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The Symposium (Penguin Classics) Penguin Classics Edition

20 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0140446166
ISBN-10: 0140446168
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Editorial Reviews


'This commentary ... does three things superbly. It explains Plato's Greek punctiliously, especially the less familiar constructions, particles, and words that are often loosely or wrongly translated. With a razor's sharpness it cuts through sloppy or faulty logic in Plato's Greek. And it provides the necessary background material, whether historical, literary, sexual, or social.' Greece & Rome

' ... few books can have given in three pages so informative and at the same time so provocative an account of Plato's philosophy.' The Times Educational Supplement

'This is a tight-packed, authoritative, but readable edition.' J.A.C.T. Bulletin --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Language Notes

Text: English (translation)
Original Language: Greek

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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Penguin Classics edition (October 1, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140446168
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140446166
  • Product Dimensions: 5 x 0.4 x 7.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #977,551 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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19 of 22 people found the following review helpful By J. C. Woods on March 21, 2000
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There are three good commentaries I know of on the Symposium. There is Rosen's, whose virtue is scholarly depth. Allen's, which unlike Rosen's, is good as an introduction and for those who simply want to enjoy the Symposium without getting entangled in scholarship. Finally there is this one, whose primary virtue is as a commentary of the Greek. This book, unlike Allen's, contains no English translation. If you want to read Symposium in Greek and need help or if you want to look up various terms in Greek, this is the book for you. If, on the other hand, you don't read Greek, or are uninterested in Greek there is a high likelihood you will be disappointed by this book.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful By mp on November 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
Plato's "Symposium" will always be read because there will always be people who question the nature of Love. Agathon's dinner party is the scene of a conversation between a small group of men, who go around the table offering their views on Love. What does Love mean to us to-day? Reading over the responses of the dinner-guests and their host, we find the same range of answers in Ancient Greece that we are likely to find now.
Phaedrus and Pausanias are utilitarians and materialists. Phaedrus looks at love between people and a proto-Burkean love for government and state. Pausanias complicates the argument, saying that there are two different kinds of love, one which is common and one which is heavenly - yet still oriented towards the real and the tangible. Eryximachus is a proto-Swedenborg, trying to reconcile or harmonize the two kinds of love.
The jewels of Plato's "Symposium" are Aristophanes and Socrates. Aristophanes gives us the profoundly moving depiction of Love as a fundamental human need, a desire for completion. For a writer of comedy, whose aim as an art form is forgiveness and acceptance, Aristophanes's explanation is no surprise, though its depth is amazing. While women are generally discounted throughout the "Symposium," not only does Socrates, as we might expect, completely astound his audience (both inside the book and out) with his progressively logical and ascendant view of Love, but he also does it through the voice of a woman, Diotima. When we realize that Socrates is a character in this fiction, and that his words originate in a woman, the egalitarianism and wisdom of Plato the author truly shines forth, like the absolute beauty he claims as the ultimate goal of Love.
Was Plato a feminist? I don't know.
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Quintus Rex on November 26, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is perhaps the most enjoyable of Plato's dialogues, and one of the most enduring.
Plato imagines his mentor Socrates, the comic playwright Aristophanes, and other Athenian luminaries of the Golden Age met for a dinner party and a night of discussion on the nature of love. The various guests present their positions in manners ranging from thoughtful to hilarious, but all of this is but an appetizer for the main course: Socrates' concept of Eros as the fuel for the soul's ascent to the Divine, as revealed in Socrates' reminiscence of his own mentor, Diotima, the woman of Mantinea. At the end, a drunken Alcibiades breaks in upon the festivities to reveal Socrates as an avatar of the very divine Eros which he praises.
Robin Waterfield's Oxford translation is one of the best. He captures each speaker's individual idiom, a major translational feat in itself. That he is able to do so and also render the text into lucid modern English is a further coup. The Oxford edition also includes an extensive introduction, very helpful notes, and a complete bibliography.
The Symposium is great philosophy, great literature, an intimate peek at the social life of one of western civilization's formative eras, a work of spiritual inspiration and transformation, and, not least, a wonderful read. Most highly recommended!
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Captain Cook on July 24, 2000
Format: Paperback
A special mood is induced by reading Plato, the product of an elite society whose ideal was leisurely contemplation. Indeed, it is an activity that seems to clash at every point with our own unreflective society whose thought currency is minted in soundbites and advertising slogans. People are not encouraged to be philosophical nowadays, so it is mainly the resort of the antisocial and the willfully eccentric who are in this way enabled to look down on the 'crude, vulgar masses.' Who, reading a book of Plato's, hasn't felt something of this pleasure?
If there is one book by Plato that can be considered to have a more mainstream appeal then it must surely be "The Symposium." The subject of love is of interest to us all and worthy of investigation as behind this word, perhaps the most overstretched in our language, there are so many possible meanings.
With this book we are able to eavesdrop on an after dinner party conversation by some truly great minds. As always, Plato is happy to present more than one view. Of course, the shocking point for the mainstream modern reader is that most of the discussion concerns homosexual love, nevertheless much of what is said can also be applied to many heterosexual situations.
Among the participants presented with perhaps some semblance to their original characters, are the great Athenian comic playwright, Aristophanes, and, towards the end, the party is enlivened by the arrival of the controversial Alcibiades, possibly the most brilliant statesman and soldier of his generation. It is through him and his confession of attempted seduction that we learn a great many details about Plato's mentor, Socrates.
The translator, Christopher Gill, succeeds in presenting the chain of argument in a clear, lucid style, further supplemented by a fine, lengthy introduction and copious notes for those unfamiliar with late fifth century BC Greece.
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