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By Nicholas Michael (Author), Gerry Embleton (Illustrator)

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Starting early in the fifth century, artists had begun decorating vessels made for use at symposia like Agathon’s with idealized semidivine depictions of the slim, naked “kalos” youths admired and courted at such gatherings. Wings sprouted on the backs of boys, indicating the flight and pursuit of pederastic courtship. On one cup, two young male lovers, one winged, one not, copulate. On another, a naked winged youth represents the transcendent spirit of desire hovering over male lovers engaged in sexual intercourse.

Incapacitated by grief, the mind heals. A diseased limb is cast off; life is renewed. New thoughts replace regret at what is past. Memory substitutes for the lost presence of a loved one, leading to new determination and resolve. In the face of loss, living beings recover and move on to new projects and creations. ”—Diotima prompts him to look and observe what goes on around him. Look at the men you know, she tells him, how eager they are to make names for themselves. Look at heroic figures of the past.

But I will speak of them and I will try my best, and now you on your own part must do your very best to try to understand. (Sym. ” As he approaches the final lessons, he is μυηφείης, “initiated” into a sacred mystery. Instruction must proceed “properly” in sequenced stages one after the other so as to reach the τέλεα and εποπτικά, the “final things” and “things seen,” when a proselyte becomes a επόπτης, one having seen. Initiation into the mysteries of Demeter at Eleusis took place over the space of a week, with sacrifices, purifications, and a ritual procession from Athens to Corinth.

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