The Symposium

by

Plato

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Alcibiades is a notorious figure, both historically and within Symposium. Historically, Alcibiades betrayed Athens more than once and was exiled, then recalled from exile in 407 B.C. because he was the only person thought capable of helping struggling Athens defeat Sparta in the last years of the Peloponnesian War. However, he was subsequently rejected and murdered at the conclusion of that war, though the exact circumstances of his death are uncertain. At the time Symposium is set, Alcibiades would have been in his thirties. In Plato’s dialogue, he stumbles drunkenly into the party after the rest of the speeches have already been given and offers a eulogy of Socrates, who is his lover. Though Alcibiades is baffled by Socrates’s way of life and fails to follow it himself, Alcibiades nonetheless professes his helpless love for Socrates, and his speech paints Socrates as an ideal philosopher.

Alcibiades Quotes in The Symposium

The The Symposium quotes below are all either spoken by Alcibiades or refer to Alcibiades. 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:
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:

“You’ve all shared the madness and Bacchic frenzy of philosophy, and so you will all hear what I have to say … But you, house-slaves, and any other crude uninitiates, put big doors on your ears!

‘So, gentlemen, when the lamp was out and the slaves had left the room, I decided I shouldn’t beat about the bush but tell him openly what I had in mind. I gave him a push and said, “ Socrates, are you asleep?”

“Not at all,” he said.

…“I think,” I said, “you’re the only lover I’ve ever had who’s good enough for me, but you seem to be too shy to talk about it to me. I’ll tell you how I feel about this. I think I’d be very foolish not to gratify you in this … Nothing is more important to me than becoming as good a person as possible, and I don’t think anyone can help me more effectively than you can in reaching this aim. I’d be far more ashamed of what sensible people would think if I failed to gratify someone like you than of what ordinary, foolish people would think if I did.’”

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Alcibiades (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker)
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:
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Alcibiades Character Timeline in The Symposium

The timeline below shows where the character Alcibiades appears in The Symposium. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
212b-222b
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Inferiority of Women Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
...the door, the sound of revelers, and the noise of a flute-girl. Soon they hear Alcibiades’s drunken voice in the courtyard, and Alcibiades is led in, wearing a garland on his... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
Alcibiades asks if he’s allowed to join the party, even though he’s very drunk, and promises... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Alcibiades ties some of his ribbons on Socrates. Then he “elects” himself master of ceremonies for... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
Eryximachus explains that evening’s activity of giving eulogies in praise of love. Alcibiades ends up deciding to eulogize Socrates instead, telling the truth about his peculiarities. He compares... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Alcibiades says that anyone who hears Socrates speak or hears his words reported is spellbound by... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Warming to his subject, Alcibiades continues that Socrates is “erotically attracted to beautiful boys,” but if you were able to... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Alcibiades was once so impressed by Socrates’s golden speech that he figured that if he gratified... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Sometime after this, Alcibiades and Socrates served together on an Athenian battle campaign. Alcibiades claims that Socrates endured the... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Alcibiades concludes that Socrates is “like no other human being, either of the past or the... (full context)
222c-223d
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
After Alcibiades has finished his speech, there’s some joking about his apparent love for Socrates, as well... (full context)