A symposium scene on a 5th century BCE Greek cup currently housed in the State Antiquities Collection in Munich, Germany. Source: Wikimedia
Written 2,400 years ago, Plato’s philosophical novella, Symposium, includes one of the weirdest – and most charming – explanations of why people fall in love ever invented. Plato gives this trippy exegesis to the playwright Aristophanes, who appears as a character in the book.
Before turning to Aristophanes’s odd speech, let’s set the stage. First, we’re at a dinner party. Wealthy Athenian men have gathered, as they often did, to drink wine, eat, philosophize, and carouse with women, younger men, or each other. On this (fictional) occasion, the guests are all playwrights and philosophers and they include Plato’s idol Socrates. As the night progresses, the conversation turns to the meaning of love.