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The Symposium (Penguin Classics) Paperback – April 29, 2003


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Product Details

  • Series: Penguin Classics
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (April 29, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140449272
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140449273
  • Product Dimensions: 7.8 x 5.1 x 0.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 0.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #11,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

About the Author

Plato (c. 427–347 b.c.) founded the Academy in Athens, the prototype of all Western universities, and wrote more than twenty philosophical dialogues.


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A must read for fans of classics!
Ritesh Laud
It's a great translation and there's a lot of supplemental material here to help the reader understand the text a bit more, which is always helpful.
D. Avery
Plato's Symposium describes a drinking party where Socrates and his acquaintances try to define love.
Israel Drazin

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Hollie P. Domingue on September 12, 2005
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
"The Symposium" is one of those books that everyone should read. In it, Plato explores, through a series of speeches, the nature and origins of love and passion. However, the Penguin edition fails to clearly distinguish when one speech begins and one ends. It will be confusing for students studying this work to reference a certain speech; however, the "paragraph markers" in the text are helpful. Also, the text incorporates "end notes," but for lay readers of Greek Literature, footnotes may be more useful.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Ritesh Laud on September 30, 2008
Format: Paperback
I've read quite a few pieces of ancient Roman & Greek literature and each time I come away greatly surprised at how these 2000 to 3000-year old cultures were so similar to ours in many ways. Well, Plato's somewhat short dialogue "The Symposium" both re-affirms and counters these past impressions.

"The Symposium" investigates the nature of romantic Love. What is it? From where does it arise? What is the aim of Love? What does it accomplish?

On the one hand, this dialogue asks questions that people today still can't really answer. Modern readers should be able to relate very well to these aspects of the dialogue. It should be noted that most of the viewpoints and opinions presented through several speeches in the dialogue make some sort of sense, but only when Love is thought of as a sentient being that can influence a person's thoughts and actions. Most of us today have been schooled in science and don't perceive Love as a separate entity but rather as a mental condition springing from somewhere in the brain. But overall, the speeches are easy to relate to in the sense of scrutinizing the fundamental nature of Love.

However, where "The Symposium" evinces stark differences with modern culture is with respect to homo-eroticism. So many references are made to homosexuality (including one embarassingly revealing anecdote by Alcibiades about his lover Socrates) that if we consider Plato's work to be representative of the time, then we have to believe that many, if not most, highly educated men in ancient Athens were essentially homosexuals whose relations with their wives were limited to providing for them and fathering children by them. The most convincing support for this is in Aristophanes' and Alcibiades' speeches.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By J. T. Ormsbee on February 26, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition
The kindle version is NOT the Penguin Edition that it claims to be. Rather, you get the IndyPublishers edition translated by Benjamin Jowett. Amazon needs to correct this error. If you care about the translation and publisher, do not buy this.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Ashutosh Dixit on December 21, 2010
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This review is for the Kindle edition of what is supposedly the Christopher Gill translation of Plato's Symposium. However it turns out if you download it that it is the same as the Benjamin Jowett translation which is available for free, whereas here you have to pay upwards of $8 for it. I also checked Penguin Classics web site and they do not indicate that a eBook version of this book is available. So be careful when purchasing the Kindle edition. I had to return my purchase for this Kindle book.
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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Sarakani on August 23, 2005
Format: Paperback
We all like to chat about romance around a dinner table but what is romance and love all about? Well, Symposium is one of the most serious discussions about this issue datable to the 5th century BCE. At that time, Greeks at dinner parties used to sprawl themselves on couches with food and wine and a little music, be ministered by slaves and while eating or after have a spirited conversation/discussion. Well this "soire" takes place with Socrates, and its details are related second hand by the author Plato.

As translations go, this particular issue is one of the best on the market and the author had discussed it's details with a Kabbalist teacher of mine Glynn Davies. A translation is dependent to a greater or lesser extent on the author's appreciation and interpretation of the sorts of contents involved - and this translation is pretty current. There is a good introduction about the characters, especially Alcibiades and Xenophon who were real people from the time.

I think this book is a wonderful evocation of deep thinking from the Greek world starting with sensual love and then going on to describe a sort of spiritual love that subverts our expectations of what we would understand by Love personified as a deity. Socrates is in the beginning seen to enter into a meditational reverie which probably indicates that some such sages did meditate as in Indian traditions in order to obtain wisdom. Later, Socrates recounts the wisdom transmitted by an Oracle called Diotima (almost as if to say, "this is not what I think (though it is actually) but it was conveyed to me as follows by this trustworthy source".

Some of your friends should appreciate the wisdom of this book.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Sam Quixote TOP 1000 REVIEWER on May 18, 2010
Format: Paperback
I'm not a philosophy or ancient history student, I picked up Plato's "Symposium" to challenge myself and see if I could understand it. The "Symposium" is a gathering of Greek thinkers who sit around and give speeches about love.

Phaedrus talks about the greatness of love and how those who have it achieve great things. Pausanias talks of the merits of boy/man love where the boy pleasures the man while the man passes on his wisdom to the boy and that this is the best kind of love, not the lesser lover of procreation between man and woman. Eryximachus talks about how love is the source of all happiness. Aristophanes talks about how once upon a time there was no man or woman but a single human who had both sexes' characteristics. These creatures tried to scale the heavens and so Zeus cut them in half and ever since then man and woman have sought to create that single creature again. Socrates talks about his teacher Diotima and how she taught him that love was the only way human beings could be immortal.

"The Symposium" is a short read not to be rushed as there are some fascinating ideas here. Not new ones though but ones that have influenced western culture and thought for centuries. Aristophanes' and Diotima's especially are ideas I've come across before but didn't know they originated in this text. It's also very pro-pederasty which I thought was amusing and can see why some people might have thought Plato was a closet homosexual. Those Greeks certainly were liberated though.

It's an accesible and interesting little book though this Penguin Great Ideas edition features no notes, contextual history, introduction, glossary, reading list, etc which the Penguin Classics edition does so if you're studying this text I'd get that edition rather than this one.
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