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Plato’s Symposium dates circa 385-370 BC and it is viewed as one of Plato’s major works, both for the philosophy it expounds and its literary merit.
The symposium takes place at a party in the home of the poet Agathon, in Athens in 416 BC, at which honorable Athenian intellectuals –including the philosopher Socrates, the comic playwright Aristophanes, the general Alcibiades and many others– each deliver a short speech in praise of Eros, the god of love and desire. A collection of different perspectives on love is presented by the participants including that Eros is able to inspire men to unimaginable heights of courage, righteous acts and nobility in the face of death.
The sequence of these speeches culminates in Socrates, who, through the words of the wise priestess Diotima, expresses his views on love. She told Socrates that Eros, rather than being a god, is a spirit. Love is the desire for beauty and wisdom. The greatest knowledge is knowledge of the “form of beauty”, which humans must try to achieve. Love is viewed as the gradual ascent toward the absolute Beauty.