Socrates’ Philosophy of Love Inspired by Diotima, Princess, Priestess and Philosopher

Socrates’ Philosophy of Love Inspired by Diotima, Princess, Priestess and Philosopher

Symposium, Plato’s philosophical text dated at circa 385 to 370 BC, depicts a friendly contest of speeches delivered by a group of notable men attending a banquet. During the discussion, Socrates mentions that, in his youth, he was taught ‘the philosophy of love’ by a woman named Diotima, a priestess from Mantinea. Socrates also claims that Diotima delayed the Plague of Athens, an epidemic that devastated the city-state of Athens in ancient Greece during the second year of the Peloponnesian War (430 BC). Apart from these little facts, not much is mentioned about Diotima as a person.

The Symposium (Second Version) by Anselm Feuerbach  (1829–1880)(Public Domain)

The Symposium (Second Version) by Anselm Feuerbach  (1829–1880)(Public Domain)

Diotima, Originator of Platonic Love

Despite these little bits of information, Diotima played an important role in the Symposium without even having attended the banquet. She taught Socrates the concept of love as a means of ascent to contemplation of the divine, arguing that the goal of love is immortality, either through the creation of children or beautiful things. The concept of Platonic love, an affection that is not based in bodily pleasure, which has been familiar to us for thousands of years, was derived from this argument.


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