Symposium by Plato

Literary form

The Symposium was written as a dramatic dialogue - a form used by Plato in more than thirty works - and, according to Walter Hamilton, it is his most perfect one. Set in Athenian social life, it develops the themes of love and also of Socrates' character. There is little doubt that the content of the dialogue is fictitious, although Plato has built a very realistic atmosphere.[3]

Andrew Dalby considers the opening pages of the Symposium the best description in any ancient Greek source of the ramifications of an oral tradition.[4] Plato has set up a multitude of layers between the original symposium and his written narrative: he heard it fourth-hand (if we are to identify him with Apollodorus's friend), so it comes to the written text fifth-hand. In addition, the story Socrates narrates was told to Socrates by Diotima, creating one more layer between the reader and the philosophic path that Socrates traces. Nevertheless, Dalby is eager to add that he does not think the rendering of the discussion by Plato is historically accurate, and considers that the content is in great part his invention. Other scholars, like Walter Hamilton, agree with this view.[3]

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