The Symposium



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Agathon Character Analysis

The historical Agathon was a writer of tragedies, none of which have survived. In Symposium, he is described as a good-looking man in his mid-thirties at the time of the dinner party, which takes place at his house. He is celebrating having won the tragedy competition at the Lenaea, a religious festival, two days before. He was trained in rhetoric by Gorgias, and, like his mentor, he is often criticized for his flowery speech, which Plato ably imitates with Agathon’s speech in Symposium. The gist of his speech is that the god Love contains all good and beautiful things within himself, and though his speech is emotionally appealing, it lacks strong argumentation. Agathon is the “boyfriend” in his relationship with Pausanias.

Agathon Quotes in The Symposium

The The Symposium quotes below are all either spoken by Agathon or refer to Agathon. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Symposium published in 1999.
172a-173e Quotes

As it happens, the other day I was going to the city from my home in Phalerum, and someone I know spotted me from behind and called me from a distance. He said (with playful urgency):

‘Hey, the man from Phalerum! You! Apollodorus, won’t you wait?’

I stopped and waited.

He said, ‘Apollodorus, I’ve just been looking for you to get the full story of the party at Agathon's, when Socrates, Alcibiades and the rest were there for dinner: what did they say in their speeches on love? I had a report from someone who got it from Philip’s son, Phoenix; but he said you knew about it too. He wasn’t able to give an exact report. Please give me your account. Socrates is your friend, and no one has a better right to report his conversations than you. But before you do,’ he added, ‘tell me this: were you at this party yourself or not?’

Related Characters: Apollodorus (speaker), Glaucon (speaker), Socrates, Alcibiades, Agathon, Aristodemus of Cydathenaeum
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:
194a-198a Quotes

So it seems to me, Phaedrus, that Love is himself supreme in beauty and excellence and is responsible for similar qualities in others. […] Love drains us of estrangement and fills us with familiarity, causing us to come together in all shared gatherings like this, and acting as our leader in festival, chorus and sacrifice. He includes mildness and excludes wildness. He is generous of goodwill and ungenerous of ill-will. He is gracious and kindly; gazed on by the wise, admired by the gods; craved by those denied him, treasured by those enjoying him; father of luxury, elegance, delicacy, grace, desire, longing […] For the whole company of gods and humans, most beautiful and best of leaders; every man should follow him singing beautiful hymns of praise, sharing the song he sings to charm the mind of every god and human.

Related Characters: Agathon (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker), Phaedrus
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:
198b-201c Quotes

‘Now try to tell me about love’, he said. ‘Is Love love of nothing or something?’

‘Of something, undoubtedly!’

‘For the moment,’ said Socrates, ‘keep to yourself and bear in mind what love is of. But tell me this much: does Love desire what it is love of or not?’

‘Yes,’ he said.

‘When he desires and loves, does he have in his possession what he desires and loves or not? […] Think about it,’ Socrates said. ‘Surely it’s not just probable but necessary that desire is directed at something you need and that if you don’t need something you don’t desire it? I feel amazingly certain that it is necessary; what do you think?’

‘I think so too,’ said Agathon.

‘That’s right. Now would anyone who was tall want to be tall or anyone who was strong want to be strong?’

‘That’s impossible, according to what we’ve agreed already.’

‘Yes, because no one is in need of qualities he already has.’

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Agathon (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker)
Page Number: 34
Explanation and Analysis:
201d-204c Quotes

‘Now I’ll let you go. I’ll try to restate for you the account of Love that I once heard from a woman from Mantinea called Diotima. She was wise about this and many other things. On one occasion, she enabled the Athenians to delay the plague for ten years by telling them what sacrifices to make. She is also the one who taught me the ways of Love. I’ll report what she said, using as a basis the conclusions I reached with Agathon, but doing it on my own, as far as I can.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker), Diotima of Mantinea, Agathon
Page Number: 37
Explanation and Analysis:
210a-212a Quotes

“When someone goes up by these stages, through loving boys in the correct way, and begins to catch sight of that beauty, he has come close to reaching the goal. This is the right method of approaching the ways of love or being led by someone else: beginning from these beautiful things always to go up with the aim of reaching that beauty. Like someone using a staircase, he should go from one to two and from two to all beautiful bodies, and from beautiful bodies to beautiful practices, and from practices to beautiful forms of learning. From forms of learning, he should end up at that form of learning which is of nothing other than that beauty itself, so that he can complete the process of learning what beauty really is.”

Related Characters: Diotima of Mantinea (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker), Socrates, Agathon, Phaedrus
Related Symbols: Ladder/Staircase/Ascent
Page Number: 49
Explanation and Analysis:
212b-222b Quotes

After Socrates’ speech, Aristodemus said, while the others congratulated him, Aristophanes was trying to make a point, because Socrates had referred to his speech at some stage. Suddenly, there was a loud noise of knocking at the front door, which sounded like revelers, and they heard the voice of a flute-girl.

‘Slaves, go and see who it is,’ Agathon said. ‘If it’s any of my friends, invite them in; if not, tell them the symposium’s over and we’re just now going to bed.’ Not long after, they heard the voice of Alcibiades in the courtyard; he was very drunk and was shouting loudly, asking where Agathon was and demanding to be brought to him. He was brought in, supported by the flute-girl and some of the other people in his group. He stood by the door, wearing a thick garland of ivy and violets, with masses of ribbons trailing over his head…

Related Characters: Agathon (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker), Socrates, Alcibiades, Aristophanes, Aristodemus of Cydathenaeum
Page Number: 50
Explanation and Analysis:
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Agathon Character Timeline in The Symposium

The timeline below shows where the character Agathon appears in The Symposium. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
...conversation with an unnamed companion. His companion has asked him about a dinner party at Agathon’s house, where Socrates and several others made speeches about love. Apollodorus explains that he’s well... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Talking to Glaucon, Apollodorus explains that the dinner party took place after Agathon won a prize for the first tragedy he had written. Apollodorus heard about the party... (full context)
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
...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.  (full context)
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... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
When Agathon starts his speech, he says that he will depart from his predecessors by speaking not... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
In short, Agathon concludes, Love is “himself supreme in beauty and excellence” and brings about the same qualities... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
Socrates agrees that Agathon’s speech was filled with beautiful phrasing and says that it reminds him of the famed... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Socrates begins his speech by questioning Agathon on some of the points he made. First he asks Agathon, “Is it Love’s nature... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Next Socrates questions Agathon about his claim that love is beautiful. If the affairs of the gods are “organized... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Inferiority of Women Theme Icon
Socrates turns from his dialogue with Agathon to an account of Love he received from a wise woman called Diotima of Mantinea.... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
...the ribbons he’s wearing, which are blocking his vision. When he gives his garland to Agathon and notices Socrates, he says that Socrates has once again been lying in wait for... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
...says that he fell asleep, and when he awoke the next morning, he saw Socrates, Agathon, and Aristophanes still drinking and discussing. After the other two drifted off to sleep, Socrates... (full context)