e g r e g o r e s

"Graciously bestow upon all men felicity, the summit of which is the knowledge of the Gods." [Julian, Oration to the Mother of the Gods]

An Erotic & Magical Greek Lesson: "What then can Love be?" "A great Demon, O Socrates"

The text for today’s lesson is Plato’s Symposium. If you wish to follow along at home (or wherever you are), please refer to the Stephanus numbering given below.

First, the warm-up . . . .

[202d]
[Diotima:] ‘you have admitted that Eros, from lack of good and beautiful things, desires these very things that he lacks.’
[Socrates:] ‘Yes, I have.’
[Diotima:] ‘How then can he be a God, if he is devoid of things beautiful and good?’
[Socrates:] ‘By no means, it appears.’
[Diotima:] ‘So you see, you are a person who does not consider Eros to be a God.’
[Socrates:] ‘What then,’ I asked, ‘can Love be? A mortal?’
[Diotima:] ‘Anything but that.’
[Socrates:] ‘Well, what?’

. . . . and then the main attraction:

ὥσπερ τὰ πρότερα, ἔφη, μεταξὺ θνητοῦ καὶ ἀθανάτου.
As I previously suggested, between a mortal and an immortal.

τί οὖν, ὦ Διοτίμα;
And what is that, O Diotima?

δαίμων μέγας, ὦ Σώκρατες: καὶ γὰρ πᾶν τὸ δαιμόνιον
A great Demon, O Socrates: and all of the Demonic realm

[202ε] μεταξύ ἐστι θεοῦ τε καὶ θνητοῦ.
is between the immortal and the mortal.

τίνα, ἦν δ᾽ ἐγώ, δύναμιν ἔχον;
having what power? [asks Socrates]

ἑρμηνεῦον καὶ διαπορθμεῦον θεοῖς τὰ παρ᾽ ἀνθρώπων καὶ ἀνθρώποις τὰ παρὰ θεῶν,
Interpreting and transporting [ἑρμηνεῦον καὶ διαπορθμεῦον] human things to the Gods and divine things to humans;

τῶν μὲν τὰς δεήσεις καὶ θυσίας,
entreaties [δεήσεις] and sacrifices [θυσίας] from below,

τῶν δὲ τὰς ἐπιτάξεις τε καὶ ἀμοιβὰς τῶν θυσιῶν,
and ordinances [ἐπιτάξεις] and requitals [ἀμοιβὰς] from above:

ἐν μέσῳ δὲ ὂν ἀμφοτέρων συμπληροῖ, ὥστε τὸ πᾶν αὐτὸ αὑτῷ συνδεδέσθαι.
being midway between, it makes each to supplement the other, so that the whole [πᾶν] is combined in one.

διὰ τούτου καὶ ἡ μαντικὴ πᾶσα χωρεῖ καὶ ἡ τῶν ἱερέων τέχνη τῶν τε περὶ τὰς θυσίας καὶ τελετὰς
Through it are conveyed all divination [μαντικὴ] and priestcraft [ἱερέων τέχνη] concerning sacrifice [θυσίας] and ritual [τελετὰς]

[203α] καὶ τὰς ἐπῳδὰς καὶ τὴν μαντείαν πᾶσαν καὶ γοητείαν.
and incantations [ἐπῳδὰς], and all soothsaying [μαντείαν] and sorcery [γοητείαν].

θεὸς δὲ ἀνθρώπῳ οὐ μείγνυται,
The divine with mortals does not mingle:

ἀλλὰ διὰ τούτου πᾶσά ἐστιν ἡ ὁμιλία καὶ ἡ διάλεκτος θεοῖς πρὸς ἀνθρώπους, καὶ ἐγρηγορόσι καὶ καθεύδουσι:
but the Demonic is the means of all society and converse [ἡ ὁμιλία καὶ ἡ διάλεκτος] of humans with Gods and of Gods with humans, whether waking or asleep.

καὶ ὁ μὲν περὶ τὰ τοιαῦτα σοφὸς δαιμόνιος ἀνήρ, ὁ δὲ ἄλλο τι σοφὸς ὢν ἢ περὶ τέχνας ἢ χειρουργίας τινὰς βάναυσος. οὗτοι δὴ οἱ δαίμονες πολλοὶ καὶ παντοδαποί εἰσιν, εἷς δὲ τούτων ἐστὶ καὶ ὁ Ἔρως.
Whosoever has skill in these affairs is a spiritual person [δαιμόνιος ἀνήρ], to have it in other matters, as in common arts and crafts, is for the mechanical. Many and multifarious are these Demons, and one of them is Love.’

[A little further on [203d], Socrates adds the following by way of summing up Eros]:

κατὰ δὲ αὖ τὸν πατέρα ἐπίβουλός ἐστι τοῖς καλοῖς καὶ τοῖς ἀγαθοῖς,
he takes after his father in scheming [ἐπίβουλός] for all that is beautiful [καλοῖς] and good [ἀγαθοῖς];

ἀνδρεῖος ὢν καὶ ἴτης καὶ σύντονος,
for he is brave, strenuous and high-strung

θηρευτὴς δεινός, ἀεί τινας πλέκων μηχανάς,
a famous hunter, always weaving some stratagem;

καὶ φρονήσεως ἐπιθυμητὴς καὶ πόριμος, φιλοσοφῶν διὰ παντὸς τοῦ βίου,
desirous and competent of wisdom, throughout life ensuing the truth;

δεινὸς γόης καὶ φαρμακεὺς καὶ σοφιστής:
a master of sorcery [γόης], witchcraft [φαρμακεὺς], and sophistry [σοφιστής].

——————————————

The Greek and the English translation are both taken from Perseus. Here is a direct link. The translation is from Fowler (1925), but I have taken certain liberties.

To recap: all of the following are attributed to Eros and the Demonic realm:

  1. Interpreting and transporting [ἑρμηνεῦον καὶ διαπορθμεῦον] human things to the Gods and divine things to humanity
  2. communicating prayers [δεήσεις] and sacrifices [θυσίας] from us to the Gods
  3. communicating injunctions [ἐπιτάξεις] and requitals [ἀμοιβὰς] from the Gods to us
  4. filling in all the space between humans and the Gods, so that everything [πᾶν]is bound to everything else [ἐν μέσῳ δὲ ὂν ἀμφοτέρων συμπληροῖ, ὥστε τὸ πᾶν αὐτὸ αὑτῷ συνδεδέσθαι.]
  5. divination [μαντικὴ]
  6. priestcraft [ἱερέων τέχνη] concerning sacrifice [θυσίας] and ritual [τελετὰς]
  7. incantations [ἐπῳδὰς]
  8. soothsaying [μαντείαν]
  9. sorcery [γοητείαν]
  10. all society and converse [ἡ ὁμιλία καὶ ἡ διάλεκτος] of humans with Gods and of Gods with humans, whether waking or asleep
  11. the ability to be a true spiritual person [δαιμόνιος ἀνήρ] (or is that a truly Demonic person?)
  12. In general, all interaction, of any kind, between the divine and mortals must be by way of the intermediary realm of the Demons. Otherwise, the divine and mortals do not mingle directly [θεὸς δὲ ἀνθρώπῳ οὐ μείγνυται].



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