Plato and Homer

In Plato’s Symposium, Diotima, Socrates’ teacher “in the ways of love,” describes Eros as a daimon megas, “a great superhuman force,” who serves as an intermediary between gods and humans. Eros fills the space between “what is liable to death and what never dies,” and in this way, it “binds together all that is.” Love as cosmic glue. The universe as interconnected whole.

In addition to shedding insight into how Plato and his followers approached reality, this formulation of Love seems a fitting metaphor for Homer’s place in the classical Greek world. Homer is everywhere—in the histories, the tragedies, the comedies, the philosophy. Homer as Panhellenic glue. The diffuse Greek-speaking world as interconnected whole.

As Alcibiades crashing the symposium exposes the distance between ideal and reality, perhaps the Athens-Sparta war exposes something similar regarding the Greek world. How can the calm, humble beauty of a Socrates, which takes patience to see and appreciate and grow from, compete with the lure of power and adulation and their potential for instant gratification? How can the difficult, humble labor of working toward wholeness compete with the ego-boost of fault-finding, the satisfaction of destroying what one fears?

These questions seem to animate the texts in which Homer echoes. A few of my favorites are in the photo. What are some of yours?

4 thoughts on “Plato and Homer

  1. I’m not well-read enough in classical literature to have an intelligent answer to your question, but I just wanted to say I love the connection you make with love and Homer!

    1. Thank you so much, Alysa! And I always find your replies intelligent, whether informed by knowledge of the ancient world or your own generous heart 🙂

  2. I never knew that Socrates was calm, humble, and beautiful before I read your post! I should have read more Greek books 😥 I just saw a picture of him and he looks just like how you described him. He is relaxing peacefully on a bench outside his house while his wife pours a chamber pot out over his head. He looks like he will not even get mad at her, he probably even laughed to himself and thought how cute she was.

    But also in the picture is a sailboat which I think symbolizes that he sometimes wishes he could live blissfully aboard a wooden sailboat and just fish and smoke his pipe. 💁🏻‍♂️

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