The Symposium

The Symposium

The Symposium

The Symposium


Considered one of the greatest literary works about love in Western thought, The Symposium is set during a lively dinner party in which a series of speakers offer their views on eros, or desire. They see love as a response to beauty, a cosmic force, a motive for social action, and a means of ethical education. Through jokes and flirtation they reveal their attitudes towards love and personal relationships.

Full of drama, humor, and sharply drawn characters -- including the comic poet Aristophanes, the glamorous and drunk Alcibiades, and the prodigiously wise Socrates -- The Symposium offers profound insights into gender roles, sex in society, and the value of sublimating our basic instincts. Perhaps no other single work from antiquity retains such direct and immediate relevance for everyone today. In this new Penguin Classics edition, Christopher Gill provides a magnificently modern translation, an extensive Introduction, and Explanatory Notes based on the most recent scholarship.


Apollodorus. I think I may say that I have already rehearsed the scene which you ask me to describe. the day before yesterday, as I was going up to town from my home at Phalerum, an acquaintance of mine caught sight of my back and shouted after me in a mock- official tone:

'Hi, you, Apollodorus of Phalerum, wait for me, can't you?'

I stood still and let him catch me up.

'I've just been looking for you, Apollodorus,' he said; 'I want to know what happened at that party of Agathon's with Socrates and Alcibiades and the others, and what was said on the subject of love. I've already had it from one person, who was told by Phoenix the son of Philip. He couldn't give me any clear account, but he said that you knew about it too. So please tell me; Socrates is your friend, and no one has a better right to report his conversation than you. First of all, were you at the party yourself?'

'It certainly can't have been at all a clear account,' I answered, 'if you suppose that the party that you are asking about took place at all recently, or that I was there.'

'I certainly did suppose so.'

'How could you, my dear Glaucon? Don't you know . . .

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