Symposium by Plato

Pederasty Without Sexual Relations

Modern critics are quick to assert that Socrates failed in his role as a teacher to Alcibiades by refusing to engage in sexual relations. Upon closer investigation of both the traditional form and Socrates' own revised form of pederasty, the reasoning behind the lack of sexual activity is gleaned. In classical Athens, the traditional, established form of pederasty had a complex interchange between lover and beloved that involved predetermined exchanges among the two parties. As the relationship between Socrates and Alcibiades deviated from the normal model, it followed that the two were not forced to play within the traditional guidelines and, thus, sexual gratification was unnecessary. When investigating the relationship of Socrates and Alcibiades through the microscope of Socrates' own reformed model of pederasty, the absence of sexual relations is, again, unsurprising. Socratic pederasty had less to do with the exchange of knowledge for sexual gratification and more to do with the achievement and enrichment of beauty through the education and observance of a youthful beauty, here, Alcibiades. Plato's Symposium provides one with speeches made by dinner guests in classical Athens, most especially speeches made by...

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