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Eros Case

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Eros is a prominent theme in many texts from ancient Greece, such as Plato's Symposium and Euripides' Medea. Although both texts involve eros, the ways that it is presented are completely different. The Symposium is filled with multiple speeches that present various ideas about what eros is and where it originated. Phaedrus, Pausanias, Socrates, and Alcibiades talk about their different beliefs. However, all of the speeches contain male on male love in the form of an erastes and eromenos. Medea is structured much differently than the Symposium, not only in how the information about eros is presented, but the messages that comes across with it. Although these two texts were written almost a hundred years apart, they act together as a guideline and cautionary tale about eros.

The Symposium gives the reader an insight on what was important, in regards to eros, to the men during this time period. A very prominent outlook throughout the book, is that eros, in its highest form, is between two males. Between the two males, there is an older, dominant figure, the erastes, and the younger, more submissive partner, the eromenos. Pausanias claims "that there is no greater benefit for a young man than a good lover and none greater for a lover than a good boyfriend" (Plato 178c). This coincides with the statement that the highest form of eros is between two males. There is a notion that women are only there to reproduce, but that this is the lower form of pregnancy. Socrates tells the story about Diotima and how she tells him about men who are pregnant is body and mind. "Men who are pregnant in body... are drawn more towards women; they express their love in trying to obtain for themselves immortality and remembrance and what they take to be happiness forever by producing children" (Plato 208e). Diotima goes on to say that men who are pregnant in mind only "bring to birth" what is suitable and that only "wisdom and other kinds of virtue" are suitable (Plato 209a). Since it is impossible for a man to impregnate another man, the nature of this relationship is to eventually gain knowledge. Pausanias says that, "the lover must be able to develop the boyfriend's understanding and virtue in general, and the boyfriend must want to acquire an education and wisdom in general" (184d-e). All eros must lead to the eromenos gaining knowledge about a subject or in general from the eraste. Socrates defends this claim with stories from Diotima. He uses the part when Diotima says:

At first, if his guide leads him correctly, he should love just one body and in that relationship produce beautiful discourse. Next he should realize that the beauty of any one body is closely related to that of another... Once he's seen this he will become a lover of all beautiful bodies, and will relax his intense passion for just one body, despising this passion and regarding it as petty. After this, he should regard the beauty of minds as more valuable than that of the body... and give birth to the kinds of discourse that help young men to become better. (Plato 210a-c)

Socrates was taught all he knew about love from Diotima, who is seen as a master of love. Gaining knowledge is the ultimate form of eros and is what all men should aspire for. These principles are what all men should follow when engaging in acts that deal with eros.

Another ancient Greek work that deals with the theme of eros is Euripides' Medea. However, Medea displays a different aspect of eros than the Symposium.



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