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Philo [translated by F.H. Colson, Philo, Cambridge, MA: Harvard, 1954]

On the Contemplative Life, 57-63 [referring to Plato's Symposium]

Among the banquets held in Greece there are two celebrated and highly notable examples, namely those in which Socrates took part, one held in the house of Callias and given by him in honour of the victory in which Autolycus won the crown, the other in the house of Agathon. That these deserve to be remembered was the judgement of men whose character and discourses showed them to be philosophers, Xenophon and Plato, who described them as worthy to be recorded, surmising that they would serve to posterity as models of the happily conducted banquet. Yet even these if compared with those of our people who embrace the contemplative life will appear as matters for derision. Pleasure is an element in both, but Xenophon's banquet is more concerned with ordinary humanity. There are flute girls, dancers, jugglers, fun-makers, proud of their gift of jesting and facetiousness, and other accompaniments of more unrestrained merry-making.

In Plato's banquet the talk is almost entirely concerned with love, not merely with the love-sickness of men for women, or women for men, passions recognized by the laws of nature, but of men for other males differing from them only in age. For, if we find some clever subtlety dealing apparently with the heavenly Love and Aphrodite, it is brought in to give a touch of humour. The chief part is taken up by the common vulgar love which robs men of the courage which is the virtue most valuable for the life both of peace and war, sets up the disease of effeminacy in their souls and turns into a hybrid of man and woman those who should have been disciplined in all the practices which make for valour. And having wrought havoc with the years of boyhood and reduced the boy to the grade and condition of a girl besieged by a lover it inflicts damage on the lovers also in three most essential respects, their bodies, their souls and their property. For the mind of the lover is necessarily set towards his darling and its sight is keen for him only, blind to all other interests, private and public; his body wastes away through desire, particularly if his suit is unsuccessful, while his property is diminished by two causes, neglect and expenditure on his beloved. As a side growth we have another greater evil of national importance. Cities are desolated, the best kind of men become scarce. Sterility and childlessness ensue through the devices of these who imitate men who have no knowledge of husbandry by sowing not in the deep soil of the lowland but in briny fields and stony and stubborn places, which not only give no possibility for anything to grow but even destroy the seed deposited within them.

I pass over the mythical stories of the double-bodied men who were originally brought by unifying forces into cohesion with each other and afterwards came asunder, as an assemblage of separate parts might do when the bond of union which brought them together was loosened. All these are seductive enough, calculated by the novelty of the notion to beguile the ear, but the disciples of Moses trained from their earliest years to love the truth regard them with supreme contempt and continue undeceived.