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Full text of "Ancient Classic Texts before 400 B.C."

360 BC 
SYMPOSIUM 
by Plato 
translated by Benjamin Jowett 
SYMPOSIUM 

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; PHAEDRUS; PAUSANIAS; ERYXIMACHUS ; ARISTOPHANES; 
AGATHON; SOCRATES; ALCIBIADES; A TROOP OF REVELLERS. Scene: The 
House of Agathon . 

Concerning the things about which you ask to be informed I believe 
that I am not ill-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 me from behind, 
hind, out playfully in the distance, said: Apollodorus, thou 
Phalerian man, halt! So I did as I was bid; and then he said, I was 
looking for you, Apollodorus, only just now, that I might ask you 
about the speeches 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; his 
narrative was very indistinct, but he said that you knew, and I wish 
that you would give me an account of them. Who, if not 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 of the party. 

Why, yes, he replied, I thought so. 

Impossible: I said. Are you ignorant that for many years Agathon has 
not resided at Athens; and not three have elapsed since I became 
acquainted with Socrates, and have made it my daily business to know 
all that he says and does. There was a time when I was running about 
the world, fancying myself to be well employed, but I was really a 
most wretched thing, no better than you are now. I thought that I 
ought to do anything rather than be a philosopher. 

Well, he said, jesting apart, 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. 

Then it must have been 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 Agathon ' s feast; and I think that in 
those days there was no one who was a more devoted admirer of 
Socrates. Moreover, I have 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 just made for 
conversation? And so we walked, and talked of the discourses on 
love; and therefore, as I said at first, I am not ill-prepared to 
comply with your request, and will have another rehearsal of them if 
you like. For to speak or to hear others speak of philosophy always 
gives me the greatest pleasure, to say nothing of the profit. But when 
I hear another strain, especially that of you rich men and traders, 
such conversation displeases me; and I pity you who are my companions, 
because you think that you are doing something when in reality you are 
doing nothing. And I dare say that you pity me in return, whom you 
regard as an unhappy creature, and very probably you are right. 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, with the exception of Socrates, yourself first of 



all, true in this to your old name, which, however deserved I know how 
you acquired, of Apollodorus the madman; for you are always raging 
against yourself and everybody but Socrates. 

Apollodorus. Yes, friend, and the reason why I am said to be mad, 
and out of my wits, is just because I have these notions of myself and 
you; no other evidence is required. 

Com. No more of that, Apollodorus; but let me renew my request 
that you would repeat the conversation. 

Apoll. Well, the tale of love was on this wise: -But perhaps I had 
better begin at the beginning, and endeavour to give you the exact 
words of Aristodemus: 

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 had been converted into such a beau : - 

To a banquet at Agathon's, he replied, whose invitation to his 
sacrifice of victory I refused yesterday, fearing a crowd, but 
promising that I would come to-day instead; and so I have put on my 
finery, because he is such a fine man. What say you to going with me 
unasked? 

I will do as you bid me, I replied. 

Follow then, he said, and let us demolish the proverb: 

To the feasts of inferior men the good unbidden go; 

instead of which our proverb will run : - 

To the feasts of the good the good unbidden go; 

and this alteration may be supported by the authority of Homer 
himself, who not only demolishes but literally outrages the proverb. 
For, after picturing Agamemnon as the most valiant of men, he makes 
Menelaus, who is but a fainthearted warrior, come unbidden to the 
banquet of Agamemnon, who is feasting and offering sacrifices, not the 
better to the worse, but the worse to the better. 

I rather fear, Socrates, said Aristodemus, lest this may still be my 
case; and that, like Menelaus in Homer, I shall be the inferior 
person, who 

To the leasts of the wise unbidden goes. 

But I shall say that I was bidden of you, and then you will have to 
make an excuse. 

Two going together, 

he replied, in Homeric fashion, one or other of them may invent an 
excuse by the way. 

This was the style of their conversation as they went along. 
Socrates dropped 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 comical thing 
happened. A servant coming out met him, and led him at once into the 
banqueting-hall in which the guests were reclining, for the banquet 
was about to begin. Welcome, Aristodemus, said Agathon, as soon as 
he appeared-you are just in time to sup with us; if you come on any 
other matter put it 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, but Socrates was nowhere to be seen; and I had to 
explain that he had been with me a moment before, and that I came by 
his invitation to the supper. 

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 cannot think 



what has become of him. 

Go and look for him, boy, said Agathon, and bring him in; and do 
you, Aristodemus, meanwhile take the place by Eryximachus . 

The servant then assisted him to wash, and he lay down, and 
presently another servant came in and reported that our friend 
Socrates had retired into the portico of the neighbouring house. 
"There he is fixed, " said he, "and when I call to him 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 a way of stopping 
anywhere and losing himself without any reason. I believe that he will 
soon appear; do not therefore disturb him. 

Well, if you think so, I will leave him, said Agathon. And then, 
turning to the servants, he added, "Let us have supper without waiting 
for him. Serve up whatever you please, for there; is no one to give 
you orders; hitherto I have never left you to yourselves. But on 
this occasion imagine that you art our hosts, and that I and the 
company are your guests; treat us well, and then we shall commend 
you." After this, supper was served, but still no-Socrates; and during 
the meal Agathon several times expressed a wish to send for him, but 
Aristodemus objected; and at last when the feast was about 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 you," he 
said, "and have the benefit of that wise thought which came into 
your mind in the portico, and is now in your possession; for I am 
certain that you would not have come away until you had found what you 
sought . " 

How I wish, said Socrates, taking his place as he was desired, 
that wisdom could be infused by touch, out of the fuller the emptier 
man, as water runs through wool out of a fuller cup into an emptier 
one; if that were so, how greatly should I value the privilege of 
reclining at your side! For you would have filled me full with a 
stream of wisdom plenteous and fair; whereas my own is of a very 
mean and questionable sort, no better than a dream. But yours is 
bright and full of promise, and was manifested forth in all the 
splendour of youth the day before yesterday, in the presence of more 
than thirty thousand Hellenes. 

You are mocking, Socrates, said Agathon, and ere long you and I will 
have to determine who bears off the palm of wisdom-of this Dionysus 
shall be the judge; but at present you are better occupied with 
supper . 

Socrates took his place on the couch, and supped with the rest; 
and then libations were offered, and after a hymn had been sung to the 
god, and there had been the usual ceremonies, they were about to 
commence drinking, when Pausanias said, And now, my friends, how can 
we drink with least injury to ourselves? I can assure you that I 
feel severely the effect of yesterday's potations, and must have 
time to recover; and I suspect that most of you are in the same 
predicament, for you were of the party yesterday. Consider then: How 
can the drinking be made easiest? 

I entirely agree, said Aristophanes, that we should, by all means, 
avoid hard drinking, for I was 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 still like to hear one other person speak: Is Agathon 
able to drink hard? 

I am not equal to it, said Agathon. 

Then, the 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 able either to drink or to abstain, and will not 
mind, whichever we do.) Well, as of none of the company seem 



disposed to drink much, I may be forgiven for saying, as a 
physician, that drinking deep is a bad practice, which I never follow, 
if I can help, and certainly do not recommend to another, least of all 
to any one who still feels the effects of yesterday's carouse. 

I always do 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. 

It was agreed that drinking was not to be the order of the day, 
but that they were all to drink only so much as they pleased. 

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 and play to herself, or, if she likes, to the women 
who are within. To-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 often he says 
to me in an indignant tone: "What a strange thing it is, 
Eryximachus, that, whereas other gods have poems and hymns made in 
their honour, the great and glorious god, Love, has no encomiast among 
all the poets who are so many. There are the worthy sophists too-the 
excellent Prodicus for example, who 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 honour bestowed upon 
them. And only to think that there should have been an eager 
interest created about them, and yet that to this day no one has 
ever dared worthily to hymn Love's praises! So entirely has this great 
deity been neglected." Now in this Phaedrus seems to me to be quite 
right, and therefore I want to offer him a contribution; also I 
think that at the present moment we who are here assembled cannot do 
better than honour the. god Love. If you agree with me, there will 
be no lack of conversation; for I mean to propose that each of us in 
turn, going from left to right, shall make a speech in honour of Love. 
Let him give us the best which he can; and Phaedrus, because he is 
sitting first on the left hand, and because he is the father of the 
thought, shall begin. 

No one will vote against you, Eryximachus, said Socrates. How can 
I oppose your motion, who profess to understand nothing but matters of 
love; nor, I presume, will Agathon and Pausanias; and there can be 
no doubt of Aristophanes, whose whole concern is with Dionysus and 
Aphrodite; nor will any one disagree of those whom I, see around me. 
The proposal, as I am aware, may seem rather hard upon us whose 
place is last; but we shall be contented 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 he is 
the eldest of the gods, which is an honour to him; and a proof of 
his claim to this honour 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 Generation: 

First in the train of gods, he fashioned Love. 

And Acusilaus agrees with Hesiod. Thus numerous are the witnesses 
who 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 who is 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 at principle, I say, neither kindred, nor honour, nor wealth, nor 
any other motive is able to implant so well as love. Of what am I 
speaking? Of the sense of honour and dishonour, 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 dishonourable act, or 
submitting through cowardice when any dishonour is done to him by 
another, will be more pained at being detected by his beloved than 
at being seen by his father, or by his companions, or by any one else. 
The beloved too, when he is found in any disgraceful situation, has 
the same feeling about his lover. 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 dishonour, and emulating one another in 
honour; and when fighting at each other's side, although a mere 
handful, they would overcome the world. 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 souls of some heroes, Love of his own nature 
infuses into the lover. 

Love will make men dare to die for their beloved-love alone; and 
women as well as men. Of this, Alcestis, the daughter of Pelias, is 
a monument to all Hellas; for she was willing to lay down her life 
on behalf of her husband, when no one else would, although he had a 
father and mother; but the tenderness of her love so far exceeded 
theirs, that she made them seem to be strangers in blood to their 
own son, and in name only related to him; and so noble did this action 
of hers appear to the gods, as well as to men, that among the many who 
have done virtuously she is one of the very few to whom, in admiration 
of her noble action, they have granted the privilege of returning 
alive to earth; such exceeding honour is paid by the gods to the 
devotion and virtue of love. But Orpheus, the son of Oeagrus, the 
harper, they sent empty away, and presented to him an apparition 
only of her whom he sought, but herself they would not give up, 
because he showed no spirit; he was only a harp-player, and did 
not-dare like Alcestis to die for love, but was contriving how he 
might enter hades alive; moreover, they afterwards caused him to 
suffer death at the hands of women, as the punishment of his 
cowardliness. Very different was the reward of the true love of 
Achilles towards his lover Patroclus-his lover and not his love (the 
notion that Patroclus was the beloved one is a foolish error into 
which Aeschylus has fallen, for Achilles was surely the fairer of 
the two, fairer also than all the other heroes; and, as Homer 
informs us, he was still beardless, and younger far) . And greatly as 
the gods honour the virtue of love, still the return of love on the 
part of the beloved to the lover is more admired and valued and 
rewarded by them, for the lover is more divine; because he is inspired 
by God. Now Achilles was quite aware, for he had been told by his 



mother, that he might avoid death and return home, and live to a 
good old age, if he abstained from slaying Hector. Nevertheless he 
gave his life to revenge his friend, and dared to die, not only in his 
defence, but after he was dead Wherefore the gods honoured him even 
above Alcestis, and sent him to the Islands of the Blest. These are my 
reasons for affirming that Love is the eldest and noblest and 
mightiest of the gods; and the chiefest author and giver of virtue 
in life, and of happiness after death. 

This, or something like this, was the speech of Phaedrus; and some 
other speeches followed which Aristodemus did not remember; the next 
which he repeated was that of Pausanias . Phaedrus, he said, the 
argument has not been set before us, I think, quite in the right 
form; -we should not be called upon to praise Love in such an 
indiscriminate manner. If there were only one Love, then what you said 
would be well enough; but since there are more Loves than 
one, -should have begun by determining which of them was to be the 
theme of our praises. I will amend this defect; and first of all I 
would tell you which Love is deserving of praise, and then try to hymn 
the praiseworthy one in a manner worthy of him. For we all know that 
Love is inseparable from Aphrodite, and if there were only one 
Aphrodite there would be only one Love; but as there are two goddesses 
there must be two Loves . 

And am I not right in asserting that there are two goddesses? The 
elder one, having no mother, who is called the heavenly 
Aphrodite-she is the daughter of Uranus; the younger, who is the 
daughter of Zeus and Dione-her we call common; and the Love who is her 
fellow-worker is rightly named common, as the other love is called 
heavenly. All the gods ought to have praise given to them, but not 
without distinction of their natures; and therefore I must try to 
distinguish the characters of the two Loves. Now actions vary 
according to the manner of their performance. Take, for example, 
that which we are now doing, drinking, singing and talking these 
actions are not in themselves either good or evil, but they turn out 
in this or that way according to the mode of performing them; and when 
well done they are good, and when wrongly done they are evil; and in 
like manner not every love, but only that which has a noble purpose, 
is noble and worthy of praise. The Love who is the offspring of the 
common Aphrodite is essentially common, and has no discrimination, 
being such as the meaner sort of men feel, and is apt to be of women 
as well as of youths, and is of the body rather than of the soul-the 
most foolish beings are the objects of this love which desires only to 
gain an end, but never thinks of accomplishing the end nobly, and 
therefore does good and evil quite indiscriminately. The goddess who 
is his mother is far younger than the other, and she was born of the 
union of the male and female, and partakes of both. 

But the offspring of the heavenly Aphrodite is derived from a mother 
in whose birth the female has no part, -she is from the male only; this 
is that love which is of youths, and the goddess being older, there is 
nothing of wantonness in her. Those who are inspired by this love turn 
to the male, and delight in him who is the more valiant and 
intelligent nature; any one may recognise the pure enthusiasts in 
the very character of their attachments. For they love not boys, but 
intelligent, beings whose reason is beginning to be developed, much 
about the time at which their beards begin to grow. And in choosing 
young men to be their companions, they mean to be faithful to them, 
and pass their whole life in company with them, not to take them in 
their inexperience, and deceive them, and play the fool with them, 
or run away from one to another of them. But the love of young boys 
should be forbidden by law, because their future is uncertain; they 
may turn out good or bad, either in body or soul, and much noble 
enthusiasm may be thrown away upon them; in this matter the good are a 
law to themselves, and the coarser sort of lovers ought to be 
restrained by force; as we restrain or attempt to restrain them from 
fixing their affections on women of free birth. These are the 



persons who bring a reproach on love; and some have been led to deny 
the lawfulness of such attachments because they see the impropriety 
and evil of them; for surely nothing that is decorously and lawfully 
done can justly be censured. 

Now here and in Lacedaemon the rules about love are perplexing, 
but in most cities they are simple and easily intelligible; in Elis 
and Boeotia, and in countries having no gifts of eloquence, they are 
very straightforward; the law is simply in favour of these connexions, 
and no one, whether young or old, has anything to say to their 
discredit; the reason being, as I suppose, that they are men of few 
words in those parts, and therefore the lovers do not like the trouble 
of pleading their suit. In Ionia and other places, and generally in 
countries which are subject to the barbarians, the custom is held to 
be dishonourable; loves of youths share the evil repute in which 
philosophy and gymnastics are held because they are inimical to 
tyranny; for the interests of rulers require that their subjects 
should be poor in spirit and that there should be no strong bond of 
friendship or society among them, which love, above all other motives, 
is likely to inspire, as our Athenian tyrants-learned by experience; 
for the love of Aristogeiton and the constancy of Harmodius had 
strength which undid their power. And, therefore, the ill-repute 
into which these attachments have fallen is to be ascribed to the evil 
condition of those who make them to be ill-reputed; that is to say, to 
the self-seeking of the governors and the cowardice of the governed; 
on the other hand, the indiscriminate honour which is given to them in 
some countries is attributable to the laziness of those who hold 
this opinion of them. In our own country a far better principle 
prevails, but, as I was saying, the explanation of it is rather 
perplexing. For, observe that open loves are held to be more 
honourable than secret ones, and that the love of the noblest and 
highest, even if their persons are less beautiful than others, is 
especially honourable. 

Consider, too, how great is the encouragement which all the world 
gives to the lover; neither is he supposed to be doing anything 
dishonourable; but if he succeeds he is praised, and if he fail he 
is blamed. And in the pursuit of his love the custom of mankind allows 
him to do many strange things, which philosophy would bitterly censure 
if they were done from any motive of interest, or wish for office or 
power. He may pray, and entreat, and supplicate, and swear, and lie on 
a mat at the door, and endure a slavery worse than that of any 
slave-in any other case friends and enemies would be equally ready 
to prevent him, but now there is no friend who will be ashamed of 
him and admonish him, and no enemy will charge him with meanness or 
flattery; the actions of a lover have a grace which ennobles them; and 
custom has decided that they are highly commendable and that there 
no loss of character in them; and, what is strangest of all, he only 
may swear and forswear himself (so men say), and the gods will forgive 
his transgression, for there is no such thing as a lover's oath. 
Such is the entire liberty which gods and men have allowed the 
lover, according to the custom which prevails in our part of the 
world. From this point of view a man fairly argues in Athens to love 
and to be loved is held to be a very honourable thing. But when 
parents forbid their sons to talk with their lovers, and place them 
under a tutor's care, who is appointed to see to these things, and 
their companions and equals cast in their teeth anything of the sort 
which they may observe, and their elders refuse to silence the 
reprovers and do not rebuke them-any one who reflects on all this 
will, on the contrary, think that we hold these practices to be most 
disgraceful. But, as I was saying at first, the truth as I imagine is, 
that whether such practices are honourable or whether they are 
dishonourable is not a simple question; they are honourable to him who 
follows them honourably, dishonourable to him who follows them 
dishonourably. There is dishonour in yielding to the evil, or in an 
evil manner; but there is honour in yielding to the good, or in an 



honourable manner. 

Evil is the vulgar lover who loves the body rather than the soul, 
inasmuch as he is not even stable, because he loves a thing which is 
in itself unstable, and therefore when the bloom of youth which he was 
desiring is over, he takes wing and flies away, in spite of all his 
words and promises; whereas the love of the noble disposition is 
life-long, for it becomes one with the everlasting. The custom of 
our country would have both of them proven well and truly, and would 
have us yield to the one sort of lover and avoid the other, and 
therefore encourages some to pursue, and others to fly; testing both 
the lover and beloved in contests and trials, until they show to which 
of the two classes they respectively belong. And this is the reason 
why, in the first place, a hasty attachment is held to be 
dishonourable, because time is the true test of this as of most 
other things; and secondly there is a dishonour in being overcome by 
the love of money, or of wealth, or of political power, whether a 
man is frightened into surrender by the loss of them, or, having 
experienced the benefits of money and political corruption, is 
unable to rise above the seductions of them. For none of these 
things are of a permanent or lasting nature; not to mention that no 
generous friendship ever sprang from them. There remains, then, only 
one way of honourable attachment which custom allows in the beloved, 
and this is the way of virtue; for as we admitted that any service 
which the lover does to him is not to be accounted flattery or a 
dishonour to himself, so the beloved has one way only of voluntary 
service which is not dishonourable, and this is virtuous service. 

For we have a custom, and according to our custom any one who does 
service to another under the idea that he will be improved by him 
either in wisdom, or, in some other particular of virtue-such a 
voluntary service, I say, is not to be regarded as a dishonour, and is 
not open to the charge of flattery. And these two customs, one the 
love of youth, and the other the practice of philosophy and virtue 
in general, ought to meet in one, and then the beloved may 
honourably indulge the lover. For when the lover and beloved come 
together, having each of them a law, and the lover thinks that he is 
right in doing any service which he can to his gracious loving one; 
and the other that he is right in showing any kindness which he can to 
him who is making him wise and good; the one capable of 
communicating wisdom and virtue, the other seeking to acquire them 
with a view to education and wisdom, when the two laws of love are 
fulfilled and meet in one-then, and then only, may the beloved yield 
with honour to the lover. Nor when love is of this disinterested 
sort is there any disgrace in being deceived, but in every other 
case there is equal disgrace in being or not being deceived. For he 
who is gracious to his lover under the impression that he is rich, and 
is disappointed of his gains because he turns out to be poor, is 
disgraced all the same: for he has done his best to show that he would 
give himself up to any one's "uses base" for the sake of money; but 
this is not honourable. And on the same principle he who gives himself 
to a lover because he is a good man, and in the hope that he will be 
improved by his company, shows himself to be virtuous, even though the 
object of his affection turn out to be a villain, and to have no 
virtue; and if he is deceived he has committed a noble error. For he 
has proved that for his part he will do anything for anybody with a 
view to virtue and improvement, than which there can be nothing 
nobler. Thus noble in every case is the acceptance of another for 
the sake of virtue. This is that love which is the love of the 
heavenly godess, and is heavenly, and of great price to individuals 
and cities, making the lover and the beloved alike eager in the work 
of their own improvement. But all other loves are the offspring of the 
other, who is the common goddess. To you, Phaedrus, I offer this my 
contribution in praise of love, which is as good as I could make 
extempore . 

Pausanias came to a pause-this is the balanced way in which I have 



been taught by the wise to speak; and Aristodemus said that the turn 
of Aristophanes was next, but either he had eaten too much, or from 
some other cause he had the hiccough, and was obliged to change 
turns with Eryximachus the physician, who was reclining on the couch 
below him. Eryximachus, he said, you ought either to stop my hiccough, 
or to speak in my turn until I have left off. 

I will do both, said Eryximachus: I will speak in your turn, and 
do you speak in mine; and while I am speaking let me recommend you 
to hold your breath, and if after you have done so for some time the 
hiccough is no better, then gargle with a little water; and if it 
still continues, tickle your nose with something and sneeze; and if 
you sneeze once or twice, even the most violent hiccough is sure to 
go. I will do as you prescribe, said Aristophanes, and now get on. 

Eryximachus spoke as follows: Seeing that Pausanias made a fair 
beginning, and but a lame ending, I must endeavour to supply his 
deficiency. I think that he has rightly distinguished two kinds of 
love. But my art further informs me that the double love is not merely 
an affection of the soul of man towards the fair, or towards anything, 
but is to be found in the bodies of all animals and in productions 
of the earth, and I may say in all that is; such is the conclusion 
which I seem to have gathered from my own art of medicine, whence I 
learn how great and wonderful and universal is the deity of love, 
whose empire extends over all things, divine as well as human. And 
from medicine I would begin that I may do honour to my art. There 
are in the human body these two kinds of love, which are confessedly 
different and unlike, and being unlike, they have loves and desires 
which are unlike; and the desire of the healthy is one, and the desire 
of the diseased is another; and as Pausanias was just now saying 
that to indulge good men is honourable, and bad men 

dishonourable : -so too in the body the good and healthy elements are to 
be indulged, and the bad elements and the elements of disease are 
not to be indulged, but discouraged. And this is what the physician 
has to do, and in this the art of medicine consists: for medicine 
may be regarded generally as the knowledge of the loves and desires of 
the body, and how to satisfy them or not; and the best physician is he 
who is able to separate fair love from foul, or to convert one into 
the other; and he who knows how to eradicate and how to implant 
love, whichever is required, and can reconcile the most hostile 
elements in the constitution and make them loving friends, is 
skilful practitioner. Now the: most hostile are the most opposite, 
such as hot and cold, bitter and sweet, moist and dry, and the like. 
And my ancestor, Asclepius, knowing how-to implant friendship and 
accord in these elements, was the creator of our art, as our friends 
the poets here tell us, and I believe them; and not only medicine in 
every branch but the arts of gymnastic and husbandry are under his 
dominion . 

Any one who pays the least attention to the subject will also 
perceive that in music there is the same reconciliation of 
opposites; and I suppose that this must have been the meaning, of 
Heracleitus, although, his words are not accurate, for he says that is 
united by disunion, like the harmony-of bow and the lyre. Now there is 
an absurdity saying that harmony is discord or is composed of elements 
which are still in a state of discord. But what he probably meant was, 
that, harmony is composed of differing notes of higher or lower 
pitch which disagreed once, but are now reconciled by the art of 
music; for if the higher and lower notes still disagreed, there 
could be there could be no harmony-clearly not. For harmony is a 
symphony, and symphony is an agreement; but an agreement of 
disagreements while they disagree there cannot be; you cannot 
harmonize that which disagrees. In like manner rhythm is compounded of 
elements short and long, once differing and now-in accord; which 
accordance, as in the former instance, medicine, so in all these other 
cases, music implants, making love and unison to grow up among them; 
and thus music, too, is concerned with the principles of love in their 



application to harmony and rhythm. Again, in the essential nature of 
harmony and rhythm there is no difficulty in discerning love which has 
not yet become double. But when you want to use them in actual life, 
either in the composition of songs or in the correct performance of 
airs or metres composed already, which latter is called education, 
then the difficulty begins, and the good artist is needed. Then the 
old tale has to be repeated of fair and heavenly love -the love of 
Urania the fair and heavenly muse, and of the duty of accepting the 
temperate, and those who are as yet intemperate only that they may 
become temperate, and of preserving their love; and again, of the 
vulgar Polyhymnia, who must be used with circumspection that the 
pleasure be enjoyed, but may not generate licentiousness; just as in 
my own art it is a great matter so to regulate the desires of the 
epicure that he may gratify his tastes without the attendant evil of 
disease. Whence I infer that in music, in medicine, in all other 
things human as which as divine, both loves ought to be noted as far 
as may be, for they are both present. 

The course of the seasons is also full of both these principles; and 
when, as I was saying, the elements of hot and cold, moist and dry, 
attain the harmonious love of one another and blend in temperance 
and harmony, they bring to men, animals, and plants health and plenty, 
and do them no harm; whereas the wanton love, getting the upper hand 
and affecting the seasons of the year, is very destructive and 
injurious, being the source of pestilence, and bringing many other 
kinds of diseases on animals and plants; for hoar-frost and hail and 
blight spring from the excesses and disorders of these elements of 
love, which to know in relation to the revolutions of the heavenly 
bodies and the seasons of the year is termed astronomy. Furthermore 
all sacrifices and the whole province of divination, which is the 
art of communion between gods and men-these, I say, are concerned with 
the preservation of the good and the cure of the evil love. For all 
manner of impiety is likely to ensue if, instead of accepting and 
honouring and reverencing the harmonious love in all his actions, a 
man honours the other love, whether in his feelings towards gods or 
parents, towards the living or the dead. Wherefore the business of 
divination is to see to these loves and to heal them, and divination 
is the peacemaker of gods and men, working by a knowledge of the 
religious or irreligious tendencies which exist in human loves. Such 
is the great and mighty, or rather omnipotent force of love in 
general. And the love, more especially, which is concerned with the 
good, and which is perfected in company with temperance and justice, 
whether among gods or men, has the greatest power, and is the source 
of all our happiness and harmony, and makes us friends with the gods 
who are above us, and with one another. I dare say that I too have 
omitted several things which might be said in praise of Love, but this 
was not intentional, and you, Aristophanes, may now supply the 
omission or take some other line of commendation; for I perceive 
that you are rid of the hiccough. 

Yes, said Aristophanes, who followed, the hiccough is gone; not, 
however, until I applied the sneezing; and I wonder whether the 
harmony of the body has a love of such noises and ticklings, for I 
no sooner applied the sneezing than I was cured. 

Eryximachus said: Beware, friend Aristophanes, although you are 
going to speak, you are making fun of me; and I shall have to watch 
and see whether I cannot have a laugh at your expense, when you 
might speak in peace. 

You are right, said Aristophanes, laughing. I will unsay my words; 
but do you please not to watch me, as I fear that in the speech 
which I am about to make, instead of others laughing with me, which is 
to the manner born of our muse and would be all the better, I shall 
only be laughed at by them. 

Do you expect to shoot your bolt and escape, Aristophanes? Well, 
perhaps if you are very careful and bear in mind that you will be 
called to account, I may be induced to let you off. 



Aristophanes professed to open another vein of discourse; he had a 
mind to praise Love in another way, unlike that either of Pausanias or 
Eryximachus . Mankind; he said, judging by their neglect of him, have 
never, as I think, at all understood the power of Love. For if they 
had understood him they would surely have built noble temples and 
altars, and offered solemn sacrifices in his honour; but this is not 
done, and most certainly ought to be done: since of all the gods he is 
the best friend of men, the helper and the healer of the ills which 
are the great impediment to the happiness of the race. I will try to 
describe his power to you, and you shall teach the rest of the world 
what I am teaching you. In the first place, let me treat of the nature 
of man and what has happened to it; for the original human nature 
was not like the present, but different. The sexes were not two as 
they are now, but originally three in number; there was man, woman, 
and the union of the two, having a name corresponding to this double 
nature, which had once a real existence, but is now lost, and the word 
"Androgynous" is only preserved as a term of reproach. In the second 
place, the primeval man was round, his back and sides forming a 
circle; and he had four hands and four feet, one head with two 
faces, looking opposite ways, set on a round neck and precisely alike; 
also four ears, two privy members, and the remainder to correspond. He 
could walk upright as men now do, backwards or forwards as he pleased, 
and he could also roll over and over at a great pace, turning on his 
four hands and four feet, eight in all, like tumblers going over and 
over with their legs in the air; this was when he wanted to run 
fast. Now the sexes were three, and such as I have described them; 
because the sun, moon, and earth are three; -and the man was originally 
the child of the sun, the woman of the earth, and the man-woman of the 
moon, which is made up of sun and earth, and they were all round and 
moved round and round: like their parents. Terrible was their might 
and strength, and the thoughts of their hearts were great, and they 
made an attack upon the gods; of them is told the tale of Otys and 
Ephialtes who, as Homer says, dared to scale heaven, and would have 
laid hands upon the gods. Doubt reigned in the celestial councils. 
Should they kill them and annihilate the race with thunderbolts, as 
they had done the giants, then there would be an end of the sacrifices 
and worship which men offered to them; but, on the other hand, the 
gods could not suffer their insolence to be unrestrained. 

At last, after a good deal of reflection, Zeus discovered a way. 
He said: "Methinks I have a plan which will humble their pride and 
improve their manners; men shall continue to exist, but I will cut 
them in two and then they will be diminished in strength and increased 
in numbers; this will have the advantage of making them more 
profitable to us. They shall walk upright on two legs, and if they 
continue insolent and will not be quiet, I will split them again and 
they shall hop about on a single leg." He spoke and cut men in two, 
like a sorb-apple which is halved for pickling, or as you might divide 
an egg with a hair; and as he cut them one after another, he bade 
Apollo give the face and the half of the neck a turn in order that the 
man might contemplate the section of himself: he would thus learn a 
lesson of humility. Apollo was also bidden to heal their wounds and 
compose their forms. So he gave a turn to the face and pulled the skin 
from the sides all over that which in our language is called the 
belly, like the purses which draw in, and he made one mouth at the 
centre, which he fastened in a knot (the same which is called the 
navel) ; he also moulded the breast and took out most of the 
wrinkles, much as a shoemaker might smooth leather upon a last; he 
left a few, however, in the region of the belly and navel, as a 
memorial of the primeval state. After the division the two parts of 
man, each desiring his other half, came together, and throwing their 
arms about one another, entwined in mutual embraces, longing to grow 
into one, they were on the point of dying from hunger and 
self-neglect, because they did not like to do anything apart; and when 
one of the halves died and the other survived, the survivor sought 



another mate, man or woman as we call them, being the sections of 
entire men or women, and clung to that. They were being destroyed, 
when Zeus in pity of them invented a new plan: he turned the parts 
of generation round to the front, for this had not been always their 
position and they sowed the seed no longer as hitherto like 
grasshoppers in the ground, but in one another; and after the 
transposition the male generated in the female in order that by the 
mutual embraces of man and woman they might breed, and the race 
might continue; or if man came to man they might be satisfied, and 
rest, and go their ways to the business of life: so ancient is the 
desire of one another which is implanted in us, reuniting our original 
nature, making one of two, and healing the state of man. 

Each of us when separated, having one side only, like a flat fish, 
is but the indenture of a man, and he is always looking for his 
other half. Men who are a section of that double nature which was once 
called Androgynous are lovers of women; adulterers are generally of 
this breed, and also adulterous women who lust after men: the women 
who are a section of the woman do not care for men, but have female 
attachments; the female companions are of this sort. But they who 
are a section of the male follow the male, and while they are young, 
being slices of the original man, they hang about men and embrace 
them, and they are themselves the best of boys and youths, because 
they have the most manly nature. Some indeed assert that they are 
shameless, but this is not true; for they do not act thus from any 
want of shame, but because they are valiant and manly, and have a 
manly countenance, and they embrace that which is like them. And these 
when they grow up become our statesmen, and these only, which is a 
great proof of the truth of what I am saving. When they reach 
manhood they are loves of youth, and are not naturally inclined to 
marry or beget children, -if at all, they do so only in obedience to 
the law; but they are satisfied if they may be allowed to live with 
one another unwedded; and such a nature is prone to love and ready 
to return love, always embracing that which is akin to him. And when 
one of them meets with his other half, the actual half of himself, 
whether he be a lover of youth or a lover of another sort, the pair 
are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy, and 
would not be out of the other's sight, as I may say, even for a 
moment: these are the people who pass their whole lives together; 
yet they could not explain what they desire of one another. For the 
intense yearning which each of them has towards the other does not 
appear to be the desire of lover's intercourse, but of something 
else which the soul of either evidently desires and cannot tell, and 
of which she has only a dark and doubtful presentiment. Suppose 
Hephaestus, with his instruments, to come to the pair who are lying 
side, by side and to say to them, "What do you people want of one 
another?" they would be unable to explain. And suppose further, that 
when he saw their perplexity he said: "Do you desire to be wholly one; 
always day and night to be in one another's company? for if this is 
what you desire, I am ready to melt you into one and let you grow 
together, so that being two you shall become one, and while you live a 
common life as if you were a single man, and after your death in the 
world below still be one departed soul instead of two-I ask whether 
this is what you lovingly desire, and whether you are satisfied to 
attain this?"-there is not a man of them who when he heard the 
proposal would deny or would not acknowledge that this meeting and 
melting into one another, this becoming one instead of two, was the 
very expression of his ancient need. And the reason is that human 
nature was originally one and we were a whole, and the desire and 
pursuit of the whole is called love. There was a time, I say, when 
we were one, but now because of the wickedness of mankind God has 
dispersed us, as the Arcadians were dispersed into villages by the 
Lacedaemonians. And if we are not obedient to the gods, there is a 
danger that we shall be split up again and go about in 
basso-relievo, like the profile figures having only half a nose 



which are sculptured on monuments, and that we shall be like tallies. 

Wherefore let us exhort all men to piety, that we may avoid evil, 
and obtain the good, of which Love is to us the lord and minister; and 
let no one oppose him-he is the enemy of the gods who oppose him. 
For if we are friends of the God and at peace with him we shall find 
our own true loves, which rarely happens in this world at present. I 
am serious, and therefore I must beg Eryximachus not to make fun or to 
find any allusion in what I am saying to Pausanias and Agathon, who, 
as I suspect, are both of the manly nature, and belong to the class 
which I have been describing. But my words have a wider 
application-they include men and women everywhere; and I believe 
that if our loves were perfectly accomplished, and each one 
returning to his primeval nature had his original true love, then 
our race would be happy. And if this would be best of all, the best in 
the next degree and under present circumstances must be the nearest 
approach to such an union; and that will be the attainment of a 
congenial love. Wherefore, if we would praise him who has given to 
us the benefit, we must praise the god Love, who is our greatest 
benefactor, both leading us in this life back to our own nature, and 
giving us high hopes for the future, for he promises that if we are 
pious, he will restore us to our original state, and heal us and 
make us happy and blessed. This, Eryximachus, is my discourse of love, 
which, although different to yours, I must beg you to leave unassailed 
by the shafts of your ridicule, in order that each may have his 
turn; each, or rather either, for Agathon and Socrates are the only 
ones left. 

Indeed, I am not going to attack you, said Eryximachus, for I 
thought your speech charming, and did I not know that Agathon and 
Socrates are masters in the art of love, I should be really afraid 
that they would have nothing to say, after the world of things which 
have been said already. But, for all that, I am not without hopes. 

Socrates said: You played your part well, Eryximachus; but if you 
were as I am now, or rather as I shall be when Agathon has spoken, you 
would, indeed, be in a great strait. 

You want to cast a spell over me, Socrates, said Agathon, in the 
hope that I may be disconcerted at the expectation raised among the 
audience that I shall speak well. 

I should be strangely forgetful, Agathon replied Socrates, of the 
courage and magnanimity which you showed when your own compositions 
were about to be exhibited, and you came upon the stage with the 
actors and faced the vast theatre altogether undismayed, if I 
thought that your nerves could be fluttered at a small party of 
friends . 

Do you think, Socrates, said Agathon, that my head is so full of the 
theatre as not to know how much more formidable to a man of sense a 
few good judges are than many fools? 

Nay, replied Socrates, I should be very wrong in attributing to you, 
Agathon, that or any other want of refinement. And I am quite aware 
that if you happened to meet with any whom you thought wise, you would 
care for their opinion much more than for that of the many. But then 
we, having been a part of the foolish many in the theatre, cannot be 
regarded as the select wise; though I know that if you chanced to be 
in the presence, not of one of ourselves, but of some really wise man, 
you would be ashamed of disgracing yourself before him-would you not? 

Yes, said Agathon. 

But before the many you would not be ashamed, if you thought that 
you were doing something disgraceful in their presence? 

Here Phaedrus interrupted them, saying: not answer him, my dear 
Agathon; for if he can only get a partner with whom he can talk, 
especially a good-looking one, he will no longer care about the 
completion of our plan. Now I love to hear him talk; but just at 
present I must not forget the encomium on Love which I ought to 
receive from him and from every one. When you and he have paid your 
tribute to the god, then you may talk. 



Very good, Phaedrus, said Agathon; I see no reason why I should 
not proceed with my speech, as I shall have many other opportunities 
of conversing with Socrates. Let me say first how I ought to speak, 
and then speak :- 

The previous speakers, instead of praising the god Love, or 
unfolding his nature, appear to have congratulated mankind on the 
benefits which he confers upon them. But I would rather praise the god 
first, and then speak of his gifts; this is always the right way of 
praising everything. May I say without impiety or offence, that of all 
the blessed gods he is the most blessed because he is the fairest 
and best? And he is the fairest: for, in the first place, he is the 
youngest, and of his youth he is himself the witness, fleeing out of 
the way of age, who is swift enough, swifter truly than most of us 
like: -Love hates him and will not come near him; but youth and love 
live and move together-like to like, as the proverb says. Many 
things were said by Phaedrus about Love in which I agree with him; but 
I cannot agree that he is older than Iapetus and Kronos:-not so; I 
maintain him to be the youngest of the gods, and youthful ever. The 
ancient doings among the gods of which Hesiod and Parmenides spoke, if 
the tradition of them be true, were done of Necessity and not Love; 
had Love been in those days, there would have been no chaining or 
mutilation of the gods, or other violence, but peace and sweetness, as 
there is now in heaven, since the rule of Love began. 

Love is young and also tender; he ought to have a poet like Homer to 
describe his tenderness, as Homer says of Ate, that she is a goddess 
and tender: 

Her feet are tender, for she sets her steps, 
Not on the ground but on the heads of men: 

herein is an excellent proof of her tenderness that, -she walks not 
upon the hard but upon the soft. Let us adduce a similar proof of 
the tenderness of Love; for he walks not upon the earth, nor yet 
upon skulls of men, which are not so very soft, but in the hearts 
and souls of both god, and men, which are of all things the softest: 
in them he walks and dwells and makes his home. Not in every soul 
without exception, for Where there is hardness he departs, where there 
is softness there he dwells; and nestling always with his feet and 
in all manner of ways in the softest of soft places, how can he be 
other than the softest of all things? Of a truth he is the tenderest 
as well as the youngest, and also he is of flexile form; for if he 
were hard and without flexure he could not enfold all things, or 
wind his way into and out of every soul of man undiscovered. And a 
proof of his flexibility and symmetry of form is his grace, which is 
universally admitted to be in an especial manner the attribute of 
Love; ungrace and love are always at war with one another. The 
fairness of his complexion is revealed by his habitation among the 
flowers; for he dwells not amid bloomless or fading beauties, 
whether of body or soul or aught else, but in the place of flowers and 
scents, there he sits and abides. Concerning the beauty of the god I 
have said enough; and yet there remains much more which I might say. 
Of his virtue I have now to speak: his greatest glory is that he can 
neither do nor suffer wrong to or from any god or any man; for he 
suffers not by force if he suffers; force comes not near him, 
neither when he acts does he act by force. For all men in all things 
serve him of their own free will, and where there is voluntary 
agreement, there, as the laws which are the lords of the city say, 
is justice. And not only is he just but exceedingly temperate, for 
Temperance is the acknowledged ruler of the pleasures and desires, and 
no pleasure ever masters Love; he is their master and they are his 
servants; and if he conquers them he must be temperate indeed. As to 
courage, even the God of War is no match for him; he is the captive 
and Love is the lord, for love, the love of Aphrodite, masters him, as 
the tale runs; and the master is stronger than the servant. And if 



he conquers the bravest of all others, he must be himself the bravest. 

Of his courage and justice and temperance I have spoken, but I 
have yet to speak of his wisdom-and according to the measure of my 
ability I must try to do my best. In the first place he is a poet (and 
here, like Eryximachus, I magnify my art), and he is also the source 
of poesy in others, which he could not be if he were not himself a 
poet. And at the touch of him every one becomes a poet, even though he 
had no music in him before; this also is a proof that Love is a good 
poet and accomplished in all the fine arts; for no one can give to 
another that which he has not himself, or teach that of which he has 
no knowledge. Who will deny that the creation of the animals is his 
doing? Are they not all the works his wisdom, born and begotten of 
him? And as to the artists, do we not know that he only of them whom 
love inspires has the light of fame?-he whom Love touches riot walks 
in darkness. The arts of medicine and archery and divination were 
discovered by Apollo, under the guidance of love and desire; so that 
he too is a disciple of Love. Also the melody of the Muses, the 
metallurgy of Hephaestus, the weaving of Athene, the empire of Zeus 
over gods and men, are all due to Love, who was the inventor of 
them. And so Love set in order the empire of the gods-the love of 
beauty, as is evident, for with deformity Love has no concern. In 
the days of old, as I began by saying, dreadful deeds were done 
among the gods, for they were ruled by Necessity; but now since the 
birth of Love, and from the Love of the beautiful, has sprung every 
good in heaven and earth. Therefore, Phaedrus, I say of Love that he 
is the fairest and best in himself, and the cause of what is fairest 
and best in all other things. And there comes into my mind a line of 
poetry in which he is said to be the god who 

Gives peace on earth and calms the stormy deep, 
Who stills the winds and bids the sufferer sleep. 

This is he who empties men of disaffection and fills them with 
affection, who makes them to meet together at banquets such as 
these: in sacrifices, feasts, dances, he is our lord-who sends 
courtesy and sends away discourtesy, who gives kindness ever and never 
gives unkindness; the friend of the good, the wonder of the wise, 
the amazement of the gods; desired by those who have no part in him, 
and precious to those who have the better part in him; parent of 
delicacy, luxury, desire, fondness, softness, grace; regardful of 
the good, regardless of the evil: in every word, work, wish, 
fear-saviour, pilot, comrade, helper; glory of gods and men, leader 
best and brightest: in whose footsteps let every man follow, sweetly 
singing in his honour and joining in that sweet strain with which love 
charms the souls of gods and men. Such is the speech, Phaedrus, 
half-playful, yet having a certain measure of seriousness, which, 
according to my ability, I dedicate to the god. 

When Agathon had done speaking, Aristodemus said that there was a 
general cheer; the young man was thought to have spoken in a manner 
worthy of himself, and of the god. And Socrates, looking at 
Eryximachus, said: Tell me, son of Acumenus, was there not reason in 
my fears? and was I not a true prophet when I said that Agathon 
would make a wonderful oration, and that I should be in a strait? 

The part of the prophecy which concerns Agathon, replied 
Eryximachus, appears to me to be true; but, not the other part-that 
you will be in a strait. 

Why, my dear friend, said Socrates, must not I or any one be in a 
strait who has to speak after he has heard such a rich and varied 
discourse? I am especially struck with the beauty of the concluding 
words-who could listen to them without amazement? When I reflected 
on the immeasurable inferiority of my own powers, I was ready to run 
away for shame, if there had been a possibility of escape. For I was 
reminded of Gorgias, and at the end of his speech I fancied that 
Agathon was shaking at me the Gorginian or Gorgonian head of the great 



master of rhetoric, which was simply to turn me and my speech, into 
stone, as Homer says, and strike me dumb. And then I perceived how 
foolish I had been in consenting to take my turn with you in 
praising love, and saying that I too was a master of the art, when I 
really had no conception how anything ought to be praised. For in my 
simplicity I imagined that the topics of praise should be true, and 
that this being presupposed, out of the true the speaker was to choose 
the best and set them forth in the best manner. And I felt quite 
proud, thinking that I knew the nature of true praise, and should 
speak well. Whereas I now see that the intention was to attribute to 
Love every species of greatness and glory, whether really belonging to 
him not, without regard to truth or f alsehood-that was no matter; 
for the original, proposal seems to have been not that each of you 
should really praise Love, but only that you should appear to praise 
him. And so you attribute to Love every imaginable form of praise 
which can be gathered anywhere; and you say that "he is all this," and 
"the cause of all that, " making him appear the fairest and best of all 
to those who know him not, for you cannot impose upon those who know 
him. And a noble and solemn hymn of praise have you rehearsed. But 
as I misunderstood the nature of the praise when I said that I would 
take my turn, I must beg to be absolved from the promise which I 
made in ignorance, and which (as Euripides would say) was a promise of 
the lips and not of the mind. Farewell then to such a strain: for I do 
not praise in that way; no, indeed, I cannot. But if you like to 
here the truth about love, I am ready to speak in my own manner, 
though I will not make myself ridiculous by entering into any 
rivalry with you. Say then, Phaedrus, whether you would like, to 
have the truth about love, spoken in any words and in any order 
which may happen to come into my mind at the time. Will that be 
agreeable to you? 

Aristodemus said that Phaedrus and the company bid him speak in 
any manner which he thought best. Then, he added, let me have your 
permission first to ask Agathon a few more questions, in order that 
I may take his admissions as the premisses of my discourse. 

I grant the permission, said Phaedrus: put your questions. 
Socrates then proceeded as follows :- 

In the magnificent oration which you have just uttered, I think that 
you were right, my dear Agathon, in proposing to speak of the nature 
of Love first and afterwards of his works-that is a way of beginning 
which I very much approve. And as you have spoken so eloquently of his 
nature, may I ask you further, Whether love is the love of something 
or of nothing? And here I must explain myself: I do not want you to 
say that love is the love of a father or the love of a mother-that 
would be ridiculous; but to answer as you would, if I asked is a 
father a father of something? to which you would find no difficulty in 
replying, of a son or daughter: and the answer would be right. 

Very true, said Agathon. 

And you would say the same of a mother? 

He assented. 

Yet let me ask you one more question in order to illustrate my 
meaning: Is not a brother to be regarded essentially as a brother of 
something? 

Certainly, he replied. 

That is, of a brother or sister? 

Yes, he said. 

And now, said Socrates, I will ask about Love: -Is Love of 
something or of nothing? 

Of something, surely, he replied. 

Keep in mind what this is, and tell me what I want to know-whether 
Love desires that of which love is. 

Yes, surely. 

And does he possess, or does he not possess, that which he loves and 
desires? 

Probably not, I should say. 



Nay, replied Socrates, I would have you consider whether 
"necessarily" is not rather the word. The inference that he who 
desires something is in want of something, and that he who desires 
nothing is in want of nothing, is in my judgment, Agathon absolutely 
and necessarily true. What do you think? 

I agree with you, said Agathon. 

Very good. Would he who is great, desire to be great, or he who is 
strong, desire to be strong? 

That would be inconsistent with our previous admissions. 

True. For he who is anything cannot want to be that which he is? 

Very true. 

And yet, added Socrates, if a man being strong desired to be strong, 
or being swift desired to be swift, or being healthy desired to be 
healthy, in that case he might be thought to desire something which he 
already has or is. I give the example in order that we may avoid 
misconception. For the possessors of these qualities, Agathon, must be 
supposed to have their respective advantages at the time, whether they 
choose or not; and who can desire that which he has? Therefore when 
a person says, I am well and wish to be well, or I am rich and wish to 
be rich, and I desire simply to have what I have-to him we shall 
reply: "You, my friend, having wealth and health and strength, want to 
have the continuance of them; for at this moment, whether you choose 
or no, you have them. And when you say, I desire that which I have and 
nothing else, is not your meaning that you want to have what you now 
have in the future? "He must agree with us-must he not? 

He must, replied Agathon. 

Then, said Socrates, he desires that what he has at present may be 
preserved to him in the future, which is equivalent to saying that 
he desires something which is non-existent to him, and which as yet he 
has not got. 

Very true, he said. 

Then he and every one who desires, desires that which he has not 
already, and which is future and not present, and which he has not, 
and is not, and of which he is in want; -these are the sort of things 
which love and desire seek? 

Very true, he said. 

Then now, said Socrates, let us recapitulate the argument. First, is 
not love of something, and of something too which is wanting to a man? 

Yes, he replied. 

Remember further what you said in your speech, or if you do not 
remember I will remind you: you said that the love of the beautiful 
set in order the empire of the gods, for that of deformed things there 
is no love-did you not say something of that kind? 

Yes, said Agathon. 

Yes, my friend, and the remark was a just one. And if this is 
true, Love is the love of beauty and not of deformity? 

He assented. 

And the admission has been already made that Love is of something 
which a man wants and has not? 

True, he said. 

Then Love wants and has not beauty? 

Certainly, he replied. 

And would you call that beautiful which wants and does not possess 
beauty? 

Certainly not. 

Then would you still say that love is beautiful? 

Agathon replied: I fear that I did not understand what I was saying. 

You made a very good speech, Agathon, replied Socrates; but there is 
yet one small question which I would fain ask:-Is not the good also 
the beautiful? 

Yes. 

Then in wanting the beautiful, love wants also the good? 

I cannot refute you, Socrates, said Agathon: -Let us assume that what 
you say is true. 



Say rather, beloved Agathon, that you cannot refute the truth; for 
Socrates is easily refuted. 

And now, taking my leave of you, I would rehearse a tale of love 
which I heard from Diotima of Mantineia, a woman wise in this and in 
many other kinds of knowledge, who in the days of old, when the 
Athenians offered sacrifice before the coming of the plague, delayed 
the disease ten years. She was my instructress in the art of love, and 
I shall repeat to you what she said to me, beginning with the 
admissions made by Agathon, which are nearly if not quite the same 
which I made to the wise woman when she questioned me-I think that 
this will be the easiest way, and I shall take both parts myself as 
well as I can. As you, Agathon, suggested, I must speak first of the 
being and nature of Love, and then of his works. First I said to her 
in nearly the same words which he used to me, that Love was a mighty 
god, and likewise fair and she proved to me as I proved to him that, 
by my own showing, Love was neither fair nor good. "What do you 
mean, Diotima," I said, "is love then evil and foul?" "Hush," she 
cried; "must that be foul which is not fair?" "Certainly," I said. 
"And is that which is not wise, ignorant? do you not see that there is 
a mean between wisdom and ignorance?" "And what may that be?" I 
said. "Right opinion," she replied; "which, as you know, being 
incapable of giving a reason, is not knowledge (for how can 
knowledge be devoid of reason? nor again, ignorance, for neither can 
ignorance attain the truth) , but is clearly something which is a 
mean between ignorance and wisdom." "Quite true," I replied. "Do not 
then insist," she said, "that what is not fair is of necessity foul, 
or what is not good evil; or infer that because love is not fair and 
good he is therefore foul and evil; for he is in a mean between them." 
"Well," I said, "Love is surely admitted by all to be a great god." 
"By those who know or by those who do not know?" "By all." "And how, 
Socrates," she said with a smile, "can Love be acknowledged to be a 
great god by those who say that he is not a god at all?" "And who 
are they?" I said. "You and I are two of them," she replied. "How 
can that be?" I said. "It is quite intelligible," she replied; "for 
you yourself would acknowledge that the gods are happy and fair of 
course you would-would to say that any god was not?" "Certainly 
not," I replied. "And you mean by the happy, those who are the 
possessors of things good or fair?" "Yes." "And you admitted that 
Love, because he was in want, desires those good and fair things of 
which he is in want?" "Yes, I did." "But how can he be a god who has 
no portion in what is either good or fair?" "Impossible." "Then you 
see that you also deny the divinity of Love." 

"What then is Love?" I asked; "Is he mortal?" "No." "What then?" "As 
in the former instance, he is neither mortal nor immortal, but in a 
mean between the two." "What is he, Diotima?" "He is a great spirit 
(daimon) , and like all spirits he is intermediate between the divine 
and the mortal." "And what," I said, "is his power?" "He 
interprets," she replied, "between gods and men, conveying and 
taking across to the gods the prayers and sacrifices of men, and to 
men the commands and replies of the gods; he is the mediator who spans 
the chasm which divides them, and therefore in him all is bound 
together, and through him the arts of the prophet and the priest, 
their sacrifices and mysteries and charms, and all, prophecy and 
incantation, find their way. For God mingles not with man; but through 
Love, all the intercourse, and converse of god with man, whether awake 
or asleep, is carried on. The wisdom which understands this is 
spiritual; all other wisdom, such as that of arts and handicrafts, 
is mean and vulgar. Now these spirits or intermediate powers are 
many and diverse, and one of them is Love. "And who," I said, "was his 
father, and who his mother?" "The tale," she said, "will take time; 
nevertheless I will tell you. On the birthday of Aphrodite there was a 
feast of the gods, at which the god Poros or Plenty, who is the son of 
Metis or Discretion, was one of the guests. When the feast was over, 
Penia or Poverty, as the manner is on such occasions, came about the 



doors to beg. Now Plenty who was the worse for nectar (there was no 
wine in those days), went into the garden of Zeus and fell into a 
heavy sleep, and Poverty considering her own straitened circumstances, 
plotted to have a child by him, and accordingly she lay down at his 
side and conceived love, who partly because he is naturally a lover of 
the beautiful, and because Aphrodite is herself beautiful, and also 
because he was born on her birthday, is her follower and attendant. 
And as his parentage is, so also are his fortunes. In the first 
place he is always poor, and anything but tender and fair, as the many 
imagine him; and he is rough and squalid, and has no shoes, nor a 
house to dwell in; on the bare earth exposed he lies under the open 
heaven, in-the streets, or at the doors of houses, taking his rest; 
and like his mother he is always in distress. Like his father too, 
whom he also partly resembles, he is always plotting against the 
fair and good; he is bold, enterprising, strong, a mighty hunter, 
always weaving some intrigue or other, keen in the pursuit of 
wisdom, fertile in resources; a philosopher at all times, terrible 
as an enchanter, sorcerer, sophist. He is by nature neither mortal nor 
immortal, but alive and flourishing at one moment when he is in 
plenty, and dead at another moment, and again alive by reason of his 
father's nature. But that which is always flowing in is always flowing 
out, and so he is never in want and never in wealth; and, further, 
he is in a mean between ignorance and knowledge. The truth of the 
matter is this: No god is a philosopher, or seeker after wisdom, for 
he is wise already; nor does any man who is wise seek after wisdom. 
Neither do the ignorant seek after Wisdom. For herein is the evil of 
ignorance, that he who is neither good nor wise is nevertheless 
satisfied with himself: he has no desire for that of which he feels no 
want." "But-who then, Diotima, " I said, "are the lovers of wisdom, 
if they are neither the wise nor the foolish?" "A child may answer 
that question, " she replied; "they are those who are in a mean between 
the two; Love is one of them. For wisdom is a most beautiful thing, 
and Love is of the beautiful; and therefore Love is also a 
philosopher: or lover of wisdom, and being a lover of wisdom is in a 
mean between the wise and the ignorant. And of this too his birth is 
the cause; for his father is wealthy and wise, and his mother poor and 
foolish. Such, my dear Socrates, is the nature of the spirit Love. The 
error in your conception of him was very natural, and as I imagine 
from what you say, has arisen out of a confusion of love and the 
beloved, which made you think that love was all beautiful. For the 
beloved is the truly beautiful, and delicate, and perfect, and 
blessed; but the principle of love is of another nature, and is such 
as I have described." 

I said, "0 thou stranger woman, thou sayest well; but, assuming Love 
to be such as you say, what is the use of him to men?" "That, 
Socrates," she replied, "I will attempt to unfold: of his nature and 
birth I have already spoken; and you acknowledge that love is of the 
beautiful. But some one will say: Of the beautiful in what, Socrates 
and Diotima?-or rather let me put the question more dearly, and ask: 
When a man loves the beautiful, what does he desire?" I answered her 
"That the beautiful may be his." "Still," she said, "the answer 
suggests a further question: What is given by the possession of 
beauty?" "To what you have asked," I replied, "I have no answer 
ready." "Then," she said, "Let me put the word 'good' in the place 
of the beautiful, and repeat the question once more: If he who loves 
good, what is it then that he loves? "The possession of the good," I 
said. "And what does he gain who possesses the good?" "Happiness," I 
replied; "there is less difficulty in answering that question." "Yes," 
she said, "the happy are made happy by the acquisition of good things. 
Nor is there any need to ask why a man desires happiness; the answer 
is already final." "You are right." I said. "And is this wish and this 
desire common to all? and do all men always desire their own good, 
or only some men?-what say you?" "All men," I replied; "the desire 
is common to all." "Why, then," she rejoined, "are not all men, 



Socrates, said to love, but only some them? whereas you say that all 
men are always loving the same things." "I myself wonder," I said, -why 
this is." "There is nothing to wonder at," she replied; "the reason is 
that one part of love is separated off and receives the name of the 
whole, but the other parts have other names." "Give an 
illustration," I said. She answered me as follows: "There is poetry, 
which, as you know, is complex; and manifold. All creation or 
passage of non-being into being is poetry or making, and the processes 
of all art are creative; and the masters of arts are all poets or 
makers." "Very true." "Still," she said, "you know that they are not 
called poets, but have other names; only that portion of the art which 
is separated off from the rest, and is concerned with music and metre, 
is termed poetry, and they who possess poetry in this sense of the 
word are called poets." "Very true," I said. "And the same holds of 
love. For you may say generally that all desire of good and 
happiness is only the great and subtle power of love; but they who are 
drawn towards him by any other path, whether the path of 
money-making or gymnastics or philosophy, are not called lovers -the 
name of the whole is appropriated to those whose affection takes one 
form only-they alone are said to love, or to be lovers." "I dare say," 
I replied, "that you are right." "Yes," she added, "and you hear 
people say that lovers are seeking for their other half; but I say 
that they are seeking neither for the half of themselves, nor for 
the whole, unless the half or the whole be also a good. And they 
will cut off their own hands and feet and cast them away, if they 
are evil; for they love not what is their own, unless perchance 
there be some one who calls what belongs to him the good, and what 
belongs to another the evil. For there is nothing which men love but 
the good. Is there anything?" "Certainly, I should say, that there 
is nothing." "Then," she said, "the simple truth is, that men love the 
good." "Yes," I said. "To which must be added that they love the 
possession of the good? "Yes, that must be added." "And not only the 
possession, but the everlasting possession of the good?" "That must be 
added too." "Then love," she said, "may be described generally as 
the love of the everlasting possession of the good?" "That is most 
true . " 

"Then if this be the nature of love, can you tell me further, " she 
said, "what is the manner of the pursuit? what are they doing who show 
all this eagerness and heat which is called love? and what is the 
object which they have in view? Answer me." "Nay, Diotima, " I replied, 
"if I had known, I should not have wondered at your wisdom, neither 
should I have come to learn from you about this very matter." 
"Well," she said, "I will teach you:-The object which they have in 
view is birth in beauty, whether of body or, soul." "I do not 
understand you," I said; "the oracle requires an explanation." "I will 
make my meaning dearer," she replied. "I mean to say, that all men are 
bringing to the birth in their bodies and in their souls. There is a 
certain age at which human nature is desirous of 
procreation-procreation which must be in beauty and not in 
deformity; and this procreation is the union of man and woman, and 
is a divine thing; for conception and generation are an immortal 
principle in the mortal creature, and in the inharmonious they can 
never be. But the deformed is always inharmonious with the divine, and 
the beautiful harmonious. Beauty, then, is the destiny or goddess of 
parturition who presides at birth, and therefore, when approaching 
beauty, the conceiving power is propitious, and diffusive, and benign, 
and begets and bears fruit: at the sight of ugliness she frowns and 
contracts and has a sense of pain, and turns away, and shrivels up, 
and not without a pang refrains from conception. And this is the 
reason why, when the hour of conception arrives, and the teeming 
nature is full, there is such a flutter and ecstasy about beauty whose 
approach is the alleviation of the pain of travail. For love, 
Socrates, is not, as you imagine, the love of the beautiful only." 
"What then?" "The love of generation and of birth in beauty." "Yes," I 



said. "Yes, indeed," she replied. "But why of generation?" "Because to 
the mortal creature, generation is a sort of eternity and 
immortality, " she replied; "and if, as has been already admitted, love 
is of the everlasting possession of the good, all men will necessarily 
desire immortality together with good: Wherefore love is of 
immortality . " 

All this she taught me at various times when she spoke of love. 
And I remember her once saying to me, "What is the cause, Socrates, of 
love, and the attendant desire? See you not how all animals, birds, as 
well as beasts, in their desire of procreation, are in agony when they 
take the infection of love, which begins with the desire of union; 
whereto is added the care of offspring, on whose behalf the weakest 
are ready to battle against the strongest even to the uttermost, and 
to die for them, and will, let themselves be tormented with hunger 
or suffer anything in order to maintain their young. Man may be 
supposed to act thus from reason; but why should animals have these 
passionate feelings? Can you tell me why?" Again I replied that I 
did not know. She said to me: "And do you expect ever to become a 
master in the art of love, if you do not know this?" "But I have 
told you already, Diotima, that my ignorance is the reason why I 
come to you; for I am conscious that I want a teacher; tell me then 
the cause of this and of the other mysteries of love." "Marvel not," 
she said, "if you believe that love is of the immortal, as we have 
several times acknowledged; for here again, and on the same 
principle too, the mortal nature is seeking as far as is possible to 
be everlasting and immortal: and this is only to be attained by 
generation, because generation always leaves behind a new existence in 
the place of the old. Nay even in the life, of the same individual 
there is succession and not absolute unity: a man is called the 
same, and yet in the short interval which elapses between youth and 
age, and in which every animal is said to have life and identity, he 
is undergoing a perpetual process of loss and reparation-hair, 
flesh, bones, blood, and the whole body are always changing. Which 
is true not only of the body, but also of the soul, whose habits, 
tempers, opinions, desires, pleasures, pains, fears, never remain 
the same in any one of us, but are always coming and going; and 
equally true of knowledge, and what is still more surprising to us 
mortals, not only do the sciences in general spring up and decay, so 
that in respect of them we are never the same; but each of them 
individually experiences a like change. For what is implied in the 
word 'recollection, ' but the departure of knowledge, which is ever 
being forgotten, and is renewed and preserved by recollection, and 
appears to be the same although in reality new, according to that 
law of succession by which all mortal things are preserved, not 
absolutely the same, but by substitution, the old worn-out mortality 
leaving another new and similar existence behind unlike the divine, 
which is always the same and not another? And in this way, Socrates, 
the mortal body, or mortal anything, partakes of immortality; but 
the immortal in another way. Marvel not then at the love which all men 
have of their offspring; for that universal love and interest is for 
the sake of immortality." 

I was astonished at her words, and said: "Is this really true, 
thou wise Diotima?" And she answered with all the authority of an 
accomplished sophist: "Of that, Socrates, you may be assured; -think 
only of the ambition of men, and you will wonder at the 
senselessness of their ways, unless you consider how they are 
stirred by the love of an immortality of fame. They are ready to run 
all risks greater far than they would have for their children, and 
to spend money and undergo any sort of toil, and even to die, for 
the sake of leaving behind them a name which shall be eternal. Do 
you imagine that Alcestis would have died to save Admetus, or Achilles 
to avenge Patroclus, or your own Codrus in order to preserve the 
kingdom for his sons, if they had not imagined that the memory of 
their virtues, which still survives among us, would be immortal? Nay," 



she said, "I am persuaded that all men do all things, and the better 
they are the more they do them, in hope of the glorious fame of 
immortal virtue; for they desire the immortal. 

"Those who are pregnant in the body only, betake themselves to women 
and beget children-this is the character of their love; their 
offspring, as they hope, will preserve their memory and giving them 
the blessedness and immortality which they desire in the future. But 
souls which are pregnant-for there certainly are men who are more 
creative in their souls than in their bodies conceive that which is 
proper for the soul to conceive or contain. And what are these 
conceptions?-wisdom and virtue in general. And such creators are poets 
and all artists who are deserving of the name inventor. But the 
greatest and fairest sort of wisdom by far is that which is 
concerned with the ordering of states and families, and which is 
called temperance and justice. And he who in youth has the seed of 
these implanted in him and is himself inspired, when he comes to 
maturity desires to beget and generate. He wanders about seeking 
beauty that he may beget of f spring-f or in deformity he will beget 
nothing-and naturally embraces the beautiful rather than the 
deformed body; above all when he finds fair and noble and 
well-nurtured soul, he embraces the two in one person, and to such 
an one he is full of speech about virtue and the nature and pursuits 
of a good man; and he tries to educate him; and at the touch of the 
beautiful which is ever present to his memory, even when absent, he 
brings forth that which he had conceived long before, and in company 
with him tends that which he brings forth; and they are married by a 
far nearer tie and have a closer friendship than those who beget 
mortal children, for the children who are their common offspring are 
fairer and more immortal. Who, when he thinks of Homer and Hesiod 
and other great poets, would not rather have their children than 
ordinary human ones? Who would not emulate them in the creation of 
children such as theirs, which have preserved their memory and given 
them everlasting glory? Or who would not have such children as 
Lycurgus left behind him to be the saviours, not only of Lacedaemon, 
but of Hellas, as one may say? There is Solon, too, who is the revered 
father of Athenian laws; and many others there are in many other 
places, both among hellenes and barbarians, who have given to the 
world many noble works, and have been the parents of virtue of every 
kind; and many temples have been raised in their honour for the sake 
of children such as theirs; which were never raised in honour of any 
one, for the sake of his mortal children. 

"These are the lesser mysteries of love, into which even you, 
Socrates, may enter; to the greater and more hidden ones which are the 
crown of these, and to which, if you pursue them in a right spirit, 
they will lead, I know not whether you will be able to attain. But I 
will do my utmost to inform you, and do you follow if you can. For 
he who would proceed aright in this matter should begin in youth to 
visit beautiful forms; and first, if he be guided by his instructor 
aright, to love one such form only-out of that he should create fair 
thoughts; and soon he will of himself perceive that the beauty of 
one form is akin to the beauty of another; and then if beauty of 
form in general is his pursuit, how foolish would he be not to 
recognize that the beauty in every form is and the same! And when he 
perceives this he will abate his violent love of the one, which he 
will despise and deem a small thing, and will become a lover of all 
beautiful forms; in the next stage he will consider that the beauty of 
the mind is more honourable than the beauty of the outward form. So 
that if a virtuous soul have but a little comeliness, he will be 
content to love and tend him, and will search out and bring to the 
birth thoughts which may improve the young, until he is compelled to 
contemplate and see the beauty of institutions and laws, and to 
understand that the beauty of them all is of one family, and that 
personal beauty is a trifle; and after laws and institutions he will 
go on to the sciences, that he may see their beauty, being not like 



a servant in love with the beauty of one youth or man or 
institution, himself a slave mean and narrow-minded, but drawing 
towards and contemplating the vast sea of beauty, he will create 
many fair and noble thoughts and notions in boundless love of 
wisdom; until on that shore he grows and waxes strong, and at last the 
vision is revealed to him of a single science, which is the science of 
beauty everywhere. To this I will proceed; please to give me your very 
best attention: 

"He who has been instructed thus far in the things of love, and 
who has learned to see the beautiful in due order and succession, when 
he comes toward the end will suddenly perceive a nature of wondrous 
beauty (and this, Socrates, is the final cause of all our former 
toils) -a nature which in the first place is everlasting, not growing 
and decaying, or waxing and waning; secondly, not fair in one point of 
view and foul in another, or at one time or in one relation or at 
one place fair, at another time or in another relation or at another 
place foul, as if fair to some and-foul to others, or in the 
likeness of a face or hands or any other part of the bodily frame, 
or in any form of speech or knowledge, or existing in any other being, 
as for example, in an animal, or in heaven or in earth, or in any 
other place; but beauty absolute, separate, simple, and everlasting, 
which without diminution and without increase, or any change, is 
imparted to the ever-growing and perishing beauties of all other 
things. He who from these ascending under the influence of true 
love, begins to perceive that beauty, is not far from the end. And the 
true order of going, or being led by another, to the things of love, 
is to begin from the beauties of earth and mount upwards for the 
sake of that other beauty, using these as steps only, and from one 
going on to two, and from two to all fair forms, and from fair forms 
to fair practices, and from fair practices to fair notions, until from 
fair notions he arrives at the notion of absolute beauty, and at 
last knows what the essence of beauty is. This, my dear Socrates," 
said the stranger of Mantineia, "is that life above all others which 
man should live, in the contemplation of beauty absolute; a beauty 
which if you once beheld, you would see not to be after the measure of 
gold, and garments, and fair boys and youths, whose presence now 
entrances you; and you and many a one would be content to live 
seeing them only and conversing with them without meat or drink, if 
that were possible-you only want to look at them and to be with 
them. But what if man had eyes to see the true beauty-the divine 
beauty, I mean, pure and dear and unalloyed, not clogged with the 
pollutions of mortality and all the colours and vanities of human 
life-thither looking, and holding converse with the true beauty simple 
and divine? Remember how in that communion only, beholding beauty with 
the eye of the mind, he will be enabled to bring forth, not images 
of beauty, but realities (for he has hold not of an image but of a 
reality) , and bringing forth and nourishing true virtue to become 
the friend of God and be immortal, if mortal man may. Would that be an 
ignoble life?" 

Such, Phaedrus-and I speak not only to you, but to all of you-were 
the words of Diotima; and I am persuaded of their truth. And being 
persuaded of them, I try to persuade others, that in the attainment of 
this end human nature will not easily find a helper better than 
love: And therefore, also, I say that every man ought to honour him as 
I myself honour him, and walk in his ways, and exhort others to do the 
same, and praise the power and spirit of love according to the measure 
of my ability now and ever. 

The words which I have spoken, you, Phaedrus, may call an encomium 
of love, or anything else which you please. 

When Socrates had done speaking, the company applauded, and 
Aristophanes was beginning to say something in answer to the 
allusion which Socrates had made to his own speech, when suddenly 
there was a great knocking at the door of the house, as of 
revellers, and the sound of a flute-girl was heard. Agathon told the 



attendants to go and see who were the intruders. "If they are 
friends of ours," he said, "invite them in, but if not, say that the 
drinking is over." A little while afterwards they heard the voice of 
Alcibiades resounding in the court; he was in a great state of 
intoxication and kept roaring and shouting "Where is Agathon? Lead 
me to Agathon, " and at length, supported by the flute-girl and some of 
his attendants, he found his way to them. "Hail, friends," he said, 
appearing-at the door crown, with a massive garland of ivy and 
violets, his head flowing with ribands. "Will you have a very 
drunken man as a companion of your revels? Or shall I crown Agathon, 
which was my intention in coming, and go away? For I was unable to 
come yesterday, and therefore I am here to-day, carrying on my head 
these ribands, that taking them from my own head, I may crown the head 
of this fairest and wisest of men, as I may be allowed to call him. 
Will you laugh at me because I am drunk? Yet I know very well that I 
am speaking the truth, although you may laugh. But first tell me; if I 
come in shall we have the understanding of which I spoke? Will you 
drink with me or not?" 

The company were vociferous in begging that he would take his 
place among them, and Agathon specially invited him. Thereupon he 
was led in by the people who were with him; and as he was being led, 
intending to crown Agathon, he took the ribands from his own head 
and held them in front of his eyes; he was thus prevented from 
seeing Socrates, who made way for him, and Alcibiades took the 
vacant place between Agathon and Socrates, and in taking the place 
he embraced Agathon and crowned him. Take off his sandals, said 
Agathon, and let him make a third on the same couch. 

By all means; but who makes the third partner in our revels? said 
Alcibiades, turning round and starting up as he caught sight of 
Socrates. By Heracles, he said, what is this? here is Socrates 
always lying in wait for me, and always, as his way is, coming out 
at all sorts of unsuspected places: and now, what have you to say 
for yourself, and why are you lying here, where I perceive that you 
have contrived to find a place, not by a joker or lover of jokes, like 
Aristophanes, but by the fairest of the company? 

Socrates turned to Agathon and said: I must ask you to protect me, 
Agathon; for the passion of this man has grown quite a serious 
matter to me. Since I became his admirer I have never been allowed 
to speak to any other fair one, or so much as to look at them. If I 
do, he goes wild with envy and jealousy, and not only abuses me but 
can hardly keep his hands off me, and at this moment he may do me some 
harm. Please to see to this, and either reconcile me to him, or, if he 
attempts violence, protect me, as I am in bodily fear of his mad and 
passionate attempts. 

There can never be reconciliation between you and me, said 
Alcibiades; but for the present I will defer your chastisement. And 
I must beg you, Agathoron, to give me back some of the ribands that 
I may crown the marvellous head of this universal despot-I would not 
have him complain of me for crowning you, and neglecting him, who in 
conversation is the conqueror of all mankind; and this not only 
once, as you were the day before yesterday, but always. Whereupon, 
taking some of the ribands, he crowned Socrates, and again reclined. 

Then he said: You seem, my friends, to be sober, which is a thing 
not to be endured; you must drink-for that was the agreement under 
which I was admitted-and I elect myself master of the feast until 
you are well drunk. Let us have a large goblet, Agathon, or rather, he 
said, addressing the attendant, bring me that wine-cooler. The 
wine-cooler which had caught his eye was a vessel holding more than 
two quarts-this he filled and emptied, and bade the attendant fill 
it again for Socrates. Observe, my friends, said Alcibiades, that this 
ingenious trick of mine will have no effect on Socrates, for he can 
drink any quantity of wine and not be at all nearer being drunk. 
Socrates drank the cup which the attendant filled for him. 

Eryximachus said! What is this Alcibiades? Are we to have neither 



conversation nor singing over our cups; but simply to drink as if we 
were thirsty? 

Alcibiades replied: Hail, worthy son of a most wise and worthy sire! 

The same to you, said Eryximachus; but what shall we do? 

That I leave to you, said Alcibiades. 

The wise physician skilled our wounds to heal 

shall prescribe and we will obey. What do you want? 

Well, said Eryximachus, before you appeared we had passed a 
resolution that each one of us in turn should make a speech in 
praise of love, and as good a one as he could: the turn was passed 
round from left to right; and as all of us have spoken, and you have 
not spoken but have well drunken, you ought to speak, and then 
impose upon Socrates any task which you please, and he on his right 
hand neighbour, and so on. 

That is good, Eryximachus, said Alcibiades; and yet the 
comparison, of a drunken man's speech with those of sober men is 
hardly fair; and I should like to know, sweet friend, whether you 
really believe-what Socrates was just now saying; for I can assure you 
that the very reverse is the fact, and that if I praise any one but 
himself in his presence, whether God or man, he will hardly keep his 
hands off me. 

For shame, said Socrates. 

Hold your tongue, said Alcibiades, for by Poseidon, there is no 
one else whom I will praise when you are-of the company. 

Well then, said Eryximachus, if you like praise Socrates. 

What do you think, Eryximachus-? said Alcibiades: shall I attack 
him: and inflict the punishment before you all? 

What are you about? said Socrates; are you going to raise a laugh at 
my expense? Is that the meaning of your praise? 

I am going to speak the truth, if you will permit me. 

I not only permit, but exhort you to speak the truth. 

Then I will begin at once, said Alcibiades, and if I say anything 
which is not true, you may interrupt me if you will, and say "that 
is a lie," though my intention is to speak the truth. But you must not 
wonder if I speak any how as things come into my mind; for the 
fluent and orderly enumeration of all your singularities is not a task 
which is easy to a man in my condition. 

And now, my boys, I shall praise Socrates in a figure which will 
appear to him to be a caricature, and yet I speak, not to make fun 
of him, but only for the truth's sake. I say, that he is exactly 
like the busts of Silenus, which are set up in the statuaries, 
shops, holding pipes and flutes in their mouths; and they are made 
to open in the middle, and have images of gods inside them. I say also 
that hit is like Marsyas the satyr. You yourself will not deny, 
Socrates, that your face is like that of a satyr. Aye, and there is 
a resemblance in other points too. For example, you are a bully, as 
I can prove by witnesses, if you will not confess. And are you not a 
flute-player? That you are, and a performer far more wonderful than 
Marsyas. He indeed with instruments used to charm the souls of men 
by the powers of his breath, and the players of his music do so still: 
for the melodies of Olympus are derived from Marsyas who taught 
them, and these, whether they are played by a great master or by a 
miserable flute-girl, have a power which no others have; they alone 
possess the soul and reveal the wants of those who have need of gods 
and mysteries, because they are divine. But you produce the same 
effect with your words only, and do not require the flute; that is the 
difference between you and him. When we hear any other speaker, even 
very good one, he produces absolutely no effect upon us, or not 
much, whereas the mere fragments of you and your words, even at 
second-hand, and however imperfectly repeated, amaze and possess the 
souls of every man, woman, and child who comes within hearing of them. 
And if I were not, afraid that you would think me hopelessly drunk, 



I would have sworn as well as spoken to the influence which they 
have always had and still have over me. For my heart leaps within me 
more than that of any Corybantian reveller, and my eyes rain tears 
when I hear them. And I observe that many others are affected in the 
same manner. I have heard Pericles and other great orators, and I 
thought that they spoke well, but I never had any similar feeling; 
my soul was not stirred by them, nor was I angry at the thought of 
my own slavish state. But this Marsyas has often brought me to such 
pass, that I have felt as if I could hardly endure the life which I am 
leading (this, Socrates, you will admit); and I am conscious that if I 
did not shut my ears against him, and fly as from the voice of the 
siren, my fate would be like that of others, -he would transfix me, and 
I should grow old sitting at his feet. For he makes me confess that 
I ought not to live as I do, neglecting the wants of my own soul, 
and busying myself with the concerns of the Athenians; therefore I 
hold my ears and tear myself away from him. And he is the only 
person who ever made me ashamed, which you might think not to be in my 
nature, and there is no one else who does the same. For I know that 
I cannot answer him or say that I ought not to do as he bids, but when 
I leave his presence the love of popularity gets the better of me. And 
therefore I run away and fly from him, and when I see him I am ashamed 
of what I have confessed to him. Many a time have I wished that he 
were dead, and yet I know that I should be much more sorry than 
glad, if he were to die: so that am at my wit's end. 

And this is what I and many others have suffered, from the 
flute-playing of this satyr. Yet hear me once more while I show you 
how exact the image is, and. how marvellous his power. For let me tell 
you; none of you know him; but I will reveal him to you; having begun, 
I must go on. See you how fond he is of the fair? He is always with 
them and is always being smitten by them, and then again he knows 
nothing and is ignorant of all thing such is the appearance which he 
puts on. Is he not like a Silenus in this? To be sure he is: his outer 
mask is the carved head of the Silenus; but, my companions in drink, 
when he is opened, what temperance there is residing within! Know 
you that beauty and wealth and honour, at which the many wonder, are 
of no account with him, and are utterly despised by him: he regards 
not at all the persons who are gifted with them; mankind are nothing 
to him; all his life is spent in mocking and flouting at them. But 
when I opened him, and looked within at his serious purpose, I saw 
in him divine and golden images of such fascinating beauty that I 
was ready to do in a moment whatever Socrates commanded: they may have 
escaped the observation of others, but I saw them. Now I fancied 
that he was seriously enamoured of my beauty, and I thought that I 
should therefore have a grand opportunity of hearing him tell what 
he knew, for I had a wonderful opinion of the attractions of my youth. 
In the prosecution of this design, when I next went to him, I sent 
away the attendant who usually accompanied me (I will confess the 
whole truth, and beg you to listen; and if I speak falsely, do you, 
Socrates, expose the falsehood) . Well, he and I were alone together, 
and I thought that when there was nobody with us, I should hear him 
speak the language which lovers use to their loves when they are by 
themselves, and I was delighted. Nothing of the sort; he conversed 
as usual, and spent the day with me and then went away. Afterwards I 
challenged him to the palaestra; and he wrestled and closed with me, 
several times when there was no one present; I fancied that I might 
succeed in this manner. Not a bit; I made no way with him. Lastly, 
as I had failed hitherto, I thought that I must take stronger measures 
and attack him boldly, and, as I had begun, not give him up, but see 
how matters stood between him and me. So I invited him to sup with me, 
just as if he were a fair youth, and I a designing lover. He was not 
easily persuaded to come; he did, however, after a while accept the 
invitation, and when he came the first time, he wanted to go away at 
once as soon as supper was over, and I had not the face to detain him. 
The second time, still in pursuance of my design, after we had supped, 



I went on conversing far into the night, and when he wanted to go 
away, I pretended that the hour was late and that he had much better 
remain. So he lay down on the couch next to me, the same on which he 
had supped, and there was no one but ourselves sleeping in the 
apartment. All this may be told without shame to any one. But what 
follows I could hardly tell you if I were sober. Yet as the proverb 
says, "In vino Veritas," whether with boys, or without them; and 
therefore I must speak. Nor, again, should I be justified in 
concealing the lofty actions of Socrates when I come to praise him. 
Moreover I have felt the serpent's sting; and he who has suffered, 
as they say, is willing to tell his fellow-sufferers only, as they 
alone will be likely to understand him, and will not be extreme in 
judging of the sayings or doings which have been wrung from his agony. 
For I have been bitten by a more than viper's tooth; I have known in 
my soul, or in my heart, or in some other part, that worst of pangs, 
more violent in ingenuous youth than any serpent's tooth, the pang 
of philosophy, which will make a man say or do anything. And you 
whom I see around me, Phaedrus and Agathon and Eryximachus and 
Pausanias and Aristodemus and Aristophanes, all of you, and I need not 
say Socrates himself, have had experience of the same madness and 
passion in your longing after wisdom. Therefore listen and excuse my 
doings then and my sayings now. But let the attendants and other 
profane and unmannered persons close up the doors of their ears. 

When the lamp was put out and the servants had gone away, I 
thought that I must be plain with him and have no more ambiguity. So I 
gave him a shake, and I said: "Socrates, are you asleep?" "No," he 
said. "Do you know what I am meditating? "What are you meditating?" he 
said. "I think," I replied, "that of all the lovers whom I have ever 
had you are the only one who is worthy of me, and you appear to be too 
modest to speak. Now I feel that I should be a fool to refuse you this 
or any other favour, and therefore I come to lay at your feet all that 
I have and all that my friends have, in the hope that you will 
assist me in the way of virtue, which I desire above all things, and 
in which I believe that you can help me better than any one else. 
And I should certainly have more reason to be ashamed of what wise men 
would say if I were to refuse a favour to such as you, than of what 
the world who are mostly fools, would say of me if I granted it." To 
these words he replied in the ironical manner which is so 
characteristic of him: "Alcibiades, my friend, you have indeed an 
elevated aim if what you say is true, and if there really is in me any 
power by which you may become better; truly you must see in me some 
rare beauty of a kind infinitely higher than any which I see in you. 
And therefore, if you mean to share with me and to exchange beauty for 
beauty, you will have greatly the advantage of me; you will gain 
true beauty in return for appearance-like Diomede, gold in exchange 
for brass. But look again, sweet friend, and see whether you are not 
deceived in me. The mind begins to grow critical when the bodily eye 
fails, and it will be a long time before you get old." Hearing this, I 
said: "I have told you my purpose, which is quite serious, and do 
you consider what you think best for you and me." "That is good," he 
said; "at some other time then we will consider and act as seems 
best about this and about other matters." Whereupon, I fancied that 
was smitten, and that the words which I had uttered like arrows had 
wounded him, and so without waiting to hear more I got up, and 
throwing my coat about him crept under his threadbare cloak, as the 
time of year was winter, and there I lay during the whole night having 
this wonderful monster in my arms. This again, Socrates, will not be 
denied by you. And yet, notwithstanding all, he was so superior to 
my solicitations, so contemptuous and derisive and disdainful of my 
beauty-which really, as I fancied, had some attractions-hear, 
judges; for judges you shall be of the haughty virtue of 
Socrates-nothing more happened, but in the morning when I awoke (let 
all the gods and goddesses be my witnesses) I arose as from the 
couch of a father or an elder brother. 



What do you suppose must have been my feelings, after this 
rejection, at the thought of my own dishonour? And yet I could not 
help wondering at his natural temperance and self-restraint and 
manliness. I never imagined that I could have met with a man such as 
he is in wisdom and endurance. And therefore I could not be angry with 
him or renounce his company, any more than I could hope to win him. 
For I well knew that if Ajax could not be wounded by steel, much 
less he by money; and my only chance of captivating him by my personal 
attractions had faded. So I was at my wit's end; no one was ever 
more hopelessly enslaved by another. All this happened before he and I 
went on the expedition to Potidaea; there we messed together, and I 
had the opportunity of observing his extraordinary power of sustaining 
fatigue. His endurance was simply marvellous when, being cut off 
from our supplies, we were compelled to go without food-on such 
occasions, which often happen in time of war, he was superior not only 
to me but to everybody; there was no one to be compared to him. Yet at 
a festival he was the only person who had any real powers of 
enjoyment; though not willing to drink, he could if compelled beat 
us all at that, -wonderful to relate! no human being had ever seen 
Socrates drunk; and his powers, if I am not mistaken, will be tested 
before long. His fortitude in enduring cold was also surprising. There 
was a severe frost, for the winter in that region is really 
tremendous, and everybody else either remained indoors, or if they 
went out had on an amazing quantity of clothes, and were well shod, 
and had their feet swathed in felt and fleeces: in the midst of 
this, Socrates with his bare feet on the ice and in his ordinary dress 
marched better than the other soldiers who had shoes, and they 
looked daggers at him because he seemed to despise them. 

I have told you one tale, and now I must tell you another, which 
is worth hearing, 'Of the doings and sufferings of the enduring 
man', while he was on the expedition. One morning he was thinking 
about something which he could not resolve; he would not give it up, 
but continued thinking from early dawn until noon-there he stood fixed 
in thought; and at noon attention was drawn to him, and the rumour ran 
through the wondering crowd that Socrates had been standing and 
thinking about something ever since the break of day. At last, in 
the evening after supper, some Ionians out of curiosity (I should 
explain that this was not in winter but in summer) , brought out 
their mats and slept in the open air that they might watch him and see 
whether he would stand all night. There he stood until the following 
morning; and with the return of light he offered up a prayer to the 
sun, and went his way. I will also tell, if you please-and indeed I am 
bound to tell of his courage in battle; for who but he saved my 
life? Now this was the engagement in which I received the prize of 
valour: for I was wounded and he would not leave me, but he rescued me 
and my arms; and he ought to have received the prize of valour which 
the generals wanted to confer on me partly on account of my rank, 
and I told them so, (this, again Socrates will not impeach or deny), 
but he was more eager than the generals that I and not he should 
have the prize. There was another occasion on which his behaviour 
was very remarkable-in the flight of the army after the battle of 
Delium, where he served among the heavy-armed-I had a better 
opportunity of seeing him than at Potidaea, for I was myself on 
horseback, and therefore comparatively out of danger. He and Laches 
were retreating, for the troops were in flight, and I met them and 
told them not to be discouraged, and promised to remain with them; and 
there you might see him, Aristophanes, as you describe, just as he 
is in the streets of Athens, stalking like a and rolling his eyes, 
calmly contemplating enemies as well as friends, and making very 
intelligible to anybody, even from a distance, that whoever attacked 
him would be likely to meet with a stout resistance; and in this way 
he and his companion escaped-for this is the sort of man who is 
never touched in war; those only are pursued who are running away 
headlong. I particularly observed how superior he was to Laches in 



presence of mind. Many are the marvels which I might narrate in praise 
of Socrates; most of his ways might perhaps be paralleled in another 
man, but his absolute unlikeness to any human being that is or ever 
has been is perfectly astonishing. You may imagine Brasidas and others 
to have been like Achilles; or you may imagine Nestor and Antenor to 
have been like Perides; and the same may be said of other famous 
men, but of this strange being you will never be able to find any 
likeness, however remote, either among men who now are or who ever 
have been-other than that which I have already suggested of Silenus 
and the satyrs; and they represent in a figure not only himself, but 
his words. For, although I forgot to mention this to you before, his 
words are like the images of Silenus which open; they are ridiculous 
when you first hear them; he clothes himself in language that is 
like the skin of the wanton satyr-for his talk is of pack-asses and 
smiths and cobblers and curriers, and he is always repeating the 
same things in the same words, so that any ignorant or inexperienced 
person might feel disposed to laugh at him; but he who opens the 
bust and sees what is within will find that they are the only words 
which have a meaning in them, and also the most divine, abounding in 
fair images of virtue, and of the widest comprehension, or rather 
extending to the whole duty of a good and honourable man. 

This, friends, is my praise of Socrates. I have added my blame of 
him for his ill-treatment of me; and he has ill-treated not only me, 
but Charmides the son of Glaucon, and Euthydemus the son of Diodes, 
and many others in the same way-beginning as their lover he has 
ended by making them pay their addresses to him. Wherefore I say to 
you, Agathon, "Be no deceived by him; learn from me: and take warning, 
and do not be a fool and learn by experience, as the proverb says." 

When Alcibiades had finished, there was a laugh at his 
outspokenness; for he seemed to be still in love with Socrates. You 
are sober, Alcibiades, said Socrates, or you would never have gone 
so far about to hide the purpose of your satyr's praises, for all this 
long story is only an ingenious circumlocution, of which the point 
comes in by the way at the end; you want to get up a quarrel between 
me and Agathon, and your notion-is that I ought to love you and nobody 
else, and that you and you only ought to love Agathon. But the plot of 
this Satyric or Silenic drama has been detected, and you must not 
allow him, Agathon, to set us at variance. 

I believe you are right, said Agathon, and I am disposed to think 
that his intention in placing himself between you and me was only to 
divide us; but he shall gain nothing by that move; for I will go and 
lie on the couch next to you. 

Yes, yes, replied Socrates, by all means come here and lie on the 
couch below me. 

Alas, said Alcibiades, how I am fooled by this man; he is determined 
to get the better of me at every turn. I do beseech you, allow Agathon 
to lie between us. 

Certainly not, said Socrates, as you praised me, and I in turn ought 
to praise my neighbour on the right, he will be out of order in 
praising me again when he ought rather to be praised by me, and I must 
entreat you to consent to this, and not be jealous, for I have a great 
desire to praise the youth. 

Hurrah! cried Agathon, I will rise instantly, that I may be 
praised by Socrates. 

The usual way, said Alcibiades; where Socrates is, no one else has 
any chance with the fair; and now how readily has he invented a 
specious reason for attracting Agathon to himself. 

Agathon arose in order that he might take his place on the couch 
by Socrates, when suddenly a band of revellers entered, and spoiled 
the order of the banquet. Some one who was going out having left the 
door open, they had found their way in, and made themselves at home; 
great confusion ensued, and every one was compelled to drink large 
quantities of wine. Aristodemus said that Eryximachus, Phaedrus, and 
others went away-he himself fell asleep, and as the nights were long 



took a good rest: he was awakened towards daybreak by a crowing of 
cocks, and when he awoke, the others were either asleep, or had gone 
away; there remained only Socrates, Aristophanes, and Agathon, who 
were drinking out of a large goblet which they passed round, and 
Socrates was discoursing to them. Aristodemus was only half awake, and 
he did not hear the beginning of the discourse; the chief thing 
which he remembered was Socrates compelling the other two to 
acknowledge that the genius of comedy was the same with that of 
tragedy, and that the true artist in tragedy was an artist in comedy 
also. To this they were constrained to assent, being drowsy, and not 
quite following the argument. And first of all Aristophanes dropped 
off, then, when the day was already dawning, Agathon. Socrates, having 
laid them to sleep, rose to depart; Aristodemus, as his manner was, 
following him. At the Lyceum he took a bath, and passed the day as 
usual. In the evening he retired to rest at his own home. 



-THE END-