“Love is born into every human being; it calls back the halves of our original nature together; it tries to make one out of two and heal the wound of human nature.”
Diotima of Mantinea’s place in the history is unrivaled. Indeed, without her, Plato’s Symposium would have been a rather commonplace affair. You may recall the setting. A group of brilliant thinkers came together, in the manner of the elite of Athens, to discuss the merits and intricacies of love.
The banquet’s guest list was a “who’s who” of Athens: Phaedrus, an aristocrat, Alcibiades, a statesman, orator and general, Pausanias, a legal expert, Eryximachus, a physician, Aristophanes, a comic playwright, Agathon, a tragic poet and host of the event and Socrates, the eminent philosopher and Plato’s teacher. Everyone had their turn to speak, however it was Socrates’ dialogue that transformed our understanding of love. Over the course of a lavish feast, he related with persuasive eloquence the ideas that were given to him by the prophetess, Diotima.
Diotima’s inspiration was the concept of divine or Platonic love, the means by which humanity can ascend to the contemplation of the divine. The most truthful way to love others is to embrace a love that transcends the earthly plane, to touch divinity. A genuine Platonic love recognizes the beauty and loveliness in another person in a way that inspires the mind and soul to the spiritual, rather than the physical.
Diotima’s name means “honoured by Zeus.” Her identity is shrouded in mystery, and there is some debate as to whether or not she actually existed. Even so, we have the word of two reliable philosophers, who stated without reservation, that Diotima of Mantinea gave the world the best of all possible loves.
“Love’ is the name for our pursuit of wholeness, for our desire to be complete.”