The Symposium

by

Plato

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The Symposium: 174a-177e Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrative now shifts to Aristodemus’s point of view. When Aristodemus comes across Socrates, he sees that Socrates has bathed and put on sandals, “things [Socrates hardly ever did.” He asks Socrates where he’s headed, and Socrates explains that he’s going to the dinner party at Agathon’s. Aristodemus agrees to come along, even though he wasn’t invited. 
The fact that Socrates doesn’t normally take full baths and goes around barefoot indicates his restrained, philosophical way of life.
Themes
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
As Aristodemus and Socrates continue on their way to Agathon’s, Socrates keeps dropping behind. He tells Aristodemus to go ahead, which means that Aristodemus arrives at the party first, uninvited. Agathon is glad to see him, though, and explains that he couldn’t find him when he tried to invite him the day before. A household slave reports that Socrates is standing in a neighbor’s porch and won’t come in. Aristodemus explains that this is one of Socrates’s habits—“he goes off and stands still wherever he happens to be.”
Aristodemus is placed in a socially awkward position when Socrates lags behind. Socrates’s seemingly distracted habit suggests that he’s constantly thinking about philosophy and that social conventions are decidedly secondary for him.
Themes
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
Socrates eventually joins them at dinner. After the meal, they perform the “customary rituals,” such as pouring libations and singing a hymn. Then they discuss how they will approach that evening’s drinking. Pausanias says he’s still recovering from the previous day’s drinking and hopes they’ll find an “undemanding” approach. The other guests agree, though Eryximachus points out that they don’t have to account for Socrates, since “he can drink or not drink, so it’ll suit him whatever we do.”
The symposium was a ritual event, and determining the amount and strength of the wine to be drunk was a key element of such a gathering. The other guests’ exhaustion from earlier drinking contrasts with Socrates, who can drink as much as he likes without getting drunk, which seems to be part of his overall philosophical strength and lack of vulnerability to the passions that trouble others.
Themes
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Related Quotes
They agree that each man should drink as much as he wants and no more. Eryximachus suggests that they send away the flute-girl, so that they can spend the evening in discussion. Then he proposes the topic for their discussion. Drawing on a previous conversation with Phaedrus, he says that no one has ever composed a eulogy for the ancient and important god Love (eros). Therefore each of the men should offer the finest speech he can in praise of love. They all agree.
The flute-girl, a courtesan, normally would have stayed at the party to serve and flirt with the men. Her dismissal signals that this evening will be centered much more on intellectual discussion than flirtation. Since women were viewed is irrational, they wouldn’t be necessary to the proceedings; they would be an impediment, in fact.
Themes
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Inferiority of Women Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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