Re: "malakoi" in SYMPOSIUM

From: Carl W. Conrad (
Date: Thu Sep 19 1996 - 11:32:50 EDT

At 9:14 AM -0500 9/19/96, Greg Carey wrote:
>To be honest, I don't own a Greek text of the SYMPOSIUM, and I don't have
>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
>expression. There are Pausianus and Agathon, who have a longterm
>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
>is a turning point in the SYMPOSIUM. Finally, I'd point out Phaedras'
>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
>who know the Greek literature much better than I do.

For what my opinion is worth, I think these suggestions are eminently
sensible, and I'm happy to see the Symposium of Plato being dealt with
honestly and seriously here--it's one of the most magnificent and important
pieces of Greek literature, and apart from the Greek text with which we are
more directly concerned on this list, it is probably the most important
discussion of love written in Greek. And it certainly extends far beyond
homoeroticism, which really functions only as a launching pad for a topic
far greater and of the widest embrace (to speak in Platonic terms, that is).

Carl W. Conrad
Department of Classics, Washington University
One Brookings Drive, St. Louis, MO, USA 63130
(314) 935-4018 OR

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