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Symposium and Phaedrus
By PLATO, CANDACE WARD, Benjamin Jowett
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1993 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Persons of the Dialogue
APOLLODORUS, who repeats to his companion the dialogue which he had heard from Aristodemus, and had already once narrated to Glaucon.
A TROOP OF REVELLERS.
SCENE: — THE HOUSE OF AGATHON.
I BELIEVE that I am prepared with an answer. For the day before yesterday I was coming from my own home at Phalerum to the city, and one of my acquaintance, who had caught a sight of the back of me at a distance, in merry mood commanded me to halt: Apollodorus, he cried, O thou man of Phalerum, halt! So I did as I was bid; and then he said, I was looking for you, Apollodorus, only just now, that I might hear about the discourses in praise of love, which were delivered by Socrates, Alcibiades, and others, at Agathon's supper. Phoenix, the son of Philip, told another person who told me of them, and he said that you knew; but he was himself very indistinct, and I wish that you would give me an account of them. Who but you should be the reporter of the words of your friend? And first tell me, he said, were you present at this meeting?
Your informant, Glaucon, I said, must have been very indistinct indeed, if you imagine that the occasion was recent, or that I could have been present.
Why, yes, he replied, that was my impression.
But how is that possible? I said. For Agathon has not been in Athens for many years, (are you aware of that?) and my acquaintance with Socrates, of whose every action and word I now make a daily study, is not as yet of three years' standing. I used to be running about the world, thinking that I was doing something, and would have done anything rather than be a philosopher; I was almost as miserable as you are now.
Well, he said, cease from jesting, and tell me when the meeting occurred.
In our boyhood, I replied, when Agathon won the prize with his first tragedy, on the day after that on which he and his chorus offered the sacrifice of victory.
That is a long while ago, he said; and who told you — did Socrates?
No indeed, I replied, but the same person who told Phoenix; — he was a little fellow, who never wore any shoes, Aristodemus, of the deme of Cydathenaeum. He had been at this feast; and I think that there was no one in those days who was a more devoted admirer of Socrates. Moreover, I asked Socrates about the truth of some parts of his narrative, and he confirmed them. Then, said Glaucon, let us have the tale over again; is not the road to Athens made for conversation? And so we walked, and talked of the discourses on love; and therefore, as I said at first, I am prepared with an answer, and will have another rehearsal, if you like. For I love to speak or to hear others speak of philosophy; there is the greatest pleasure in that, to say nothing of the profit. But when I hear any other discourses, especially those of you rich men and traders, they are irksome to me; and I pity you who are my companions, because you always think that you are hard at work when really you are idling. And I dare say that you pity me in return, whom you regard as an unfortunate wight, which I perhaps am. But I certainly know of you what you only think of me — there is the difference.
COMPANION. I see, Apollodorus, that you are just the same — always speaking evil of yourself, and of others; and I do believe that you pity all mankind, beginning with yourself and including everybody else with the exception of Socrates, true in this to your old name, which, however deserved, I know not how you acquired, of Apollodorus the madman; for your humor is always to be out of humor with yourself and with everybody except Socrates.
APOLLODORUS. Yes, friend, and I am proved to be mad, and out of my wits, because I have these notions of myself and you; no other evidence is required.
COM. I have no wish to dispute about that, Apollodorus; but let me renew my request that you would repeat the tale of love.
APOLL. Well, the tale of love was on this wise: — But perhaps I had better begin at the beginning, and endeavor to repeat to you the words as Aristodemus gave them.
He said that he met Socrates fresh from the bath and sandalled; and as the sight of the sandals was unusual, he asked him whither he was going that he was so fine.
To a banquet at Agathon's, he replied, whom I refused yesterday, fearing the crowd that there would be at his sacrifice, but promising that I would come to-day instead; and I have put on my finery because he is a fine creature. What say you to going with me unbidden?
Yes, I replied, I will go with you, if you like.
Follow then, he said, and let us demolish the proverb that
"To the feasts of lesser men the good unbidden go;"
instead of which our proverb will run that
"To the feasts of the good unbidden go the good;"
and this alteration may be supported by the authority of Homer, who not only demolishes but literally outrages this proverb. For, after picturing Agamemnon as the most valiant of men, he makes Menelaus, who is but a soft-hearted warrior, come of his own accord to the sacrificial feast of Agamemnon, the worse to the better.
I am afraid, Socrates, said Aristodemus, that I shall rather be the inferior person, who, like Menelaus in Homer,
"To the feasts of the wise unbidden goes."
But I shall say that I was bidden of you, and then you will have to make the excuse.
"Two going together,"
he replied, in Homeric fashion, may invent an excuse by the way.
This was the style of their conversation as they went along; and a comical thing happened — Socrates stayed behind in a fit of abstraction, and desired Aristodemus, who was waiting, to go on before him. When he reached the house of Agathon he found the doors wide open, and a servant coming out met him, and led him at once into the banquetinghall in which the guests were reclining, for the banquet was about to begin. Welcome, Aristodemus, said Agathon, you are just in time to sup with us; if you come on any other errand put that off, and make one of us, as I was looking for you yesterday and meant to have asked you, if I could have found you. But what have you done with Socrates?
I turned round and saw that Socrates was missing, and I had to explain that he had been with me a moment before, and that I came by his invitation.
You were quite right in coming, said Agathon; but where is he himself?
He was behind me just now, as I entered, he said, and I can not think what has become of him.
Go and look for him, boy, said Agathon, and bring him in; do you, Aristodemus, meanwhile take the place by Eryximachus.
Then he said that the attendant assisted him to wash, and that he lay down, and presently another servant came in and said that our friend Socrates had retired into the portico of the neighboring house. "There he is fixed, and when I call to him," said the servant, "he will not stir."
How strange, said Agathon; then you must call him again, and keep calling him.
Let him alone, said my informant; he has just a habit of stopping anywhere and losing himself without any reason; don't disturb him, as I believe he will soon appear.
Well, if you say that, I will not interfere with him, said Agathon. My domestics, who on these occasions become my masters, shall entertain us as their guests. "Put on the table whatever you like," he said to the servants, "as usual when there is no one to give you orders, which I never do. Imagine that you are our hosts, and that I and the company are your guests; and treat us well, and then we shall commend you." After this they supped; and during the meal Agathon several times expressed a wish to send for Socrates, but Aristodemus would not allow him; and when the feast was half over — for the fit, as usual, was not of long duration — Socrates entered. Agathon, who was reclining alone at the end of the table, begged that he would take the place next to him; that I may touch the sage, he said, and get some of that wisdom which came into your mind in the portico. For I am certain that you would not have left until you had found what you were seeking.
How I wish, said Socrates, taking his place as he was desired, that wisdom could be infused through the medium of touch, out of the full into the empty man, like the water which the wool sucks out of the full vessel into an empty one; in that case how much I should prize sitting by you! For you would have filled me full of gifts of wisdom, plenteous and fair, in comparison of which my own is of a very mean and questionable sort, no better than a dream; but yours is bright and only beginning, and was manifested forth in all the splendor of youth the day before yesterday in the presence of more than thirty thousand Hellenes.
You are insolent, said Agathon; and you and I will have to settle hereafter who bears off the palm of wisdom, and of this Dionysus shall be the judge; but at present you are better occupied with the banquet.
Socrates took his place on the couch; and when the meal was ended, and the libations offered, and after a hymn had been sung to the god, and there had been the usual ceremonies, — as they were about to commence drinking, Pausanias reminded them that they had had a bout yesterday, from which he and most of them were still suffering, and they ought to be allowed to recover, and not go on drinking to-day. He would therefore ask, How the drinking could be made easiest?
I entirely agree, said Aristophanes, that we should, by all means, get off the drinking, having been myself one of those who were yesterday drowned in drink.
I think that you are right, said Eryximachus, the son of Acumenus; but I should like to hear one other person speak. What are the inclinations of our host?
I am not able to drink, said Agathon.
Then, said Eryximachus, the weak heads like myself, Aristodemus, Phaedrus, and others who never can drink, are fortunate in finding that the stronger ones are not in a drinking mood. (I do not include Socrates, who is an exceptional being, and able either to drink or to abstain.) Well, then, as the company seem indisposed to drink much, I may be forgiven for saying, as a physician, that drinking is a bad practice, which I never, if I can help, follow, and certainly do not recommend to another, least of all to any one who still feels the effects of yesterday's carouse.
I always follow what you advise, and especially what you prescribe as a physician, rejoined Phaedrus the Myrrhinusian, and the rest of the company, if they are wise, will do the same.
All agreed that drinking was not to be the order of the day. Then, said Eryximachus, as you are all agreed that drinking is to be voluntary, and that there is to be no compulsion, I move, in the next place, that the flute-girl, who has just made her appearance, be told to go away; she may play to herself, or, if she has a mind, to the women who are within. But on this day let us have conversation instead; and, if you will allow me, I will tell you what sort of conversation. This proposal having been accepted, Eryximachus proceeded as follows: —
I will begin, he said, after the manner of Melanippe in Euripides,
"Not mine the word"
which I am about to speak, but that of Phaedrus. For he is in the habit of complaining that, whereas other gods have poems and hymns made in their honor by the poets, who are so many, the great and glorious god, Love, has not a single panegyrist or encomiast. Many sophists also, as for example the excellent Prodicus, have descanted in prose on the virtues of Heracles and other heroes; and, what is still more extraordinary, I have met with a philosophical work in which the utility of salt has been made the theme of an eloquent discourse; and many other like things have had a like honor bestowed upon them. And only to think that there should have been an eager interest created about them, and yet that to this day, as Phaedrus well and truly says, no one has ever dared worthily to hymn Love's praises. This mighty deity has been neglected wholly! Now I want to offer Phaedrus a contribution to his feast; nor do I see how the present company can, at this moment, do anything better than honor the god Love. And if you agree to this, there will be no lack of conversation; for I mean to propose that each of us in turn shall make a discourse in honor of Love. Let us have the best which he can make; and Phaedrus, who is sitting first on the left hand, and is the father of the thought, shall begin.
No one will oppose that, Eryximachus, said Socrates; I certainly can not refuse to speak on the only subject of which I profess to have any knowledge, and Agathon and Pausanias will surely assent; and there can be no doubt of Aristophanes, who is always in the company of Dionysus and Aphrodite; nor will any one disagree of those whom I see around me. The proposal, as I am aware, may seem hard upon us whose place is last; but that does not matter if we hear some good speeches first. Let Phaedrus begin the praise of Love, and good luck to him. All the company expressed their assent, and desired him to do as Socrates bade him.
Aristodemus did not recollect all that was said, nor do I recollect all that he related to me; but I will tell you what I thought most worthy of remembrance, and what the chief speakers said.
Phaedrus began by affirming that Love is a mighty god, and wonderful among gods and men, but especially wonderful in his birth. For that he is the eldest of the gods is an honor to him; and a proof of this is, that of his parents there is no memorial; neither poet nor prose-writer has ever affirmed that he had any. As Hesiod says: —
"First Chaos came, and then broad-bosomed Earth, The everlasting seat of all that is, And Love."
In other words, after Chaos, the Earth and Love, these two came into being. Also Parmenides sings of the generation of the gods: —
"First in the train of gods, he moulded Love."
And Acusilaus agrees with Hesiod. Thus numerous are the witnesses which acknowledge Love to be the eldest of the gods. And not only is he the eldest, he is also the source of the greatest benefits to us. For I know not any greater blessing to a young man beginning life than a virtuous lover, or to the lover than a beloved youth. For the principle which ought to be the guide of men who would nobly live — that principle, I say, neither kindred, nor honor, nor wealth nor any other motive is able to implant as surely as love. Of what am I speaking? Of the sense of honor and dishonor, without which neither states nor individuals ever do any good or great work. And I say that a lover who is detected in doing any dishonorable act, or submitting through cowardice when any dishonor is done to him by another, will be more pained at being detected by his beloved than at being seen by his father, or his companions, or any one else. And the beloved has the same feeling about his love, when he again is seen on any disgraceful occasion. And if there were only some way of contriving that a state or an army should be made up of lovers and their loves, they would be the very best governors of their own city, abstaining from all dishonor, and emulating one another in honor; and when fighting at one another's side, although a mere handful, they would overcome all men. For what lover would not choose rather to be seen by all mankind than by his beloved, either when abandoning his post or throwing away his arms? He would be ready to die a thousand deaths rather than endure this. Or who would desert his beloved or fail him in the hour of danger? The veriest coward would become an inspired hero, equal to the bravest, at such a time; Love would inspire him. That courage which, as Homer says, the god breathes into the soul of heroes, Love of himself infuses into the lover.
Excerpted from Symposium and Phaedrus by PLATO, CANDACE WARD, Benjamin Jowett. Copyright © 1993 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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