Plato, Symposium (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Pl. Symp.].
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208blike the divine, but by replacing what goes off or is antiquated with something fresh, in the semblance of the original. Through this device, Socrates, a mortal thing partakes of immortality, both in its body and in all other respects; by no other means can it be done. So do not wonder if everything naturally values its own offshoot; since all are beset by this eagerness and this love with a view to immortality.’

“On hearing this argument I wondered, and said: 208c‘Really, can this in truth be so, most wise Diotima?’

“Whereat she, like the professors in their glory: ‘Be certain of it, Socrates; only glance at the ambition of the men around you, and you will have to wonder at the unreasonableness of what I have told you, unless you are careful to consider how singularly they are affected with the love of winning a name, “and laying up fame immortal for all time to come.” [Note] For this, even more than for their children, they are ready to run all risks, 208dto expend money, perform any kind of task, and sacrifice their lives. Do you suppose,’ she asked, ‘that Alcestis would have died for Admetus, or Achilles have sought death on the corpse of Patroclus, or your own Codrus [Note] have welcomed it to save the children of his queen, if they had not expected to win “a deathless memory for valor,” which now we keep? Of course not. I hold it is for immortal distinction and 208efor such illustrious renown as this that they all do all they can, and so much the more in proportion to their excellence. They are in love with what is immortal. Now those who are teeming in body betake them rather to women, and are amorous on this wise: by getting children they acquire an immortality, a memorial, and a state of bliss, which in their imagining they “for all succeeding time procure.” 209aBut pregnancy of soul—for there are persons,’ she declared, ‘who in their souls still more than in their bodies conceive those things which are proper for soul to conceive and bring forth; and what are those things? Prudence, and virtue in general; and of these the begetters are all the poets and those craftsmen who are styled “inventors.” Now by far the highest and fairest part of prudence is that which concerns the regulation of cities and habitations; it is called sobriety 209band justice. So when a man's soul is so far divine that it is made pregnant with these from his youth, and on attaining manhood immediately desires to bring forth and beget, he too, I imagine, goes about seeking the beautiful object whereon he may do his begetting, since he will never beget upon the ugly. Hence it is the beautiful rather than the ugly bodies that he welcomes in his pregnancy, and if he chances also on a soul that is fair and noble and well-endowed, he gladly cherishes the two combined in one; and straightway in addressing such a person he is resourceful in discoursing of virtue and of what should be 209cthe good man's character and what his pursuits; and so he takes in hand the other's education. For I hold that by contact with the fair one and by consorting with him he bears and brings forth his long-felt conception, because in presence or absence he remembers his fair. Equally too with him he shares the nurturing of what is begotten, so that men in this condition enjoy a far fuller community with each other than that which comes with children, and a far surer friendship, since the children of their union are fairer and more deathless. Every one would choose to have got children such as these rather than the human sort— 209dmerely from turning a glance upon Homer and Hesiod and all the other good poets, and envying the fine offspring they leave behind to procure them a glory immortally renewed in the memory of men. Or only look,’ she said, ‘at the fine children whom Lycurgus [Note] left behind him in Lacedaemon to deliver his country and—I may almost say—the whole of Greece; while Solon is highly esteemed among you for begetting his laws; and so are 209ediverse men in diverse other regions, whether among the Greeks or among foreign peoples, for the number of goodly deeds shown forth in them, the manifold virtues they begot. In their name has many a shrine been reared because of their fine children; whereas for the human sort never any man obtained this honor.

“‘Into these love-matters even you, Socrates, might haply be initiated; 210abut I doubt if you could approach the rites and revelations to which these, for the properly instructed, are merely the avenue. However I will speak of them,’ she said, ‘and will not stint my best endeavors; only you on your part must try your best to follow. He who would proceed rightly in this business must not merely begin from his youth to encounter beautiful bodies. In the first place, indeed, if his conductor guides him aright, he must be in love with one particular body, and engender beautiful converse therein; 210bbut next he must remark how the beauty attached to this or that body is cognate to that which is attached to any other, and that if he means to ensue beauty in form, it is gross folly not to regard as one and the same the beauty belonging to all; and so, having grasped this truth, he must make himself a lover of all beautiful bodies, and slacken the stress of his feeling for one by contemning it and counting it a trifle. But his next advance will be to set a higher value on the beauty of souls than on that of the body, so that however little the grace that may bloom in any likely soul



Plato, Symposium (English) (XML Header) [genre: prose] [word count] [Pl. Symp.].
<<Pl. Symp. 207a Pl. Symp. 209a (Greek) >>Pl. Symp. 211b

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