The Symposium

by

Plato

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Diotima of Mantinea Character Analysis

Diotima is a fictitious prophetess whom Socrates invents in his speech at the symposium. He portrays her as having initiated him into the higher mysteries of Eros through a dialectical discussion. Through the metaphor of a ladder of ascent, she teaches Socrates that love is the search for immortality through the vision of the form of Beauty. Diotima is the only woman in the dialogue who is shown to have any intellectual value, but her status as a prophetess also suggests that no mortal woman could compare to her wisdom.

Diotima of Mantinea Quotes in The Symposium

The The Symposium quotes below are all either spoken by Diotima of Mantinea or refer to Diotima of Mantinea. 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.
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:

“So how could he be a god if he is not in possession of beautiful and good things?”

“That’s impossible, as it seems.”

“Do you see, then,” she said, “ that you don’t believe Love is a god?”

“But what could Love be?” I said. “A mortal?”

“Far from it.”

“What then?”

“Like those examples discussed earlier,” she said, “he’s between mortal and immortal.”

“What does that make him, Diotima?”

“He is a great spirit, Socrates. Everything classed as a spirit falls between god and human.”

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Diotima of Mantinea (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker)
Page Number: 38
Explanation and Analysis:

“Because he is the son of Resource and Poverty, Love’s situation is like this. First of all, he’s always poor; far from being sensitive and beautiful, as is commonly supposed, he's tough, with hardened skin, without shoes or home. He always sleeps rough, on the ground, with no bed, lying in doorways and by roads in the open air; sharing his mother’s nature, he always lives in a state of need. On the other hand, taking after his father, he schemes to get hold of beautiful and good things. He’s brave, impetuous and intense; a formidable hunter, always weaving tricks; he desires knowledge and is resourceful in getting it; a lifelong lover of wisdom; clever at using magic, drugs and sophistry.”

Related Characters: Diotima of Mantinea (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker), Socrates
Page Number: 39
Explanation and Analysis:

“Who are the lovers of wisdom, Diotima,” I asked, “ if they are neither the wise nor the ignorant?”

“Even a child,” she said, “would realize by now that it is those who fall between these two, and that Love is one of them. Wisdom is one of the most beautiful things, and Love is love of beauty. So Love must necessarily be a lover of wisdom; and as a lover of wisdom he falls between wisdom and ignorance. Again the reason for this is his origin: his father is wise and resourceful while his mother has neither quality. So this is the nature of the spirit of Love, my dear Socrates. But it’s not at all surprising that you took the view of Love you did. To judge from what you said, I think you saw Love as the object of love instead of the lover: that’s why you imagined that Love is totally beautiful. But in fact beauty, elegance, perfection and blessedness are characteristic of the object that deserves to be loved, while the lover has a quite different character, which I have described.”

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Diotima of Mantinea (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker)
Page Number: 40
Explanation and Analysis:
204d-209e Quotes

“The idea has been put forward,” she said, “that lovers are people who are looking for their own other halves. But my view is that love is directed neither at their half nor their whole unless, my friend, that turns out to be good. After all, people are even prepared to have their own feet or hands amputated if they think that those parts of themselves are diseased. I don’t think that each of us is attached to his own characteristics, unless you’re going to describe the good as ‘his own’ and as ‘what belongs to him,’ and the bad as ‘what does not belong to him.’ The point is that the only object of people’s love is the good — don’t you agree?”

“By Zeus, I do!” I said.

Related Characters: Socrates (speaker), Diotima of Mantinea (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker), Aristophanes
Page Number: 42
Explanation and Analysis:

“Men who are pregnant in body,” she said, “are drawn more towards women; they express their love in trying to obtain for themselves immortality and remembrance and what they take to be happiness forever by producing children. Men who are pregnant in mind - there are some,” she said, “who are even more pregnant in their minds than in their bodies, and are pregnant with what it is suitable for a mind to bear and bring to birth. So what is suitable? Wisdom and other kinds of virtue: these are brought to birth by all the poets and by those craftsmen who are said to be innovative.”

Related Characters: Diotima of Mantinea (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker), Socrates
Page Number: 46
Explanation and Analysis:

People like that have a much closer partnership with each other and a stronger bond of friendship than parents have, because the children of their partnership are more beautiful and more immortal. Everyone would prefer to have children like that rather than human ones. People look enviously at Homer and Hesiod and other good poets, because of the kind of children they have left behind them, which provide them with immortal fame and remembrance by being immortal themselves. Or take,” she said, “the children that Lycurgus left in Sparta to provide security to Sparta and, you might say, to Greece as a whole. Solon is also respected by you Athenians for the laws he fathered; and other men, in very different places, in Greece and other countries, have exhibited many fine achievements and generated virtue of every type. Many cults have been set up to honor these men as a result of children of that kind, but this has never happened as a result of human children.

Related Characters: Diotima of Mantinea (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker), Socrates
Page Number: 47
Explanation and Analysis:
210a-212a Quotes

Looking now at beauty in general and not just at individual instances, he will no longer be slavishly attached to the beauty of a boy, or of any particular person at all, or of a specific practice. Instead of this low and small-minded slavery, he will be turned towards the great sea of beauty and gazing on it he’ll give birth, through a boundless love of knowledge, to many beautiful and magnificent discourses and ideas. At last, when he has been developed and strengthened in this way, he catches sight of one special type of knowledge, whose object is the kind of beauty I shall now describe…

Related Characters: Diotima of Mantinea (speaker), Apollodorus (speaker), Socrates
Related Symbols: Ladder/Staircase/Ascent
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

“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:
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Diotima of Mantinea Character Timeline in The Symposium

The timeline below shows where the character Diotima of Mantinea appears in The Symposium. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
201d-204c
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Inferiority of Women Theme Icon
...dialogue with Agathon to an account of Love he received from a wise woman called Diotima of Mantinea. He says that he had once had a dialogue with Diotima in which... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
If Love isn’t beautiful, Socrates asks, then does that mean that Love is necessarily ugly? Diotima calls this idea blasphemous. She points out that there’s something between wisdom and ignorance—it’s “having... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Diotima next demonstrates that Love isn’t actually a great god. This is shown by the fact... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
...is one of many different such daimones, or spirits. When Socrates asks about Love’s origin, Diotima tells him a myth. After the birth of Aphrodite, the other gods, including Resource, were... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
As the son of Resource and Poverty, Diotima explains, Love is always poor. Far from being beautiful, “he's tough, with hardened skin, without... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Socrates wonders who “lovers of wisdom” can be, if they’re neither wise nor ignorant. Diotima explains that it’s simply someone, like Love, who falls between wisdom and ignorance: “Wisdom is... (full context)
204d-209e
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Now that they’ve dealt with Love’s origin and birth and Love’s love of beautiful things, Diotima turns to the question of what exactly the lover of beautiful or good things desires.... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Diotima addresses the idea that lovers are people who are seeking their other halves. She rejects... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
If this is love’s goal, Diotima goes on, then in what way must people pursue it? In other words, what is... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Diotima explains that the object of love isn’t simply beauty, but “reproduction and birth in beauty.”... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Diotima and Socrates discuss the ways of love among animals as well as humans. All mortal... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Inferiority of Women Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Diotima goes on to explain that men who are “pregnant in body” are drawn towards women.... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Diotima says that when a man who is “pregnant” in this way from his youth reaches... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Inferiority of Women Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Diotima says that men who’ve created and raised a “child” in this way enjoy a closer... (full context)
210a-212a
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Diotima says that perhaps even Socrates could “be initiated in the rites of love I’ve described... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Next, Diotima explains, a man should realize that the beauty of one body is closely related to... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
After he has begun to see the beauty in practices, Diotima says, a man should start to see the beauty in forms of knowledge. As he... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Diotima, reaching the pinnacle of her “ladder,” explains that a man will now “reach the goal... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Once someone has progressed through these stages and caught sight of beauty’s ultimate form, Diotima explains, he’s close to attaining his goal. She summarizes once again the ladder of ascent... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
Sobriety, Restraint, and Wisdom Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Diotima tells Socrates that this is the form of human life that ought to be lived:... (full context)
The Nature of Love Theme Icon
The Ascent to Immortality Theme Icon
Socrates wraps up what Diotima taught him and so concludes his speech. He says that he’s convinced of Diotima’s teaching,... (full context)