson Beck

SOCRATES: A Series of Philosophical Plays is now published as a book. For ordering information, please click here.

"Know Yourself"
The Sophists
Prudence and Courage
The Lover
The Banquet
The Good
The Trial
Prison and Death

Introduction to Socrates and Plato
CRITO by Plato
PHAEDO by Plato

The Socratic Problem
Life of Socrates
Attitudes of Socrates
How Socrates Taught
What Socrates Taught
Did Socrates Practice It?
Influence of Socrates

BECK Index