The Functions of Apollodorus

In Mauro Tulli & Michael Erler (eds.), The Selected Papers of the Tenth Symposium Platonicum. 53757 Sankt Augustin, Germany: pp. 110-116 (2016)
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In Plato’s Symposium, the mysterious Apollodorus recounts to an unnamed comrade, and to us, Aristodemus’ story of just what happened at Agathon’s drinking party. Since Apollodorus did not attend the party, however, it is unclear what relevance he could have to our understanding of Socrates’ speech, or to the Alcibiadean “satyr and silenic drama” (222d) that follows. The strangeness of Apollodorus is accentuated by his recession into the background after only two Stephanus pages. What difference—if any—does Apollodorus make to the Symposium? Does his inclusion call the dramatic and philosophical unity of the work into question? I argue that despite initial appearances, Plato has important philosophical reasons for including Apollodorus as a character. Far from being an odd appendage to an otherwise complete narrative, the figure of Apollodorus is useful for our understanding of Socrates’s conception of eros later in the work.
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