Abstract

Like the goddess Demeter, Diotima from Mantineia, the prophetess who teaches Socrates about eros and the "rites of love" in Plato's Symposium, was a mystagogue who initiated individuals into her mysteries, mediating to humans esoteric knowledge of the divine. The dialogue, including Diotima's speech, contains religious and mystical language, some of which specifically evokes the female-centered yearly celebrations of Demeter at Eleusis. In this essay, I contextualize the worship of Demeter within the larger system of classical Athenian practices, and propose that Plato borrowed Eleusinian language because it criticized conventional notions of the divine, thereby allowing him to reimagine the possibilities for the philosophical process among humans.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-2001
Print ISSN
0887-5367
Pages
pp. 1-27
Launched on MUSE
2006-02-23
Open Access
No
Archive Status
Archived 2009
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