"malakoi" in SYMPOSIUM

Greg Carey (CAREY@rhodes.edu)
Thu, 19 Sep 1996 09:14:55 -0500 (CDT)

To be honest, I don't own a Greek text of the SYMPOSIUM, and I don't have time
to make a library trip over it, so I can't be particularly helpful on the
lexical issues for that text. I'll defer to the many of you who know this
material better than I do.

My point about the SYMPOSIUM was simply that it displays a range of homoerotic
expression. There are Pausianus and Agathon, who have a longterm relationship
and share a household, and there's Pausianus' speech that enjoins young men to
"test" their adult lovers' virtue. There's nothing wrong with gratifying a
lover on account of virtue, he says (185b). In addition, Socrates is known for
chasing the attractive Alcibiades (213b-d; cf. PROTAGORAS 309a), whose entrance
is a turning point in the SYMPOSIUM. Finally, I'd point out Phaedras' speech,
which argues that lovers make one another brave (178-79).

So...what I'm suggesting is that the SYMPOSIUM indicates appropriate and
inappropriate forms of homoeroticism. It's okay for boys to let men persue
them, but only within limits--if the man is suitable. I would imagine that to
be open to many advances is what would make a boy MALAKOS. And it's okay for
two men to share a mutual relationship, but probably not okay for one man to be
a "pathic" (new word for me) partner to his equal. That too might make one
MALAKOS. And being MALAKOS would not do what Phaedras suggests--instill
bravery in one's lover.

I'd love to hear whether these suggestions make sense to our senior colleagues,
who know the Greek literature much better than I do.

Greg Carey
Department of Religious Studies
Rhodes College
Memphis TN 38112 USA